You think you would have outgrown it! After all 42 years of age is old enough to know better. But a couple of days ago I realized that no matter how much time has touched someone’s life, certain things never change.
Let me add a bit of background here.
I quit working, as in with a company, for a monthly pay cheque, about 5 years ago. Since then, I have tried to survive as a freelancer. Having a husband who supports my love for writing and foots the bills helps for sure. But I take my job as a freelance writer for publications and PR firms seriously. Then yesterday I had to go for a meeting in relation to a new long-term freelance writing and editing gig. This basically means I am assured some money every month as a freelancer. This was my first meeting with these folks who will be sending work my way for the next year.
After 5 years of not being answerable to anyone, I was back. To say I was nervous would have been an understatement. I wanted to make a good impression. I wanted them to realise that I am really good at what I do and hell, they are lucky to have me on board. I wanted to be good enough to be on board. I wanted to impress. I wanted to crawl into a cave. I did not want to go. I wanted to call up and cancel and then plan what to cook for dinner and maybe work on chapter 5 of my novel.
I have been a writer pretty much all my working life… that is 20 plus years… with magazines, newspapers, websites, film companies, TV companies and whatnots. When I am not writing to earn my bread and butter, I am writing poems. I am writing stories and even blog posts. And all the time, I am writing to unravel my thoughts. Many a times I have sat down in front of a blank journal, my brain racing a mile a second, my heart close behind, and feeling stressed, anxious and well, inadequate in the face of life. But if someone were to ask me what the problem was, I would be left floundering, trying to pin down the elusive source of my unease but getting nowhere. It is a lot like those faint outlines of a tree that you see on a fog covered mountain track. It is vague but you cannot really assess its actual size, colour or distance from you. And then I start writing, filling in the blank spaces in the page in front of me and 9 times out of 10, by the time I have filled a couple of pages, I know exactly what is bothering me.
Why am I telling you all this? So that you understand how important writing is to me. It is like breathing. It is what I do. Sometimes I think, it is the only thing I can do and know how to do.
So for me to feel this incredible amount of inadequacy was shocking. For the last one week I had been trying unsuccessfully to come up with an excuse to avoid or at the least postpone the meeting. But the lady in question has a lot on her plate and can suss out bullshit in a nanosecond, and I could not think of anything even remotely creative or original.
The universe, however, does teach us our lessons in the most unusual manner. It was a day before the meeting and I was feeling increasingly powerless. My 9-year-old daughter Aku (that is her pet name and she has a few) had to go for her Aikido class. It was her first class after a two month long break. (We are based in Dubai and schools here have their summer break in July and August.) Two months in India, lapping up her ammamma’s and achamma’s treats had left her a bit heavier and feeling sluggish. She was also experiencing a growth spurt so her outfit, called the gi, was pulling at all the wrong places. She felt that she would make a fool of herself and did not want to attend her class.
If there is one thing I had promised myself I would never be, it is a Tiger Mom. Not my cup of tea. So she and I chatted and talked and eventually I got it. She likes Aikido and she wants to continue but she does not want to go back for the first class of the term, as some of the other students who had stayed on in Dubai during the summer would be really good at doing their Aikido moves, whereas she will be floundering. In her words –“I have forgotten everything mumma! E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G!”
I kicked in to my wise mother zone, (yeah I have one. I also have silly mumma, angry mumma, strict mumma and cuddly mumma zones. Who doesn’t!?) and asked her, “So you will go for the class next week?” “Yes mumma.” “But Aku, won’t next week still be your first class back if you don’t go today?” It took a moment for that truth to hit home and she quietly went away to get ready for the class. Of course there was grumbling the entire drive to the class.
When she stepped on the Aikido mat in the dojo, I could sense her nervousness and fear. I felt it along with her. The sensai started with the warm up exercises and then moved on to teaching the new defence moves… 5 minutes later, Aku turns to me with the biggest grin ever. She is back and she remembers and she is enjoying it. The relief!
The remainder of her class was a blur for me as I sat there and realised that my journey was not all that different from Aku’s. The meeting was my first class back. I could postpone it but I could not really cancel it… not unless I wanted to quit writing professionally. There was only this far that I could run away or this long that I could hide. Eventually I would have to step out unless I wanted to remain in a shadows, a shadow of my former self.
Many of my friends are at that age where the kids have become old enough to not need their attention all the time. Quite a few had taken long sabbaticals from work, some had never ventured into that. But now, they want to. However, there they are standing in front of us… our fears, our doubts, our belief that while we may ace at a myriad things that go in to being a home maker and mother, we don’t have what it takes in the outside world. Not in a world peopled by beautiful, talented, successful, confident young women. This is what I have to say to my friends and to my own self… keep moving. I can bet you that that confident young woman is right now battling her own inner demons but instead of turning back and running to her cave she is moving onwards. Like Aku. Like you. Like me.
How did that meeting go? Great.