Saturday, April 25, 2015

To do, or not to do?

How do you live your life?
A series of decisive actions one after the other forming a cohesive journey?
Or a laid back procrastination of actions believing that things that will happen as they are meant to?

I belong to the first category. It has a lot to do with the kind of upbringing that you had. There is no right category or wrong category. And shades of grey and overlaps do exist. These are broad generalizations. But if you had to select one, which would it be?

I was brought up to believe that your life will pan out as a consequence of the decisions you make. A lesson my sister and i were taught - Always understand consequences of your decisions. We were encouraged very early on to make our own decisions. Be it academics, which sports to participate in, if at all. Which extra curricular activities to choose, if at all. Which graduation field, post graduation field to opt for, if at all!
Which job to consider, when to start, when to quit, whether to switch fields or not. Accept responsibilities and even marry whoever we want.
And all the time it was drilled into our heads - your make decisions, you face the consequences. I do not remember a single instance, for as long as my memory stretches back, of somebody else making a decision on my behalf. I am sure as a child when i did not have the resources for decision making i must have been bullied into obedience by my parents. But the minute my brain could process the choice -research - action - consequence sequence, i was left to my own devices. Which does not mean that my parents approved of all my decisions, or that they didn't let their disapproval be known. They did! But it was never an ultimatum. It was a way of presenting their point of view that i probably should be taking into consideration before reaching a conclusion.

Because after all i had to face the consequences of my decision.

And when i see so many of my peers and friends planning the lives of their child like an event manager on drugs - i am utterly surprised. If you plan every single moment of their life, have made all their decisions for them, when are these kids going to learn to decide for themselves? When are they going to understand and appreciate the art of making their own decisions - sometimes right and sometimes terribly wrong? How will future managers and professionals be - if their days are planned by over zealous mothers - 7 am get up, 9 am school, 12 pm - lunch, 2 pm horse riding, 4 pm - homework, 5 pm - video games, 6 pm - cricket coaching, 7 pm - dinner, 8 pm - A specific program on tv and 10 pm - sleep!
Look at the rigid pattern that we force the kids to follow. All spontaneity forgotten. Turning them into robots. All in the quest for the kid growing up to be a doctor, an engineer or a cricketer.

How many parents would be okay if their kid came home one day and said i want to be a painter, or a dancer or a musician? How many times have we heard the argument of - "these professions will not sustain you and your lifestyle"? Why not? What if your kid really is a Picasso or Sudha Chandran in the making? And even if he / she is not - who are we to take that chance of discovery out of their hands?

Fortunately, i did not grow up in a household where i HAD to be an engineer or a doctor. I had a choice. To do what i wanted, what i felt i could excel at. And of course, i realize i had a privileged life, where i never had to to work or get a degree for supporting my family, where the choices were real with all other variables staying the same. The only determining factors being what i wanted and what i could do. Not everyone can afford to have no other compounding variables affecting their decisions. But the kids i see placed in a straight jacket are just as privileged as i was. They are being geared and trained to be rats in a competitive race and because one family does it, the others feel inadequate if they do not have every second of their child's time accounted for in some productive or learning activity.
Why can't schedules be like - 7 am get up, 8 am choose and learn to make breakfast (with pretty little children's cutlery!) , 9 am school, 12 pm - lunch, if hungry, 12 onward - do whatever - play in the mud, splash in the water, make weird shapes with play doh, write a drama, act in a drama, read a book, draw or paint, look up at the sky doing nothing, go out and play hide and seek, come home for dinner, sleep.
Yes discipline is required, discipline to not be indecisive, discipline to have the perseverance to stick by your decisions, discipline to have the courage to admit your decisions were wrong and to correct them, discipline to excel in whatever it is that I CHOOSE to do.

And that is why questions which have yes, no or maybe as an answer make me really angry. Maybe - what does it even mean? It is just a tactic for getting more time, a relief, a short term procrastination. How annoying are the people who cannot make up their minds? They often make the worst shopping companions - try shopping with a person who cannot make up his / her mind about what to buy - it is infuriating. You want to yell - "Just buy any damn thing, i no longer care. The dresses have started looking the same to me". But you have to be polite and pretend to re-examine the options with a careful eye, and make silly observations hoping the person can make a decision before the end of time.
Or try deciding where to go for dinner with an indecisive person. Until you sit down and have food on your plate, you will not really know where you are going to have your dinner! I think it is these kids who had everything planned out for them and were never given the freedom to choose that turn out to be indecisive adults. Partly because they are so used to blaming parents or someone else for their failures, because in the first place they never made the decision. And partly because they do not know how to face consequences, to accept that it was their decision and they have no one else to blame.
When i look around me, i realize i have attracted and been attracted to people who are quick decision makers, dithering and procrastinating is abhorred. People who believe that every second of procrastination makes decision making that much harder.

A philosophy that i choose the path that i follow. And even if the path i choose is wrong, it is a journey on which i have set out and it is up to me to turn around or continue, it is all my decision.
My parents are always there, looking out for me, as lamp posts, shedding light on the path and guiding me on towards the goal, or guiding me back home but never changing the direction of my path.


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