I was as rotten as a tomato as a child. No, my parents weren’t super rich, they were as middle class as could be. Still I was the precious first child of two guilt ridden first generation working parents who were overwhelmed by the lack of time they had for me after their jobs. And those judging articles newspapers and magazines were publishing during that time condemning the women pursuing a career outside of homely responsibilities were not helping. Even though I was proud of my parents having important jobs (for as long as I can remember), they seemed to think it as a shortcoming.
As a result I was doted on, given more of everything to somehow compensate for the lack of time. I cannot remember a time when I’d asked for something and my dad had said no.
It resulted in a mixed trait in me. I became independent and overtly dependent at the same time. For as long as I can remember, I could dress alone with an accurately tied tie and tight shoelace, I could sort my books correctly according to the class routine, I could neatly cover my books and notebooks with brown papers and label them at the beginning of school years and most importantly I could study alone. I went to school alone (with the rickshaw puller uncle) while all my friends came in holding their mothers’ hands. And because I could do all this, and my friends could not, I felt very important and special. And my parents felt the same. And the house help who lived with us in our home. And my grandma.
It made me overly dependent. If I felt thirsty, I just asked for a glass of water and it was produced. If I wanted an ice cream, I got it, no matter the time and place. I never ate the same cereal on two consecutive days. I had 13 pencil boxes, numerous color pencils, three raincoats, and at least a dozen pairs of shoes. Cooking was something I never bothered to learn because there was always someone to oblige my wishes. So yeah, I was pretty spoiled.
My first lesson in real life was when I moved to Chennai after graduating from college. I’d studied in a residential college but everything was still very easy. Mom and dad still did everything for me. It was not until I actually started working that I understood the actual meaning of self-dependence.
The first challenge came in the way of finding a decent accommodation. The grueling calls to the brokers who didn’t understand Hindi or English (and I didn’t speak Tamil) and then visiting the houses with them was the first thing I did by my own and it almost made me cry. The stress of it.
I ended up staying in a working women’s hostel where the caretaker enforced lights off by 11 pm. And cockroaches came out of a hole in the floor. It took me three months to get a decent rental within my budget because many landlords closed their doors right on my face saying they wouldn’t let their house to single North Indian girls. That was my first ever taste of hardships I’d have to endure in my adult life. I cried the first couple of times. But then I stopped.
And that was really only the beginning. The onslaughts came, one after another – like the time when I discovered, no matter how good your metabolism was, you couldn’t always eat out and cooking was a mandatory life skill. Or when I had to remember to pay all my bills, or the time when I was so trusting of people, that I didn’t think twice to lend a colleague 10,000 rupees. Needless to say that I never got it back and had to learn the hard way. I’d also had to cope with nasty workplace politics that invariably plagues us all.
In the beginning, I cried and complained and called and screeched at my parents because I was used to offloading my stress to them. I blamed them for never teaching me to survive on my own, I blamed them for making me so dependent on them. I was stressed out and I felt better when they worried. You have the permission to judge me now!
But then slowly the hurdles that had seemed mountainous, became mere speed breakers. I don’t know when I stopped being so overwhelmed by the problems and started treating them as unavoidable nuances. I became more adept at managing things. I had to, because there could be only two ways. Either suck it up and get going or quit and blame it on your inexperience.
These days I often see people around me going through the similar experience as mine – of being suddenly out in the world from protective shelters and not knowing head and tails of it, floundering at each step, haggled. While some of them whine and complain, I see others gritting their teeth and getting on. This post today is for all those people, because a little bit of advice from never hurts.
The sooner you realize that, the better. Not your parents, not your teacher, nor the boss. Everyone is just making it up as they go along. If your parents treated you like a royalty, or like a wastebasket, it is probably because they didn’t know any better. They thought they were doing what was best for you. Everyone has their own demons, no one knows everything. Let go of harping on that! Let go hoping for a perfect time when you will have everything figured out. Because it will never happen. That is why there is Google trying to help you on how to do things!
Nobody gives a shit
Realize it now and you will be happier. You are not entitled to anything! In your home and school perhaps you were appreciated when you did something good. But now nobody cares. You may be talented, but if you are lazy you are going to get left off. Everyone is expendable and replaceable.
Cooking is a mandatory life skill
Learn to cook! Take from someone who detests cooking, it is a lifesaving (and money saving) skill you will need at every stage of life.
Suck it up, and look good
Again, nobody gives a shit. You can wallow in your misery as much as you like, but ultimately people are going to get bored of it. So move on. Plant a smile on your face no matter what, dress well and look groomed. Trust me, lame though it is, looking kempt opens up a lot of doors.
No matter how you feel, how much you hate and how much you don’t care, most of the times than not it is a good idea to be nice to even those you don’t like. It is stupid to assume you are never going to need any help from them ever. Don’t take yourself so seriously–no else does.
Manage your money
Trust me, I get it. Nothing is more exhilarating that earning your own keep. It is freeing and liberating. However, it is also too easy to get trapped into it. A nice shoe here to a great dress there can add up to a debt you can’t manage. Learn to save, learn to invest wisely. A little goes a long way when it comes to saving regularly.
And finally, most importantly, watch your attitude
You can be positive or negative about almost everything. By the very virtue of being a human being, you are bound to experience obstacles, confusions, rejections and sorrows. You’ll find, a shift in outlook is all you need in most situations.