I croon alongside the radio on the morning drive to drop my toddler at her school. She doesn’t seem to mind the off-key singing and I smile at her reflection in the rearview mirror. The drive back seems lonely even with the radio babbling. I turn the radio off and my mind veers to random conversations on Twitter during the December music season. Conversations I followed with envy because, despite exposure to Carnatic music growing up, I am as nyanashoonyam as they come.
The regrets are many – Carnatic music, Bharatanatyam, Tamizh. Some days I feel the angst acutely wishing I could go back in time and fix some of the things I missed the boat on. Some days, I am pragmatic, realizing regrets by nature always focus on the things we did not get to do rather than the ones we did.
I change tacks and look back on the things I had access to and did well. Extempore elocution, quiz contests, emceeing, reading and writing. I remember the days I grudgingly accommodated my amma’s requests to thuruvify coconut or grind the chutney. I remember the constant exhortation to learn basic cooking. As misguided as the intentions may have been, it sparked something in me that now is therapeutic.
I am on the phone with a friend when she pauses as she tries to explain a lack of a certain something. I helpfully suggest “like nothing matters anymore?” and she laughs and agrees. We reminiscence on the days when ambition burned in us. We talk about days in the past when we were shadows of our current selves. We talk about facing death, about morbidity, about the lack of fear.
I dwell on the conversation all day long. Midlife crisis seems too clichéd. It seems to me that after a certain age we seem to realize all the things we grew up hearing are true. Health is wealth. Food is medicine. Family trumps the rest of the world. Work is just one part of your identity. There is joy in giving. Money isn’t everything. Sometimes you take a chance at pursuing your passion even if it is not realistic. Sometimes you let life pass you by, while you pause to savor your station in life.
In this limboland I am in currently, I am well aware of all the things that can go wrong. I am aware of the regrets that will seep into my head and heart should things change. I am also aware that this space and time is precious. That this time in my forties when my children are still young, when my spouse and I are still active and talk about the future, this ambivalence about the things that matter is a gift. That one day I will look back at this time with a quiet kind of peace knowing I snatched a pocket of happiness while I could.
I sometimes lurk in conversations about career and pursuits of passion. There is so much I want to say but find myself curiously tongue-tied. I want to butt in and shout “take a chance” or “let go” or “live a little” but hold back because each journey is unique. Each person arrives at the decision to go off the path on their own. They need that joy of discovery, that moment when they take the leap. That moment when they see through the fog and know it will all be okay.
So, I withdraw and watch. I cheer from the sidelines. I wish for the courage to do more with my life, to take the next step literally and figuratively.