Dear A of May 2036,
How are you? Still going to respond with “All good. Chilling. What’s up with you?” I really hope you don’t. Get creative. I don’t write a lot of letters anymore, especially letters to myself, so this could be a bit mixed and muddled.
Now that the formalities are out of the way, I have some things I need to tell you and I don’t have much time. I’ve got errands to run and a lot of work on my personal projects. Essentially, I’ve given myself a pretty brief window to get this done. I wonder if you remember what that urgency feels like or have you become complacent? That pressure to fit a million tasks into a single weekend. Never stopping to try to take advantage of every precious minute of quiet. How down time is never truly relaxing, because you have an unending list of chores from over the week where your mind starts racing and calculating right from Friday evening. Exactly how much time do I have? Should I fix up my ever messy wardrobe or finish that book I’ve borrowed from Chow and still not started? Or do I spend the weekend just talking to Mum and Dad which I don’t do enough over the week? How do I fit in that meeting I promised with friends? Maybe I should get started on learning that extra language, after all it will take at least a month. Should I go see the dentist or push that to next weekend and just finish up with the ophthalmologist? I don’t have enough time for both. If I squeeze in a 30-minute quality time session with the parents, because I was home late the whole week because of work, I’ll still have maybe an hour left. Is that enough? Should I go to the gym or write a letter to my future self? Quite a few permutations possible here as you see.
I wonder what it’s like now that you’re older. How do you fill your time now that you don’t have to constantly think about that assignment due next day or that ‘catch up’ with someone, which is really just a forced socialization event? Does sitting down by yourself for ten minutes to listen to some Sia and sip on some cold coffee, which is what I’m currently doing (no coffee spills on the laptop, yay), still feel like heaven?
I really have so many questions for you. Mostly about the 10-year plan I had and ‘opening up’ that I struggled with. Do I still piss off people by not answering calls? Do I still disconnect and respond with a Whatsapp? Is Whatsapping still a thing? Did I ever meet J.K Rowling? Did the gold-purple dream come true? Is Max Zuckerberg famous? Are there more Fast and Furious movies being made? Am I still an awkward-side-hug person?
But I know you can’t answer me. That doesn’t matter anyway, all my questions will be answered in due time. So, I’m not writing in search of answers from the future, although how cool would that be? *cue Terminator music* I’m writing to help you remember.
Work just got a bit relaxed a few days ago. I know it won’t last though. There will be another “sprint” to get deliverables done on time soon. There have been a lot of changes recently, in life in general. K and R officially quit work and are off to a whole new world. K continues to say and do things that worry J and me enough to feel like over-protective moms already – we’re only 23 K! Don’t do this to us! R constantly amazes us with his whimsical trips to Bangalore (or anywhere really), endless party scenes and boundless energy. Full disclosure — that last one often frustrates me as it results in plans where I’m hounded to join while Chow gets a free pass to exit.
The home front is excellent. There are many long nights filled with intense discussions over what food to eat, what new activity Dad wants to pursue next and which types of tumbling stunts and impromptu karaoke sessions are and are not appropriate at 12:00 AM as I am not the only person living in that house. You probably don’t remember much of this, at least not with any level of detail, meaning you still have that ridiculous goldfish memory. That might be a good thing in some ways, but there are some things I need you to remember.
Last week I met with P. She left for yet another adventure, this time to Rajasthan. Go make us proud love. She senses when I’m frustrated and ranting and immediately says – “Are you happy?” It took me by surprise the first time she asked me that. It’s a question you expect from your therapist and you know how I’ve always been the therapist but never had one. She is definitely not therapist-vibed. But anyway, it struck a chord with me because it’s exactly what I ask my friends anytime they are in crisis. I’m prone to my share of dark moments and self-doubts. You know that better than anyone. Being the alpha in your mind and projecting that is hard work. It’s tedious. It can be very exhausting at times. But for some reason, happiness and sadness aren’t the first feelings I associate with any of it.
Maybe because I agree with that person on Buzzfeed in that they’re mutually exclusive. They’re just two tiny drops of an ocean of emotion upon which I float (since I can’t swim yet, hopefully you can) as each day unfolds. There’s happiness and sadness, but there’s a mix of other hues – equal parts frustration, exhilaration, self-doubt, guilt and nostalgia. And even more. I don’t think I’ve ever considered big picture, abstract feelings as revelations. Or particularly important. It’s the seemingly insignificant little moments that matter most and those are the ones you should remember. Those are the ones I need you to remember.
