The year was 1997. I moved out of home for the first time. It was a personal decision, taken much against the wishes of my father, who thought I could continue my education in the small hill town where we lived. But I thought differently. I wanted to see life in big cities. They said big cities held more promises. I was academically inclined, had always performed decently well and was quick to make friends. I didn’t see any reason why my parents should have been worried for me.
And so, after much brouhaha over my decision back home, I made my way to a bustling city. The most difficult task in a new place is finding your gang. And at an age when friendships are the sweet nothings you are looking for, this task becomes even more onerous.
I had a picture of me in my mind- an image that was near perfect and a notion that everyone else also viewed me through a similar lens. It’s natural. We see ourselves in a certain light and assume those rays bend at similar angles for others as well. But that is not true. The same light bulb that forms a sharp image for me might just be casting a shadow for you, depending on where you stand. And so, despite all my affability and my meteoric scores or even my well praised poetic platitudes that appeared in college magazines, I struggled to fit in. Not everywhere, but in those few circles that I desired to be a part of.
At such a juncture, it was disheartening. I was seventeen, almost eighteen and I couldn’t understand what made it so difficult for me to break in. The struggle was real. In a cosmopolitan culture, I was way too young to understand why my ‘charm’ didn’t work. To find your tribe there are no rules. No columns that must be checked. Even if there are a few and you check all, you may still be an outsider. There is snobbery and sly smirking. They are kind generally, but you aren’t one of them. I think I’ll put it that way.
Anyway, in all this, I sometimes felt other hands reach out to me. But I was clamouring for someone else’s attention all the time. My exemplars were kind as I said, but I was often the friend chosen to run errands. I didn’t find a place in private conversations or so-called clandestine talks. I was part of the jigsaw puzzle but I hadn’t been cut-out perfectly.
It was an-almost three-year long ordeal. I existed and yet I didn’t. Now when I look back, I feel it was nobody’s fault. We were people from different walks of life and I was probably asking for more than somebody could give me. Gradually, I retreated my steps. I didn’t want to live on somebody’s mercy all my life.
After trying to figure out things for long, I made a little space for myself somewhere. Not the place I wanted to be in, but a place where I fitted in so well. We often spend hours chasing the wrong people, the ones who are happy without us. We live in the illusion that they are the only ones who complement us. The truth is otherwise.
It was a lesson well learnt. For as I moved ahead at work and generally, I realized that this situation was part of our humdrum life. But now I was always on my guard. The heart is a fragile something. You must fortify it well. I became more reticent but also more prepared to tackle the world.
The interesting bit is that I met one of my so-thought idols much later in life and we somehow got another chance to work with each other this time. We were both much older and different people too than what we had been back in college. I was cordial but had lost the ability to open up to others. Just before our year-long association was to end, my friend walked up to me. She wished to apologize for something that had happened fifteen years ago in college. Ironically, we had never discussed it back then. My retreating had been subtle and without any complaints. Maybe undercurrents are hard to ignore.
That day, we parted on a happy note. But we went our ways. I always feel that sometimes its best not to stretch anything, least of all relations. To cherish them while they are there and to let them go when you don’t fit in.
Do you have a similar experience to share? I’d love to hear from you!
Are you interested in tidbits from History? Well, here’s a book, FREE for download all of June, that brings to you interesting and lesser-known facts from history. Visit the link to download your copy!