Wednesday, March 17

Thoughts—On Birthdays and Life Lessons

I will be 39 in a couple of months. Just looking at the prospects makes my insides go suddenly rigid. How could have life gone away in a blink? I used to think that 25 was the benchmark, an age where a woman finds herself in a standstill and eventually leaves the mockery of youth forever. Beyond that, she begins to shape herself into an ideal of grace and virtue, bearing the wisdom of a sage and the efficiency of a well-oiled machine. So it was a bit of shock to me that at 26, I still felt that I have not moved up a rung and mapped out my life more clearly. I was way past my quarter life and had not started my own family, at the very least. I was still hanging out at cafes and associating with uncommitted friends.

Maybe I am just the perennial late bloomer. Everything comes to me long after others have gone on to revel at new things and make pioneering choices in their life. When my colleagues have decided to find themselves some fine chap, get married and have children, I was still at the stage of aspiring to meet a boy. I was caught up in the romantic notion that if a certain Jay Gatsby comes by, tries to sweep me off my feet, throw lavish parties and shower me with a parade of worldly goods and excesses, I would turn him down like Daisy did; but in favor of a financially-strapped sickly looking artist-type boy who would impress me, with only a tattered copy of his Foucault-despite not understanding Foucault--- just because he is too broke to afford anything else. I had the belief that if he was bold and honest enough to present himself as thus and win me over, then all is good. For me it was a young, passionate and quixotic idea, enough to make me fall in love. But even if I had sounded foolish and impractical then, I was not being superficial at all. 

Now that I am married, with kids, and about to become an official member of the joy luck club, I have to be more grounded and realistic. Good news is that I am a late bloomer and therefore amenable to change. Bad news is I feel that in two months’ time, I will be hanging on a precipice, where 40 looms over more closely than 39, and everything will be too late. Whatever I will learn now won’t do me much good. One day soon, I will slip over the hill and become too old and antiquated to even remember how to get up, much less reflect on things like love and passion. Rather, I will be apprehended by incontinence and the chaos of grandchildren. There’s realism for you. 

We all emotionally grow up at some point that our priorities and our stances change. For the worst or the better, only we can know. But while I’m at it, I continually struggle to discover the more fundamental lessons in life. Take for instance, Contentment. If you ask me today-- and I would never admit this years earlier-- I will say that money, is a necessity. It pays the bills, it puts food on the table, it sends my children to school, it ensures my retirement years, it sets me off to buy some occasional womanly trifles for myself.  What I failed to account though is that with money too, I can lose sleep over outstanding debts, I can lace my feet with a pair of Louboutins and still feel grossly inadequate, I can habitually sip a cup of Starbucks and create the idea in my head that I belong with my imaginary in-crowd, I can warrant myself a free pass into private soirees of  the rich and what haves, and assimilate in their lifestyle by acting like one, I can buy friendships and loyalties and people’s souls, I can stand out and be exasperated by the curiosity of irrelevant humans even if their candor had once been my source of happiness. I never thought that money had that much power, and seeing how people change and become spellbound to it and even become, well greedy, for lack of a better term; I begin to suspect that money indeed can be more important than goodness, and that it all becomes a matter of worshipping the hero of one’s choice.

But I choose goodness, over money.  Of course, if I had the money I’d probably be singing a different tune. Imagine the liberties it would afford a working-class woman like me! With money, I’d probably be jetting off to Europe basking on some Parisian afternoon sun, tasting the finer things, carrying about the air of a well-traveled woman with that so-called je ne sais quoi--- instead of skulking at some ratty second-hand bookstore, surreptitiously reading and daydreaming about stories set around a Parisian afternoon sun and a well-traveled woman. But does money need to change me, ingratiate me with the thought that I can be perceived as a better person when I have it or smell like it? How long will it make me happy? Will it ultimately make me happy? I have always thought that we have to be content at some point.  If I had enough of it, will I be content then and not want anything? Are there things that can be had without having to mention money? Are they a better option? 

In two months, I would like to start something. I would like to advocate simplicity and contentment. I would like to believe that we work to live, and not live to work. I am not wont to be in the forefront of some angsty crowd, crying battle cries of the oppressed or weak. I don’t need to level any playing field and seek equality from anyone, such that my personal values and fulfillments become lost on me. I would like to think that motherhood, and wifehood and womanhood is an act of faith and whether it has set disadvantages from what I had wanted to do, it has certainly done me more good than harm. I would like to convince myself that money can be used for good things, very good things.

I would like to have the answers above and see how it can make me a better person, at 39.

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