Sunday, February 01, 2015

Carpe Diem. Really.

Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Carpe diem (Sieze the day) is a concept that dates back to 23 BC and YOLO - You only live once. A concept that is fast catching up today.
People take up piano lessons. People go scuba diving or do bungee jumping. There are people who start travelling across the world. There are people who walk out of 'seemingly' perfect marriages.

Basically, people start living their dreams. They go and out do everything that they've been wanting to do all their lives because YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE.

Well, it has been a much debated philosophy. While some people accept it and appreciate people who follow it, there are some that don't. Salsa and Spanish lessons or a one-off trip to Tibet often gets a tap on the back. But travelling all alone leaving behind a family, walking out of marriages back into singledom is frowned upon and even openly criticised. Such people are tagged as 'selfish'. Two recent articles that I read, come to my mind:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/04/divorce-in-your-40s-_n_6058130.html?ir=India
This article is about a woman who left home because marriage made no sense to her anymore. She wanted breathing space. She went ahead and did all the things she always wanted to do. She claims she is at peace with herself now.

http://www.afar.com/magazine/the-wanderer-the-story-of-an-american-who-left-home-and-never-came-back
This article is about a man who just wants to wander. He wanted to leave America but his wife didn't want to. So he left his wife and daughter and went away...to wander.

We have also heard of people giving up their cushy executive jobs to take up organic farming.

Back home many of us have heard atleast one story of a distant uncle who just left upped and left one fine morning to take up sanyas.

The society is quick to label these people selfish, irresponsible, foolish or just escapists. They say they have left their families to suffer, particularly the children. My question is weren't we all born individuals? Didn't marriage, kids and  top-jobs happen much later?

This is still a question I am thinking of and so I am not judging anyone or taking sides. (More than writing with an idea, I more often write to get ideas. :))

Right from childhood, a person is always told what to do. Right from when to eat, when to study, when to play, what to wear, right up to when to marry and when to have kids. Not just that, our decisions about most of these things are also influenced directly or indirectly by the people around us. We are raised with this fear of "take up the first and the best that comes your way." "Don't give up the present for an unknown future." So, all the time, people just jump into things - be it academics, marriage or career choices. Many of them somehow slip into their roles and settle in. But then there are a few who are never able to settle down in the paths chosen by them. So, what then?

While at this self-questioning juncture, they have nowhere to go because all they get as advice (solicited or unsolicited) is a shrug of the shoulders and an accusatory "You chose this path. You'd better stick to it." Or a philosophical "Its all destiny. Just go with the flow." That is where a person feels completely alone, with a numb-buzz around him.

While there is constant doubt about their own judgements, people also fear being judged. What will people say? Is it the right thing to do? I ask, who defines what is right and what is wrong? Each person has his own truth. What makes one happy might not make the other happy. For some, having two children might give the ultimate happiness even if it doesn't leave them any time to pursue their own interests. For some, owning a home might give the maximum joy, though they are trapped in the loan cycle for life. And for someone else, its not their definition of happiness.

Yes, it is a well-paying top executive job but what if a person is not happy doing it? What if his/her calling lies elsewhere? Yes, there are 15 years of marriage and 2 children behind them, abandoning isn't the intention but what if the person wants to travel, to explore the world and in the process do some self discovery? If living in a 'trapped' existence makes a person restless, what's the point in living as a family? Are you being fair to the family that way? Being there and yet not there is unfair in my opinion. I don't mean to stereotype but a man isn't an earning machine. Similarly a woman isn't a sacrificing angel. Beneath each person's adapted role, there is an individual still there, perhaps suppressed beyond the point of recognition, leaving both the body and the soul dull and grey.

I have heard and seen people throwing short-time suggestions like, "You don't have to leave home to learn Jiu Jitsu. You just need to balance out your day." A woman who leaves her kids for a couple of hours every evening to go for classes is labelled irresponsible. A man who does the same is labelled selfish. What is a person to do? You are paid more than a  lakh of rupees each month but you don't even have the time to stand and admire the sunrise. So, we have already stressed men and women stressing themselves further with packing every minute of the day with some activity or the other. This leads to a conflict between the subtle body and the physical body.

We are all human. Many of us make certain decisions due to some or the other kind of pressure (directly or indirectly). After taking the decision, what if we realise we actually need something else? I definitely don't think that is immaturity or frivolousness Does one have to essentially be in  a bad-job scenario or an abusive relationship to want to break free? What about wanting growth at a spiritual/emotional level?

There are possibly two things I can think of at this point. Put the decision off till a 'safe' time, perhaps when the children are settled or till you have saved up a decent amount of money for them? I don't know. Sometimes putting off decisions, gives you time to come to grips to what your true calling is. Make a plan maybe, for 5 years, 10 years?

More than anything I wish for at least our next generation to grow up with a free mind. I wish them to have enough time and mental space to think for themselves and understand themselves better. Nobody should be pressurised, even emotionally threatened, to do anything. Many European countries have a practice wherein children, after high school, are allowed time to travel, to work and then decide what their true calling is. I wish for a time when 14-year olds are not forced to 'plan' and prepare for what  they should be doing when they are 30. I wish for a generation that is raised to have a calm conviction about their own dreams and desires, to have the self-confidence to stand up to their own decisions. I definitely don't hint at anything violent or hurtful or abusive. In fact, respecting every person for an individual that he/she is, I am sure, will clear a lot of confusion in our society. Thereby, bringing a lot of the much-needed peace and calmness to this world.

Edit/Footnote: As for me I would definitely like to stand up to my own dreams sometime in my life without worrying about responsibilities. And without having to answer anybody but MY conscience.