“Oh, he always had my hairdryer in his hand”, my friend’s mother said. “As a child, he was always singing. My hairdryer was his mic, his dad’s expensive goggles and my scarf were his costume, and he was a rockstar. Jumping around to his father’s rock music collection,” she beamed, as we flipped through the family album (yes, some of us still have them).
Today, he spends 14 hours a day working in a software firm. No weekends, no family time, dismal pay hikes…
“What happened”, I asked. “Life”, she sighed.
Forget what we wanted to be as children. We all still want to be someone. And I have used the word ‘all’ here because every person, regardless of who she is or what she does, aspires to be someone or something. We want to live on our own terms, recognition from the world for having done something amazing, and the adulation of people around us. What stops us? Guilt.
Guilt of not being able to give our family the comfort they deserve if we dive into something new. Guilt of not being able to make enough money for our family to roam in malls on weekends and buy things that they don’t need. No more fancy phones for our children and partners for a while. No more feeding them junk food every week. Today, this is as good as poverty… no - starving.
What we love doing is certainly not worth the risk, is it? Now we have a family to take care of, which depends on us to bring home the bread (and smartphones, and iPads). Our duty is to take care of our family, and ensure that our children fulfill the dreams that we couldn’t.
Where did this guilt come from? Surely we were not taught to think about family and money from childhood! This guilt came from social pressure, from the status quo. We had dreams to pilot airplanes or land on the moon some day. Then society mellowed us down. It said that we were fools to think of something that was ‘impossible’ (we learnt this word when we integrated ourselves with society). It instilled the fear of being ostracized if we didn’t toe in line. Our job was to study hard, get a job, earn money and feed our families. We had to fit the frame that society made for us. If we stuck out by even a few inches, we were looked down on, and brought shame onto our families. This is what brought about the guilt.
Gradually, we lost our mojo. We believed the liars, the insecure ‘leaders’, the people who made the rules so we would toe in line. And boy, did we toe in quickly! We looked around for acknowledgement, which we never received. Because no matter what we did, society always demanded more. We gave our families all that we could, but we never really gave them true freedom, because we never had it ourselves. Life sucked, and then we died.
|"Whatcha lookin at, hater?"|
And then there were the other kind. The kind whom we considered arrogant and stubborn. The kind whom we found too weird to play with us, to be a part of this well-knit society. The kind who were probably pulled up by their teachers in front of the classroom, and whom we (and our parents) sniggered about. The kind who couldn’t stay put at a job long enough.
They went on to do something remarkable. No. I’m not talking about scoring good marks in academics or being model students. They went on to become someone we always wanted (but never deserved) to be. Envy made us turn greener than a chilly. Surely they must have done something wrong… surely they just got lucky or found someone who did everything for them.
No. They believed in what they wanted to do. Despite the world telling them that it wouldn’t work, that they were fools, that it has been tried before and all others had failed. They soaked up whatever the world had to say and continued working. In the process, they became masters at handling pressure and criticism. They stopped watching the news and reading newspapers. They could weed out the sense from truckloads of bullshit and learnt to back themselves even when the whole world counted them out. They believed in the outcome, and that they would eventually prevail. Life eventually gave up trying to pin them down and hoisted them on its broad shoulders. They achieved true freedom - from the shackles of society, from stereotypes, and monotony. They never truly succeeded in being free of fear - every person still faces fear in her life. But they mastered the art of facing it head-on and destroying it before it caused damage.
I had attended a 'Go-Diamond' event organized for the people of Amway (I worked for a company which organized these events). There, a Diamond (someone at the top of the Amway chain) shared an experience. When his wife and he moved to USA, they had little money. They had to choose between 2 apartments: one without a balcony, and the other with a balcony which had a rent of just $5 more each month. The Diamond convinced his wife to choose the one without the balcony, because that meant they had $60 each year to spare for Amway products. She agreed. They worked hard together. Today they own a palatial house, never think about budgets, and serve as role models to hundred thousands of people the world over.
You can take flak from society and family in the initial years while you work towards doing what you love. Or you can remain unhappy the rest of your life sucking up to people that you despise. In the first case, you can use the four magical words: At least I tried. In the second, you still will use four words, but they will sound like: If I had tried.
Which life do you want to live? The choice is yours.
I have resolved to pursue real personal freedom. Freedom from what people say, from being conned by the media, from being a slave to my mind. And I intend on making the most of this journey from fear to freedom. Care to join me?