I was travelling to a city when I met this woman in her thirties. Her demeanor was composed like an elegant woman but her attire made her seem deprived and much older than she might have actually been. An hour later she asked me if I was married. Now that is a question which I am often asked, considering
1. I am a woman in her twenty something in India.
2. I am a woman travelling alone.
Any way, I replied that I wasn't and expected another series of usual remarks/questions which I was ready to respond to but to my surprise I didn't receive any of them. Instead I got to know with a sigh of relief from her that she had just been out of an abusive marriage. She had to get married when she was only 20. She told me how she didn't have the courage or the desire to stand up for herself against domestic violence for almost ten years and considered it normal to abide by whatever happened because that was what she had always been told.
Like a normal human being's limit of keeping quiet till the barrier of patience breaks, this lady also stood up for herself one day and turned her back against her abusive husband. Not many of her family members supported her because she had been married for long and nobody wanted to take up her responsibility. Despite that, she reported her husband's actions and stepped out of the house. I asked her how she managed to survive after that. She told me it was a struggle initially but she learnt how to earn by taking up random household chores and managed to create a group of ten such ladies who work with her.
I could see the sparkle in her eyes as she told me how she manages to earn for herself and for her adopted daughter as well as for those women who need help but are lonely. Out of sheer curiosity I asked her what was the most difficult part of this journey of hers. Her reply surprised me and made me ponder upon so many points that I ended up writing about it. I expected her answer to be something about survival when she was abused or later with making her ends meet.
Instead it was a simple reply that making her accept herself again was the most difficult part. When asked why, she said she had never been taught how to do that. She had been involved in making everybody else happy for her life and loved their acknowledgment of who she should have been, which never left the scope of her breathing as she wanted to be. She didn't even know if that was possible until that was the only thing she could do. However, she said she still wasn't sure if she was contented with who she was now.
Our destinations separated us but she initiated a trail in my hyperactive mind(more because it was past midnight). I kept wondering how a child is taught about ideals, goals, beliefs from the beginning of life and an adult who enters the society, probably in late twenties, is already loaded with a baggage of points to live with in conformity. An opaque circle surrounds our existence and every time we wonder what remains outside this circle, there is a friction and we step back inside. Just like not everything that the society teaches us is right, similarly not everything that the society teaches us is wrong.
However, there exists a gap, between the knowledge that every human being is supposed to live in a way different from every other human being and the belief that every human being is supposed to live just like every other human being. There is a constant battle inside the mind of every human alive on Earth and it is forgotten that genetic diversities are not confined to the cells that constitute our body but extend to the frequencies that our minds emit as well.
But just like the lady in the story above, we all have a breaking point, where we decide whether to step outside our circle of beliefs if we feel there might be another set of beliefs which could satiate our brimming pools of discontentment. Fair enough, we might have spent slightly less than a quarter of our lives living a set of ideologies which we feel could have another picture and we decide to embrace another set of ideologies which we could get aligned with.
Here comes the big question: How are we ever going to be sure whether we have arrived at our set of norms? By norms/ideologies, I don't mean the values which define us(some of them are hardwired into out sub conscious minds and actually make us unique). Neither am I trying to point to the political/religious/social beliefs that we have(because these were not hardwired into our minds, but we embraced them as we grew up according to our needs). I am trying to highlight the point of continuity in our lives when we switch to another pattern of beliefs.
Do you see the flaw here? We 'switch' to another set of beliefs, starting from a point 'zero', restarting as though our previous ideologies which we do not want to follow now, never even existed. Let's say we agree to this, does this whole new set conform to our existence(which till now was in congruence with our past beliefs)? Because we aren't even sure if this set will remain with us till the end of our lives. Obviously no. We are what our story till now has made us. From an optimist's perspective, you could say this is a part of our existence meant to make us learn. From a pessimist's perspective, you could even say that your mistakes would never leave you.
This is a common phenomenon that we experience in our late twenties. Our minds have outgrown the ideas that we could get from our existing set of ideologies and we have entered a world which is open to be judged by ourselves, rather than our elders. We start doubting our patterns of beliefs and feel that the only way out of this is to escape and adorn a set of beliefs which conforms to our unique genes. No doubt, some of them do so. But we shed behind our existing patterns like one half of ourselves and step inside the new circle with the other half only to feel incomplete, till the day we yearn for another circle. It is a never ending cycle.
However, that's not the root of the problem. The issue is we start afresh only to get trapped in another circle of a new set of norms and then struggle to overcome the friction till we reach the breaking point of our barriers. There we miss the tiny aspect of continuity, of open loops and of shaping ourselves from everything that our minds have absorbed till now.
I could take the crudest example that I can think of. When I was 5, I believed in God and thought that those who didn't are manifestations of devils who are doomed to be burnt in hell. When I was 25, I knew fairly that it was just a point of view if one didn't believe in God and for God, it didn't really matter. Obviously, I no longer hated people who were atheists. In fact, I enjoyed conversing with them because it made me understand more clearly than earlier as to how they think. I still believe in God as I did. However, this did not mean that I shed aside the fact what I had once believed about atheists. In fact, it is this continuity which makes me enter an open loop where I can question what is right or wrong and update my opinions or stick to my own if I find them wrong.
Why does the continuity to accept differences and the fact that we could be changing what we think seem so suffocating when it is natural with our cells evolving every day? The basic idea that we forget is that we are born to get evolved, physically, mentally, emotionally. And how do we implement this? Well for me, I had started this with practicing my contradictions of existing and new ideologies together.
It seemed complex at first but if I now see, it is not only simple but enriching and liberating as well because I never feel trapped inside a circle. I could have hated being with people who had given me bitter experiences in past or my wrong decisions. When I knew they didn't matter as long as I was ready to face challenges, make mistakes and let them go, I was at peace with everything that had ever existed. Another instance, when I was young, I loved to spend time with my friends. As I grew up, I outgrew the whole concept of friendship about being together or dependent. Consequently, I might have friends but I am more of a loner and hardly attend gatherings.
Being an introvert, I like to spent most of my time alone, working at something or the other. I do step out of this zone, spend time with a few people and then come back to my zone. Neither does it mean that I am being a conformist nor does it mean that I am being a liberal. I am just being myself and it is fair enough to learn so much from the kind of people I observe, surround myself with or meet every day. It is not just late twenties, I would believe that it will continue for the rest of our lives. Of course all the beliefs could be updated. :D
It isn't going to trap me in any way, as long as I know it is just a matter of continuity. For those who are wondering what was the point of this thought, why not try and step out of your trap. Whether you want to embrace the novelties or stick to your frame is a matter of what you find right or wrong. Any idea that you entertain, any person whom you meet or any place you visit is bound to trigger a thought inside your subconscious whether you acknowledge it or not. More than that, what you read, what you absorb, your language, all of it, affects the way you perceive ideologies.
Imagine if we have a frame through which we can witness our past, present and future all at once, what would we want to choose? It is as wide as this perspective, much like when you stand on the edge of a cliff, you can witness the vast ocean beyond yourself, but when you look back, you can also see the land behind you, like a reflection. You exist in both the places even if they divide the frame. As for the story in the beginning, I am sure at some point the lady will come to terms with who she is too, just like all of us, because it wasn't her story that was the point of this, it was yours, mine, everyone else's that was the point of this thought.
Keep the loop open! :)