On Growing Up: A Personal Essay
When I was cooking yesterday I burnt my hand, because of my lack of assessment. Nothing major; an ice-pack and burn cream sorted it within 30 minutes. It got me thinking about how long it has been since I had a mishap in the kitchen - not since October 2014, when I made an undercooked cake while attempting to bake. Mistakes happen less as you practice. And whatever they say is maybe true; practice and time go a long way. My mother never really allowed me into the kitchen, even to observe. I used to ask too many questions - a habit I refuse to let go of. Against my mother’s initial wishes, my father made my sister and I observe the happenings within the kitchen. My interest developed, my sister’s did not. My father used to calmly explain how important it is to learn basic life skills - cooking, cleaning, laundry, sewing buttons on shirts, ironing clothes (all of them which he patiently taught me, mostly on Sundays as I grew up). I did not realise when the day came that I no longer needed my father’s guidance to cut an onion or in forming a crease to iron a pant or my mother’s worries that I might hurt myself doing it all. I grew up.
As a child when you wanted to eat cake for dinner; a decadent one, maybe chocolate truffle with alternate layers of ganache and white chocolate toppings? Your parents will obviously refuse for you to eat an entire family size cake for dinner but you still held on to the thought that, “When I am an adult, no one can stop me from having an entire cake for dinner.” In hindsight, I know eating a cake by myself for dinner may not be the best idea for my stomach (maybe sharing it with others could help, which I didn’t want to do as a child). There are unwritten rules to adulthood and I am slowly uncovering them all. As a nineteen-year-old who reflects back on growing up, I admit this against my better wishes - maybe the adults were right all along.
Growing up is never easy, especially when your opinions often (read: always) clash with the adults around you. One of the major influences that will probably never leave you is your schooling. I do not mention this in the academic sense but towards a more moralistic sense. The difference between right and wrong is taught within this institution, and we try to practice it in our daily lives. Overindulgence is wrong, having exemplary academics is right. Not one person stops to tell you that there is a third element in existence and that this element is the one that calls the shots. Right, wrong and grey spaces, which cannot be determined. Most of our life is in a grey space. I was told even before I started my final year of school that my 12th-grade finals were all that mattered. That this examination would be the one to piece my puzzle of life. If I do not clear this, I will fail to get into a good college, so no good job, no time to settle and repeat the process. It is as if free will does not exist (which it doesn’t), because for me and many like me - the path has been decided and ingrained that there is no other way. Are the choices we make even our own?
Birth ---> Primary School ----> Middle School ----> High School ----> Best College ----> Highest Paying Job ----> Marry/Settle ----> Have kids ----> Repeat the process society put you through ----> Retire ----> Die ----> process to be repeated by your kids
When I was six all I wanted was to grow up. Be an adult. Watch the television late into the night because my father told me it’s what adults do. A child’s perception of adulthood is of course, childish but as I think about this, I am reminded that it is because of the innocence that comes with being a child, that growing up equals being in Candyland. For a recent group assignment for college, we were asked to create a personal financial profile for a hypothetical person. Mind you, this meant creating an intimately personal profile with their goals, sources of income and other influencing factors in mind. I remember drafting the proposal down with my college friends whom I have never met, over a video call and realising that this will be us in five years. The taxes, the bills, the contingent funds for emergencies, the car insurance, the medical insurance, and additional life insurance with an accidental death benefit (just in case), the loans - car, home, educational; and I am not ready. These responsibilities never do come with a warning or never give a warning about their overwhelming nature. Maybe the adults are wrong. Maybe they do not know what they are doing and just wing it by the day.
I say it on behalf of all young adults that it is extremely difficult to voice the overwhelming nature of these things out loud, especially when you have no path to walk on. Consider this: every fresher job that you apply to as a fresher requires experience; isn’t that contradictory? How am I expected to have experience as a fresher? Today, the world expects you to know it all. Turns out learning things yourself is a very lonely process and the politics of mental health never really escape you when there is a lack of conversation and accessibility. A recent study assessed that an overwhelming 43% of Indians suffer from depression; this number would be even higher in the global context.
Moving on to the next frustrating part of growing up: singlehood. I open Instagram and find a show of couples professing their love for each other, on anniversaries, birthdays or just because they can. At the risk of sounding mean and bitter - I do feel kind towards them, love is an all-consuming force that one chooses to be in and I have no complaints. Just that I seem to be getting the shorter end of the stick. As someone who is awkward when it comes to romantic relationships, I genuinely am oblivious in these situations (I hope that someone relates). With everyone around you dating, peer pressure does become a thing. Now, dating apps have “success” stories, but that comes only after you overcome that talking phase with more than 50 people? Sometimes I wonder if dating apps are the ones to fuel loneliness and insecurities with the amount of emotional exhaustion they bring in!
There is no manual to deal with this. I do not think our parents got a manual to raise us when we were born; patiently explaining all our functions -
“The younger one is academically bright but does not have common sense. The elder kid will not understand how numbers work.”
But we made it this far and might as well sail ahead. The reality of life is that for the first 17 years of you being alive was a free trial and now it’s time for you to pay for its subscription, except that there is no pirated site. This is also why I believe in semicolons and am obsessed with them - they’re also a metaphor for promoting the conversation around mental health. A semicolon represents a decision by an author to continue a sentence, rather than end it. It signifies going on, no matter what and that is something we all need.