Edited by: Pragyna Divakar (UG20)
I’ve written about Kochi, my city, before. A quiet nostalgic piece, if I do say so myself. It’s all about the warm and fuzzies (shameless plug, but you can read it here: https://www.hercampus.com/school/ashoka/city-next-sea). This, in a sense, is also something along those lines but this time it’s about growing up. Growth is such a subjective word, it’s hard to place a strict definition on it. For some, it can be about giving up a bad habit, or moving cities, like it was for me. But the majority of growing up was about letting go.
It sounds harsher than it should be, but sometimes, you don’t have much of a choice but to let go. Like I said before, I’m a sappy nostalgic, so this was a particularly difficult thing for me to do. I spent most of my first three semesters of college whining, even though I was having fun and living my best life. I missed my home, my school, my family and my friends way too much. Many people say “Oh, but that’s normal”, and maybe it is. But I was so fixated on missing things and people, that I didn’t take advantage of the fact that I was in college, with my life wide and open in front of me, to meet new people, see new things and make newer, more interesting memories. Every time I went back home, I would want to visit my school, or at least drive past it. Now I’m not entirely sure why I was so attached to a place that I still occasionally get nightmares about, but it was one of two possibilities: a) despite every mildly traumatic incident that happened there, I still spent most of my life there, and therefore was indebted to it or b) I was too scared to firmly say that this part of my life is over, because that would mean accepting responsibility.
School was not a very pleasant time for me. When I was in it, I was fine, but once I was out of it, I realized how much happier I could be (this may or may not be a quote from Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani). There was a lot of stigma and policing, of what one does, or says. Now, I was the token good kid in school (still am, mom and dad, still am). I had fairly good grades, won many prizes, didn’t really go through much of a ‘rebel’ phase. I went to the same school, right from kindergarten, all the way up till grade 12, and followed the same routine my whole life. There were some things I’d gotten accustomed to back in school, like the rampant homophobia, and racism or the much less obvious, but still underlying sexism. It is not until I came to Ashoka that I realized that not being sexist, racist or homophobic isn’t a big deal, but rather basic human decency. I even remember speaking about this on Instagram at one point and then being viciously attacked by several of my old schoolmates. I think this is where the growing out started. I made a conscious choice that day that I could not be so wrapped up in nostalgia that I fail to acknowledge the awful things that were happening to other people.
When I was plucked out of this life, and replanted in college, I was distraught. The people in college were nothing like the ones at school (in the best way possible, but I was in no headspace to think rationally). Suddenly there was the burden of meeting new people, buying your own groceries, sharing a living space, parties, and worst of all, the crushing realization that you are not as special as you thought you were. I couldn’t catch up. So, I resorted to being sulky, spending most of time talking about school, or thinking about it, or talking to my friends from school. But then after I went back home for the first time, something was off, but I couldn’t place what it was. Things just started to feel more and more weird each subsequent time I went back, and I felt confused. Until one day I finally put my finger on it. My schoolmates and I don’t have the same life anymore. Each person was going through their own conflict, just like me, and they were also trying to figure out their new environment. I couldn’t have the same type of conversations I used to have with them, because they would not understand what I was going through, and vice versa. The one thing that held us together was the fact that we shared some experiences, and now that we don’t, we could no longer relate to each other. This is a very hard fact of life one has to accept, no matter how old you get, you will not have the same people throughout. The movies make it seem like you’re always going to have the same set of friends, forever, but reality is not so.
Of course, I still have a few people who I still call my best friends, and we still talk, pretty much every day. And there are a few others with whom you can still have a long conversation with, even if you’re not in touch with them for ages. This doesn’t apply to them. As I’ve learned the hard way, some bonds withstand the test of time, some don’t. And that’s okay. It’s okay to only go back to these connections at a high school reunion, twenty years later. As Timon says in The Lion King, “sometimes you gotta put your past behind you”.