What are you made of?

11:22 AM

When my mom came to visit last June-July, she brought a few things that belonged to me from her basement, because when I left Switzerland, I  left a couple of books and trinkets behind, stuff that mattered to me then, and that near 16 years later, I don't all remember. 
Among those prized forgotten procession were a bunch of diaries, as I have been a diary keeper since the age of 13 (more or less regularly).

Imagine my surprise when my mom handed me one of those, I know there were more in her basement somewhere, but for some reason, only one was in the box she looked into. What is very interesting though, is that of all my diaries, that one is probably the most pivotal in my life. 

It was the diary I wrote from late 2000 until mid 2002, I was 21 when I started it, and almost 23 when I left it with a few blank pages at the end (to start a new fresh book). 
I just turned 40 by the way, you know for those of you not really into doing the maths. 

The reason that particular diary is so pivotal, is that unlike my earlier ones which had a lot of teenage angst and a record of fairly petty issues (and some deep stuff too), that diary marked the beginning of my love life, moving out of my childhood home, and beginning my journey as an adult in my 20's.

I wasn't really thinking about re-reading it, I just put it in a shelf and left it there for weeks because I knew from the first page, that it would be filled with deep emotional stuff. 19 years later, I still remember how awkward my 20's were and this is definitely a time I neither miss nor regret. 
But last week, I suddenly had that urge to take a peek, and ended up reading the whole thing. 

I wasn't a super regular writer back then, but what I wrote was raw, and brutally honest. What I found the most interesting, is that it was the exact time I really started shaping into who I am today. 
A lot of the issues and questions I had back then, are issues and questions that I kept working all through my 20's, 30's and are just now really starting to make sense at age 40. 
I also recognized some of the character traits I had all along and am please to still have : determined, stubborn, passionate, never giving up. 

I changed my mind on a lot of other things too. In my 20's I was still fragile, figuring my place in life, and pretty much went through all the Awkard 20's Clichés that made the TV Series "Friends" such a massive hit. 

Remember the Opening title song : 

So no one told you life was gonna be this way
Your job's a joke, you're broke
Your love life's D.O.A
It's like you're always stuck in second gear
When it hasn't been your day, your week, your month
Or even your year

I challenge any of you no longer in your 20s to say that none of it applied to your life back then. Because as I grew and evolved, I came to realise that those are pretty much what define the 20's for pretty much everybody. Back when I wrote that diary, I was in a relationship with an asshat, then met my now husband, faced long distance relationship, was an apprentice decorator earning peanuts. My flat was in the attic of an old house with a poorly insulated and leaky roof and my home decor was a medley of stuff from IKEA, my Childhood and flea market finds, complete with mismatched tea-cups and a collection of trinkets that pretty much took over the whole of my very tiny space and spoke the story of my life. Imagine Monica's apartment, shrink it to about 280 square feet with only one big space to eat, cook and sleep (and thankfully a door to separate the bathroom).

The 20's are the modern equivalent of Trial by fire

What I find super interesting, overall is how I survived my awkward 20's and how it still defines me today. 
I think we all start shaping up into who we are in this pivotal decade, and in my case, my grit power is what really got me through it. 
Like all 20 something, I had a bunch of friends, like all 20 something, we would meet over coffee, wine and food to reshape the world, like all 20 something, I cribbed about how unfair things were, wondering if I would ever find my groove in this crazy adult world. 

BUT! Unlike most 20 something, I never really went for a comforting easy way out of things. I have friends who called things quit and moved on to something else the instant things got hard or seemed impossible. I already was the type to just grab the bull by the horn and say "Game on!" 
When my family and friends started telling me that my online relationship with my now husband was a terrible mistake, and the easiest thing would be to break up, and find a more geographically desirable partner, I got angry, stuck to my guns, and made plans to solve the problem with an outcome I could live with. 

In this case, we all know that it turned into selling all my stuff, packing one suitcase and move to India, because being in the 20's isn't awkward enough if you haven't added being even more broke, and dealing with culture shock. 
I could have moved back to Switzerland the minute things got rough in India, but again, I was not willing to call it quit because I knew I could not live with myself assuming a decision that left room for too many "what ifs" 

That refusal to settle for something rather than go for things I wanted has been a defining thing in my whole life, but it became far more apparent in my 20's when I was suddenly catapulted in this crazy world of adulting. 
One thing re-reading this particular diary pretty much taught me that I never had regrets, or remorse about anything, and that I was the type to face my doubts and awkwardness rather than run from it. 
I had lots of doubts, lots of dark moments, lots of demons of my past to face (I still have some of those), but even in my fresh and naive youth, I never really let these get in the way of being me, I dealt with what was given to me without whining too much about what I didn't have. 

