As surely as the water must meet the shore, and the seed must rise from itself to greet the sun — as surely as our destinies are written in the stars, this was ineludible.
That I should struggle against my restraints, try to dislodge myself from the mould of pre-made decisions. It was meant to happen. It was either this, or a life like drawn-out death. A death that would look like success but never feel like it. What is success if you’ve lost your spark? What is success if your most violent passions, the ones lusting for fulfillment, have dulled into what-ifs that punctuate the daily routine? Days that are different, surely, but all look the same… What is a life if April 23rd and November 16th are one and the same?
It is no easy thing to seek freedom.
How much simpler would it be to sit back in life and bear the drudgery, the grating injustice and follow the path? The congratulations would have flown in, drowned me. The awe and the envy would have made it all utterly delightful.
“So young, to have reached this far at this age?”
“How did she do it?”
Like expensive cocktails, I would have sipped on these words delicately…
Even now, I am still drawn, hypnotised by the path, like a fly to the light. How desirable. How endlessly pleasant to knock yourself out for the day, and emerge after-hours and in the weekends? How delicious would it be to fall in the ranks and make no hard decisions, to flow like water in a stream.
It’s madness, a form of insanity to leave that safe mould.
The rumble of the air conditioner is the backdrop to all my office days, in the very same way the rustling leaves are.
But today, the absence of clicking sounds, of fingers tapping furiously at keyboards is the guiltiest noise. The coffee machine does not guzzle, is silent, the water in the dispenser has not changed levels since half the day. Not a ring of the phone, not a knock on the door. Stillness grows like moss in our office.
We all sit complicit in the lie of productivity, hiding behind computer screens that shield our ennui. We’re scouring the ocean floor of social media for depth, on the lookout for fresh news, like a young colourful fish darting in a bareland, an over-exploited area. We drown in shallow waters, racking up skeletal remains of news of interest. Like sand scooped in our palm that is washed away by the currents, and grabbed again, washed away again and again and again.
All of us, bosses and employees alike, forced into unspoken norms, bound by contracts we owe ourselves and each other. If only I could just walk out that door. But I have to be doing nothing much in this specific 25 squared meters of space.
I wonder why any one of us stays. Because we “have” to. Do we, though? Will the world really miss us for a day? Will it not keep on spinning if we are not in that office, not occupying that exact point on the world map?
Years back, I found a video in some forgotten corner of the internet. In it, a man driving a taxi (sponsored by some company) drove around a city packed with commuters, winding between the routines and everyday lives of millions of people. When the taxi was hailed, the driver would ask the people one question, something along the lines of :
“Do you want to get out of here? If you want, we could go on an adventure or I can take you to work.”
At this point, with all the cameras rolling, it had become clear it was no joke, no threat. Yet so many people said no. Perfectly sensible reasons, excuses spilled from their lips (“But I have to go to work”, “Not today, sorry”), regret shone in some of their eyes, and the man drove them to work. And then there were the few who said yes, who, throwing caution to the wind, jumped in. There were no have-to’s, all expectations had been deemed irrelevant.
And the man drove them to the ocean, to the deserts. Arms flailed in joy from the open roof of the taxi, people squealed at the scenery, quietly texting away that they were sick and could not come in to work.
I am not trying to turn this into an absolute. I do not think that the people who turned out the offer were wrong. Not all of them, I’m sure. Some must really have had important projects to deliver, people counting on them to do their work. But some people were just sticking to their routines. To the idea that they have to do any one thing. That they are bound, imprisoned by contracts.
All these years, I silently promised myself that I should not become that kind of a person. I always have a choice. I do not have to stay. I do not have to live a life of convenience and have-to’s. I do not have to give in. I am free to leave, though the price may be high. But in no way will I allow myself to think that I have sold my freedom. I do not have to, I do not have to. I choose to. I always have a choice, though the price to pay for it may be high, exorbitant for some, too much for others.
But it’s always there.
Today I choose to stay. I choose to write instead of scrolling, scrolling, scrolling on social media. I do not feel bad about it, because I chose it. With all the consequences attached to that choice, I take responsibility for the way I live my time. No one has a greater claim on it than I do.
Note : A few times out of a month or two, there will be slow days at work. Days when I have completed my work in advance and stretch the few tasks I have left over several hours. In between, I fill the gaps with some writing, discovering new music, delving into old feelings. It’s a world of its own.
