What scares me the most in life? What is my greatest emotional fear? Thanks to a friend for asking me to write about this. It’s a regular ‘internal’ conversation that’s rarely externalised, so here goes!
For me, my biggest emotional fear is that I actually may not ‘live’ if I end up conforming to “societal normality”. To enable a more fulsome understanding of where I’m coming from, one has to have regard to the Indian culture and associated norms. Anyone born into an Indian/ ethnic family would know that their early life trajectory gets mapped for them by their family quite in advance. It’s generally along the lines of this: by the age of 24, you must already join the family business and/ or be finished with a university course in either medicine, law, engineering or accounting (anything else generally infers that you’re not achieving much in life to start with), get married by 26, be “settled” in a profession by 27, buy a house by 28, have the first kid by 30, and finish starting off a family with another kid or two, or three by 35 (no later) and then set up your kids to be willing and able to repeat this process.
Sounds familiar or scary? Well, believe it or not, these are the legitimate expectations of most ethnic, or at least, Indian families. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not opposing this ideology, or that I won’t do all or part it; but there is a bigger picture driving my decision making. Parents/ families have the best of intentions. They come from a perspective of ensuring children have social, financial and economic stability, certainty and independence in their life. I am grateful to my parents for providing me the solid, unwavering stability I benefit from myself.
Now let me put some perspective to what creates the fear of conforming to this ‘societal normality’ for me. Let’s work on the basis that I will live to the age of 80. I would have approximately spent:
- 25 years of my life sleeping;
- 11 years of my life working, including commuting time;
- 7 years of my life eating/ dining;
- 4 years of my life in primary, secondary and tertiary education.
This is working on the basis that on average per day, I sleep for 7.5 hours, work for 9.5 hours (from the age of 20 – 60, including commute time) and spend 2 hours eating per day. Now that’s 47 years of life, gone! And these are conservative calculations with so many regular activities unaccounted for. In light of the fear of not actually living a fulfilling life, every other fear I have ever had, and I feel anyone could ever have is minuscule!
We live in a world where there are 195 countries, 6500+ languages and thousands more cultures. The potential for learning and personal growth is endless for one lifetime. The questions I therefore ask myself are, what do I do to actually “live” and how do I enhance the quality and experience of my life and that of those around me.
So, I’ve left the fear of any form of societal conformity aside. I am being more spontaneous, doing what I like and feel is right, finding the purpose and meaning to my life experiences and putting my personal growth above everything else. I have discovered a number of hobbies that add immense value to my skillsets and enhance my life experience at this point in time, knowing full well these interests may evolve and change over time. Most importantly, I embrace the impermanence of life, which makes every moment the most valuable thing there is! These thoughts now dictate how I set my priorities and use my time. It is my hope and my wish that this gives you something to reflect on too!