Learn (n). Gain knowledge by experience, skill or being taught.
Growing up an introvert is not a bad thing. Perhaps, in a way, I sought the comfort of a classroom or a library more than the playground. What I learned, I thought I gained from the lectures given by teachers or from the contents of books. I won’t deny they have played a part. They have. But I have fooled myself for a long time thinking that only they have taught me. What I am realising, very late, us that experience has been the biggest teacher of all, and the lessons it has taught have been unseen, and its impact more deeply scarring. I didn’t see the scars, or maybe I did and told myself that they were just who I was.
From teachers who shrugged me off after losing a game by a point and refusing to let me try again, to people who have called me by that word “failure” to my face during the lowest of low times, I’ve not had much support to say, “Failing is okay. You can get back up on your own and win the next time.” Failure was suddenly not an option, and anything in life felt like it needed perfection. A middle ground didn’t exist. The thoughts of others dear to me have often overwhelmed my own often. After all, they had walked down the path of life longer than I had, what if they knew what they were doing and I didn’t? The “what will people say?” syndrome is very restricting. It made me forget that that was their path, not mine. And my life can be different. The more choices of others I accepted, the more I forgot I had a voice of my own. I was shattered, and I went back into my shell. I thought it was acceptable to be silent and agree with other voices rather shout and be shouted down. Why get hurt more, right?
I loved writing. But when I wrote something, a voice rose inside me that said, “Writing? What’s the future in that? You should be studying more things that will secure your future.” I would get novels to read. It was cathartic to escape into another world for a while every day. Yet, that voice came up again. Some people around me added to that voice saying, “Why read novels? You should read only academic books, add to your knowledge, and stop wasting time.” I loved spending time with some friends. After some time, the voices around started to say, “What will people say if you are spending more time out with friends and less at home?” It was then that realized that no matter what I do, there will be people who say something just for the sake of saying it. If I didn’t read or write, they would say, “Oh, that boy doesn’t have any hobbies or passions. What a poor life!” and if I stayed home more often, they would say “He doesn’t have a life, no friends to go out with. What a poor life!” It was MY life, so for me to feel happy, I would have to decide what I needed to do and silence those voices that would judge.
I tried to start again from that moment. To start those things that I wanted to do before. There was still a part of me that was hesitant. And I old scars that had remained unseen began to shine in a new light, and make their voices heard. For me to take steps confidently, I had to unlearn those old lessons that I now knew were wrong. They were at the foundation of my being, and building a new me on top of them was not an option. So, I have begun to toss them out one by one. I’ve begun with the one that has affected me the most, by telling myself it is okay to fail, and if I do, I know what not to do the next time.
I’ve written what I wanted to write, without fearing if it has come out poorly. So, what if it has? I will have found places I can improve, right? Putting my thoughts onto paper or document has been so cathartic. Often it has helped me to focus because it has felt like taking a load off my mind, opening up some space for more thoughts. The cup needs some space to fill water in. Reading or writing has been that one hour of self-care that has been very important for my mental health.
I’ve realized that there are few people who will listen to my voice, and not judge me for my experiences. That with them, I can share the good and the bad, the victories and the defeats, and that they will be honest with me and help me celebrate or bounce back. I’ve started to seek their company more.
It is okay to be not okay for some time, and that being hurt is part and parcel of life. I cannot keep everyone happy. Trying to do that only takes up more of my peace of mind, and when I am at peace with who I am, I can be a better person. And by being the best possible version of myself, and not a version of me that has been moulded by others, I can help those who I care about to be at ease around me too.
Unlearning is not easy. It is easy to say I’ll forget old wounds but scars may not go away completely. It will take time, but it may not be possible to give a lot of time for it too. But unlearning is important. It is freeing my thoughts from the cage the thoughts of others have put around it. It is standing up for myself and what makes me happy, what I believe in passionately.
Every time I do something I would have hesitated to do a few years before; I am becoming independent of that “log kya kahenge” syndrome. I am telling that my thoughts, my voice, and my dreams matter. That I matter.
Speaking of independence (azaadi), and today being Independence Day, our friends at Swari Arts have brought out this wonderful card game called Azaadi. Click here to know more about it! If you’ve already heard about it, and want to buy it, you can visit Swari’s page here. There are some other interesting items in the shop too!