I need you to remember K’s quirky, wildly imaginative 8-year-old personality. How we make silly jokes about our trips to lands unheard of, despite R being the only one who will probably go through with that plan. How she’s always recreating scenarios for us by acting it out, like the one where she made a failed attempt to get a haircut super early. How she comes up with an animated face no matter what is going on. She even comes up with a story for us to pass the time while we’re in an Uber, heading to a promising dinner, complete with the proper inflection, facial expression and delivery. Even one-liners that make me double up with laughter.
And remember how bad R was at winning an argument because there was always strict enforcement of your logic? I mean, like all-time bad. He actually prefers to begin a conversation with “Okay I know I won’t win this argument but still”, which is probably for the best, because otherwise, we could probably argue for hours and we’d give K a panic attack, while J would just sigh and shake her head at how her ‘kids’ have turned out.
And I will always love how K ascribes feelings and personality to inanimate objects — always making sure to say sorry to the elevator or the door that she banged her foot against. She has a huge heart, which I hope you have made her protect well. And that heart really shines through when she interacts with R. R just cracks up at everything K does. They really do fit perfectly. The male and female version of the same personality.
And I need you to remember J and her childish nature which can just as quick turn to the responsible older sister who must protect the little ones. Not unlike Chow. Or maybe quite unlike Chow, who peeps in from the background to make sure no one messes with the dynamics of the others. The omnipresent responsible one and the ever present reliable one. I hope J is just as animated and bubbly as she is now. It’s rare to see someone who can keep her calm for others no matter what goes on behind the scenes. She really does give the best advice.
Speaking of behind the scenes, you need to remember the one who watches over them all – Mits. Did you visit her in the land down under? Did you guys collaborate on a piece? Remember how you spoke to her over the phone for more than an hour but did not feel the usual annoyance at a vocal correspondence? I need you to remember, your heart may seem frigid to all those outside, but the people who matter know the reality and see past the “alpha”. In fact, they mould the alpha into a warmer person.
The ones that count towards happiness or sadness and are the bulk of your life have given the moments I need you to remember most. The family you are so fortunate to be a part of. I need you to remember how when I have an argument with Kibs, mostly about being a moron and not growing up fast enough to not be “spoon fed by instructions” every time, he does it with the best intentions. I know you know this now. He yells, I grit my teeth and by the end of the very annoying conversation, he looks at me through the screen and says “Kiddo, I just want everything to be perfect for you. I don’t want to see you struggle like me.” And then we go back to normal. Our normal. I can’t name the feeling I have every time I work towards the dream. It’s a bit of everything. It’s joy wrapped in a cloak of anxiety with a bit of self-doubt thrown in. I feel anxiety on your behalf. And for x-years-from now me. Because I know everything changes so quickly. For instance, nothing makes you fixate on the passage of time like having a close knit relationship with your parents. Just this week, Mum’s started insisting on quality talk time before we go to bed. I started this months ago, but now it’s become a kind of daily ritual. The day I’m in a non-karaoke-at-home mood, she, or Dad for that matter, make that extra effort to be goofy and make me smile. Maybe it’s just a parent thing. But I know things change and of course I get my fear of unsolicited change from them. Any day in the future, this ritual could change. It could become a thing of the past, or maybe it is already a thing of the past and we just don’t want to acknowledge it.
I could go on and on about these three, really. There are so many things you need to remember. Why? Because they deserve it. I know you. I know you ask yourself sometimes if it was all worth it. What if you don’t live up to their expectations? What if their faith is too strong? What if you’re not as good as they think you are? Because there were sacrifices and obligations and even compromises. Every family makes them — putting a career on hold, setting aside personal goals, giving up free time, helping you cross over the struggle they went through or even saying goodbye to sleep for a few years. The sacrifices are different for everyone, but they are real. And it’s okay to call them what they are. Sacrifices. Ones made willingly. Honor the sacrifices they made for you and use them to fuel your fire. You have always wanted to do nothing but make them proud. Do just that, by remembering why that is your life goal instead of fame or riches.
For me, it’s these moments and details that make everything okay. Because these people and their actions let me know, through all the ups and downs, that I am doing something right and will continue to persevere. No matter what words I might choose to describe my emotional state, my family and friends are happy. Except, of course, for the times they hate me for cutting early from hangouts or refusing to stop singing Cheap Thrills in the hall while the neighbors’ dog barks in sync. But overall, for the most part, in this finite moment in time, they are happy which makes me happy. And no matter what happens in the future, that’s real and it’s valuable.
So, despite the many changes between now and when you read this, try not to be too sad about them. You were very lucky to get the chance to make all these memories with the precious people who are hopefully just as important. It’s truly the best thing we’ve ever done.
A of May 2016
Image source : wineandcheesedoodles