By Arathi Devandran @miffalicious
When I was your age, I’d have done anything to get some prophetic words from my future self. Instead, I looked for it in books, in movies, in films. I watched people, I discussed with friends, I cried (sometimes wailed) and continued to make mistakes. I learned from my mistakes, got a little wiser, and then went down the same slippery slope again.
Here’s the truth, mini-me. You’re going to be doing this all your life. You’re going to be falling, and getting up and falling again, but you’re always going to continue walking towards betterment. I hope this gives you some hope and courage to keep moving, to keep learning.
Since you were young, you’ve always wanted to leave. You’ve spoken about crossing the seven seas; you’ve spoken about meeting different people and having new experiences.
Let me let you in on a little secret. Your wish will come true. It will be the best thing that will happen to you, and I urge you, little one, to grab the opportunity with both hands, hold fast, and enjoy the ride as much as you can.
You will leave. You will leave for a long while, and it will become a part of you. You will leave, and the leaving will have its own struggles. These struggles will make you. The struggles will shave off the baby fat and the innocence, but this is not a bad thing, though when you are going through them, it will feel like the world is ending.
In a way, the world will be ending. But things have to end, so that new beginnings can flower.
The best part of the leaving is that your parents will open your latch and urge you to fly. They will say, don’t worry. Don’t look back. Don’t think too much about us. Fly. Fly now, when you can. Fly now, because you must.
Of course, there will be naysayers. These naysayers will ask you how you can fathom leaving when your parents aren’t well. These naysayers will try to guilt trip you by using words like “obligation”, “duty”, “responsibility”. You will be confused, you will continue to wonder whether you are doing the right thing.
Then your father, the good man, the best man, will remind you that your first “responsibility” is to make a life for yourself.
You’re young, he’ll say. This is the best time to begin, he’ll advise. Go. Whatever anyone else says, it doesn’t matter. Fly.
And fly you will. You will fly to different continents. You will fly into the homes of different people. You will fly into hearts, and out of them.
You will keep looking back. You will receive calls in the middle of the night telling you that your father has been admitted in the hospital, ICU ward – complications from a heart surgery. You will second-guess yourself.
“Would it have been different if I had stayed behind?”
Echoes from naysayers will be the voices that you keep hearing in your nightmares. You will wake up in the middle of the night, flushed from another unpleasant dream, and run to your phone. No news. You’ll stay up the night, reading, and the echoes will grow louder.
And yet, like everything else in life, this too, will pass. Your father will recover, your biggest well-wisher will survive, and you will go back to soaring in your flight.
But remember, mini-me, that you should be grateful for being able to leave. Thank your father for never making you feel any “less” because “you’re a girl”. Thank your mother for being a warrior, and for being a role model that never quaked in the face of society’s demands and expectations.
Your family will be your biggest strength. They will provide you with the stepping stones that you need to take to climb high, and then nosedive.
You live in a society that still tries to cage people in the name of propriety and culture. You live in a society that is afraid to give a girl wings, because “what would the neighbours say?” You live in a society that ascribes gender to spaces, gender to occupations, gender to actions until your hands, your mouth, your legs become tied, and you are forced to hobble and stumble through your journey instead of conquering mountains.
Freedom should be a common good, but in an ideal world, mini-me, things don’t come easy. You will learn to fight society every step of the way. Sometimes, you will have help. Sometimes, you won’t.
It doesn’t matter. You will continue to climb, fall, and climb higher.
It will all start with leaving.
So, leave, you must.
Everything else, you will learn to deal with, one step at a time.
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