40 lessons I learned before I turned forty

In a few days I will turn the big 4-0. The only birthday, I’ve actually been looking forward to. The landmark one, they say should be marked by indulging in some shenanigans, like traveling to some exotic location or throwing a bash but one isn’t great at following rules. My celebrations began at the end of April, with the forty day challenge and should hopefully have a happier ending, than the current state.

One has very few desires, so there isn’t any long list of things one wanted to do before hitting forty. But there was always a sense of wanting to feel different. When one was younger- there was perpetual chaos, which seemed never ending one always hoped life would be simpler by the time I reached a certain age. Well, here’s hoping! One manages better, now. When I look back at my life, it does lead to this moment, sitting near my mum’s bedside, in the hospital, somewhere around my birthday. I find it quite poetic, actually.

There may not be a bucket list, but there has been a gratitude list and now, I jot down the important life lessons, I have learnt. Of course there are a dime a dozen lists, written by other people, but all of us have our own learnings. This list may seem absolutely contradictory but I have two very dominant personalities ( we all have multiple versions of ourselves, two of mine come more easily to the forefront than the rest) so the lessons they’ve learnt are very different.

# 1 -There is a creator- I’ve always suspected that there is some energy which has created us but I’ve never been particularly fascinated by a book, an idol, an image nor a path. Though, I like to visit the pilgrimage sites because it’s such an entertaining show. Just because I refuse to tread down the travelled way, doesn’t mean I’ve not wondered about the where’s and why’s. The fact that I am alive and my brother dead, does seem so random to me that it is the final testimony, at least for me.

# 2- When we are born and when we die is not in our hands- I thought I was so smart, always mentally prepared for my parents passing, until my brother passed away randomly one night. One minute he’s there and the next, puff up in flames. The religious or the not so rebellious learn these things quickly but those of us who don’t believe people easily, learn our lessons the harder way.

#3 Time is most valuable- This is a lesson I learnt early on. I don’t give time easily and I don’t particularly demand too much of other people’s time, either. But it’s the most precious thing you can give to your loved one’s and it runs out sooner than you can imagine.

#4- Karma is a great leveller- Since, I don’t listen and learn easily, Karma has been my favourite teacher. To put it nicely, it screws you just as well as you mess with other people and viz a viz. But thankfully, I’ve never had to wait too long for the verdict, phatak se thapad, without much interest.

# 5- The end is the beginning and the beginning is the end- Or so the smashing pumpkin song goes. But life does move in a circular manner. Each door that shuts down opens up more doors to walk through and each time we choose which door we will take, it also shuts down other opportunities.

# 6- Kindness is the greatest act of charity, towards yourself- Between 35 and 40, this five year period, has been quite challenging, emotionally. Compared to the rest of my roller coaster emotional existence, it seems on the surface the calmest but it has been the loneliest and also the bitterest. Not just my personal experiences but the state that I saw my parents in, made me too damn cynical. Though, the cynicism isn’t something that I can do anything about but holding on to everything was making me physically sick, so I decided to drop it.

# 7- We all talk about everyone, don’t take it personally- Gossip is a social game, it’s entertaining and a total time pass. If you get more tongues wagging, it’s also because your life is worth discussing, thank your blessings- most people lead exactly the kind of life that was envisioned by the society for them! Easier stated than felt. I used to feel awful till I realised that all the people who speak about me, also speak about everyone they know. When you’re not in the room, it’s you, when somebody else isn’t there, it will that person, so on and so forth. Plus, it’s not that I don’t gossip, the degree only varies because one I always have more of my own shit to talk about and two because my level of human interaction is less than other people’s. So, now I’m trying to chill about.

#8- You attract whoever you need to reach your full potential- Each time all my doors have slammed on my face, I have found many a strangers who have become mentors, close friends and guides.

# 9- Everyone one is doing everything that is convenient for them- How good or bad you are doesn’t increase or decrease the number of people you have in your life. You can behave like a total bitch/ bastard but as long as people get something out of their association with you or viz a viz, as long as you get something out of your association with them, the relationship will be maintained. It could be emotional, monetary or even a matter of prestige. This is the reason why people don’t leave toxic relationships and also the reason why people randomly disappear, you stop being convenient!

#10- Charity is as selfish an act as breathing and loving- Don’t kid yourself, all of us are doing everything to make ourselves feel better. Giving makes us feel good about ourselves, that’s why we do it not because we are some great shakes.

# 11- It’s possible to love two people at the same time- Have I? Yes! Does it make your life very complicated? Hell, Yeah!