“I am aware that my breathing slows, that my heart sounds like the crash of waves on a distant shore, echoing in a hollow cave. So I try to hang onto reality a little more, to not slip into this pink-peach warmth, the tiredness that carelessly whispers to my limbs”
Everything is a little bit hazy after work.
Distantly, I am aware that I am reclining into my seat, that the other passengers are probably looking at me. I am aware that my breathing slows, that my heart sounds like the crash of waves on a distant shore, echoing in a hollow cave. So I try to hang onto reality a little more, to not slip into this pink-peach warmth, the tiredness that carelessly whispers to my limbs, that wants to let my mind fall, fall, fall…
But Time catches up with me in hours, sometimes days as I lay back in a moving bus, eyes half closed as reality infiltrates them as though sunlight streaming through blinds. Reality reaches me in stripes and spots, abstract motifs dancing waltzes in my head. In this state of tiredness, the world blurs, leaving everything else clear and sharp and obvious. Nebulous feelings metamorphose into colours, shapes, scents, textures that make sense only in that moment.
My head lolls sideways, drops and falls back vertiginously, a warm tiredness assailing all my senses, threatening to overtake me until my vision suddenly hooks onto the beauty of the unusual, the unnoticed ; the discounted. Something that is beautiful, accidentally. There, in the watercolour skies where the colours of twilight are still being mixed, the palette uncertain and indefinite, I untame routine and let adventure carry my mind away. Today, it is the electricity lines that lure me into this real world, only to get further lost in the pathways of the imaginary that my mind conjures. It is these dark woven cables that I will follow to the ends of the country, today. The way they criss-cross and hang about, the way they encase clear skies in their staunch darkness. They are like frames for a photo you want to take, except the photo is the sky and the sky goes on forever, until the end of Time.
Routine is not something I can make peace with. Not now when there is nothing holding me back but myself. Now there is no school to attend, no fear to be had at not being within grounds from 8 to 3. There is no clear path laid ahead for once, and I myself must choose where I go and how. For now, freedom and adventure are things I must work for. For now, I must be patient with days that are a little too alike for my taste. But even routine is not routine when you realise that routine is what you make it out to be. If everyday, I can find a way to untame the known, then…then it is not the routine other people perceive it to be. It is boring if I let it be. It is unadventurous if I let it be. So I won’t.
Quote of the day :
“It’s like the people who believe they’ll be happy if they go and live somewhere else, but who learn it doesn’t work that way. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.”
I went jogging in the evening to eventually go up my trusty, 10-minutes-away-from- home hill. But the same streets I have walked for give-or-take 20 years now, the same faces I have watched the baby fat melt from, the same eyes that I have seen growing weary, seem so alien to me. Like I don’t quite know what I’m recognising.
The reason —and it’s a futile one—: I am wearing workout clothes.
Isn’t it funny how sometimes, the littlest things are enough to set us apart? In a sea of grey, a red string —however thin it may be—will always stand out. With just that, I am foreign.
I am going away, too. Spiritually at least, far, far away from the mindset sat on the heads of most of these people. I feel as though, if I were to stumble into someone, that I would just walk right through them. Like we were in alternate universes not meant to meet, sharing the same space on different planes of existence. I feel like that explains my clumsiness. I’m constantly going up a road you’re only meant to get down from and bumping shoulders with invisible people from other worlds.
I feel as though, in their universe, that quiet little green space has stopped existing. Or it never did. It wasn’t that big of a hill to begin with. But it was never about that. It only ever mattered that it was there, like its existence proved a point. That we weren’t simply city people. That there was more to us than deadlines and schedules and social status.
As I jog away, I wonder what their world is like. A world of neon signs and chit-chat, waiting for the clock to reach 5 pm, date night and TGIFs every week.
A world that is, most days, also mine.
No matter how much I tell myself that it’s different for me. Because I’m aware. Because I’m dreaming of some other place. Because I could be something, something. I could outgrow this tiny, cozy place.
Yeah, but life isn’t lived on intention alone.
That world unraveling before me is mine; there is no doubt.
But just not now, it isn’t.
Just not now.
Note: My body can’t seem to comprehend that it doesn’t have to write anymore now. At least not everyday. It seems all I’ve done this weekend is jot down half-born ideas. Also, I am planning on making some changes to the blog. Refine the category area and re-define barely-there publishing schedules. And haha, I’ve gotten used to writing these little notes at the end of posts. Another habit to shake off, I suppose.