Looking back on it, this is probably that same attitude that is responsible for me still live in India 16 years later, and really having zero plans of changing that. In the community of ladies married to Indian men and living in India, I am among the veterans. It's just that in general I am the type to have an idea of where I want to be, and only move toward getting there. Obstacles do happen, but because I am so clear about what I want, I don't let them get to me. 
I stumble, fall, pester, have a tantrum for a day, then dust myself up, stand, and keep going. 

While I think my 20's defined that trait, my mom says I've always been that girl to just stick to an idea and see it through, it's just that I never have been put the test as much as I was in the 20's
No bleeding knees stopped me from learning to roller skate down hill, no bullies stopped me from being me (and I have been bullied a LOT), and I never fell for peer pressure when it came to smoking or doing stupid teenage stuff I didn't feel like doing. 

I did stupid stuff, but on my terms, not because I wanted to please the crowd and belong to a group. When I was 13, I actually was ballsy enough to ask a cute guy half the school had a crush on (I got rejected, and was pissed, but I moved on)

Learning from our past is always a good idea

If you aren't writing a diary already, I strongly suggest you give it a try. First because in the heat of the moment, it is extremely therapeutic  and then because a few years down the line, you can re-read it, and see how you dealt with your life, and gain some serious insight about how to solve what's coming ahead.

I lost a lot of my the diaries that came after this one, they were all stored in a cabinet in our previous flat and termites ate through the back of that cabinet and into all my notebooks, I had to throw away the whole bunch. 
But because that diary in question still had a few blank page at the end, I wrote a 2019 entry, recapped my 20's and 30's and left a note for my future self to read in 10+ years from now. 

The reason why keeping a diary is a good idea, is that sometimes we are faced with issues and struggles we don't quite grasp yet, but suddenly have a much better hindsight to revisit a few years later. Writing them down is a way to keep a record, not let them eat you alive when you aren't just quite ready to deal with them, and then later look back into it with a fresh eye and a better emotional luggage. 
Some of the deep rooted issues, and fears that plagued me at age 20 were already put black on white in that diary, and I realised that I only just now really have a way to put an end to it, 20 years later, but because I vented the frustration when it occurred  it didn't become this overpowering cloud of negativity that took over my whole life. What mattered then was dealing with the emotions that came with the problem, the years made me wiser and more capable at dealing with the root. 

Do you keep a diary? Do you introspect and work on your problem? Or are you the type to settle and compromise for something easier when things get though? What did you learn from your 20s? 

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  1. Kudos to you for making that leap of faith and arriving in India for love and facing all that came with it. Not just you Lauren and Crystal too made that leap of faith. No offence meant, but I would have serious doubts over relocating to some other country for love. But that’s just me. What struck me about your post was the last line, where you talk about putting down your emotions on paper. I wish I could put my emotions on paper during my teenage. We were children but our world was fast changing. In those days we had to figure out how to deal with the changes in our lives, all by ourselves, as is the case with many things in India. Academics and hormones make for confusing cocktail especially when you are judged by academics. That just another layer on a confusing problem. That did took the wind out of my sails for a long time. Was I not glad that school ended.

    Early twenties was spent looking for job and I manage to land on my own two feet. It was only then, I could heaved as sigh of relief. I still reassure myself that school is firmly behind me. I have come realized that immense possibilities lie inside each one of us ready to materialize, but you got to dive inside you to find the pearls. Oh, I remember, I recently went to see the bollywood movie Mission Mangal based on India’s Mars Mission. Somebody said in the movie, what if we fail as nobody could make it to mars in the first attempt. The lead scientist replied what if we succeed, India would be the first country to reach Mars in the first attempt. They tried and reached Mars.

    1. Everybody's world goes for a crazy spin during the teenage years. I know that Ishita will hit that stage pretty soon, and there is no questionning that our world is as fast changing as it once was for me, and my parents or grand parents before me. School and hormones will always make for a crazy cocktail.

      When I was in middle school, academics and peers were my judges, but as it is I was already not giving a hoot about either my peers or even what academics were all about. I rejected and rebelled against what is considered "proper" in every way. And if there is one thing that still does not impress me today it is academics.

      Funny but the other day I was chatting with a friend whose daughter is in the same class as mine and I pointed out that I'd rather Ishita have a passion in one thing and a drive for it than worrying about her marks in school.
      I'm a person with a high IQ, and not a single degree to my name, NONE. I wasn't failing as such, but I made no effort to be great at academics because I have a profound disdain for the whole system and as a teenager I was all out to show it to the world. My teachers were threatened by it, because they could tell I didn't care, but they never had enough on me to call me a slacker.

      The truth is I've never been made to be a push paper, teacher's pet, followers of rules or even employee material, so with that in mind, I carved a path that took me as far from it as possible.


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