# 12- Love is an overrated word, dedication mattersOne is an adrenaline junky, I’ve been addicted to the idea of love, almost my entire life. That’s also because I come from a long line of hopeless romantics. But displays of affection from either side, aside, one isn’t built to stick. I don’t think other than my brother, photography and Kashmir, I have stuck to anyone or anything.

# 13- Don’t give anyone the power to make you feel lessOne is very adamant, doesn’t care much about other people’s opinions but the men in my life can have me somersaulting like a monkey on a trapeze. Thankfully, one is very good at pretending to be unaffected but my opinion of myself has always been an echo of the lover’s. So, each time I flourished there was a man cheering me on, can’t blame anyone for the reverse. Since, I have broken my previous record of never being without a man ( I should be getting my five year, been sober batch), I’ve at last come out of the shadows of those opinions. I wonder how people deal with the pressures of family, siblings, society at large?

# 14- Sex/ Affection are not as important for everyone as they are for me-I know many a women who lead passionless lives but sorry I can’t do it. No amount of money or security is worth that. Unlike popular opinion, I ain’t doing it all the time. But I need my hand to be held.

# 15- There is no substitute for a good kiss- I thought my rabbit and the steering wheel of my car ( try holding onto one and crying, trust me five minutes later you feel so good, you won’t need a freaking shoulder) would make men redundant. It has kept me away from a lot of unnecessary bs but there is no substitute for kisses. Those I miss, especially the butterfly ones.

# 16- All of us are passive bisexuals – ‘Course there are many who are active too. I think sexuality is very fluid, it’s because of our conditioning we are leaning one way and it’s my greatest misfortune I ain’t into women. I would have loved to shout it from the rooftops and this desire to get on a tempo with my brothers and serenade a man with, ‘arre oh Jumma, meri Janeman’ would be appreciated more by a woman, for sure. Here’s hoping, fingers crossed.

# 17- Where there’s a will, there are more than enough ways- When someone wants to they find a way. Women I think more than men, give their partners the benefit of doubt. I hear them repeatedly says ‘he needs time, he’ll come around etc etc’. Fact of the matter is, if he/she wants something, they will go after it with everything they have. Then you can turn down a man/ woman multiple times, they won’t quit, the world and it’s mummy can be on one side and they will still not quit on you. No amount of adversities, distance stops anyone.

# 18-Death, distance and absence don’t change your feelings- In my case, they just make them much more potent. That’s if the feelings were strong enough in the first place.

# 19- Everyone is built differently-I perpetually roll my eyes and ask, ‘how can anyone be like this?’ Especially, when I see people deserting people in need- accident victims on the road, their parents when they are old…someone who is sick or alone. But everyone does come with their own set of values. We have to accept that. Most people must be looking at me and wondering the same thing.

# 20- Freedom is an illusion-‘ My freedom’ I keep repeating. Dil ko behlane ke liye bohat accha khayal he. But as long as you have parents, siblings, children, dependents, lovers, partners, establishment and government, you’re just kidding yourself. You may be relatively free, if you like a Howard Roark are without many attachments but try speaking against authority and then watch how they lock you up, shoot you outside your house or kill you, cut you in pieces and pack you up in a bag!

# 21- Solitude is the most loyal friend– Begum Akhtar used to say, ‘ Tanhayee se dosti kar lo, woh kabhi dhoka nahin deti.’

# 22- Education is highly overrated, human values underrated.

# 23- No one can save you.

# 24- Life is a blessing as is death.

# 25- There is no end to desires and ambitions.

# 26- Contentment can also be a sign of laziness.

# 27- The best gifts to give are time, books, gold and money.

# 28- Teachers are a blessing as are good friends.

# 29- We don’t change much, at least not so much for the better.

# 30- What we need to learn about ourselves can only be learnt through adversity.

# 31- Men make great friends, till they get married and then like it or not, to maintain that relationship you have to befriend the wife.

# 32- People do become like their parents.

# 33- Some family members will stand by your side, through thick and thin, the other’s will perpetually tell people or you what you are doing wrong.

# 34- Courage is learnt either through example or through circumstance.

# 35- Exercising keeps you saner.

# 36- Travel is supposed to open up your mind, reveal the world to you unfortunately, mostly it doesn’t.

# 37- You can shut out the world, delete yourselves from as many whattsapp groups as you like but the one’s who care knock on your door or keep adding you till you relent.

# 38- Rebellion also becomes a habit as does appreciation and gratitude.

# 39- Yes, the intrinsic changes the extrinsic but sometimes by just changing your habits you can changing your internal make up.

# 40- Everyone is here to learn their own lessons.

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