I’m not sure about you, but I had thought that by 24, the dust would have settled down and the path would stretch out in front of me.
When I had just begun to show understanding of social customs and norms, the women of my family would flitter around at gatherings and discuss the colour of my saree when I get married at 24. I saw how my sister’s hair, entwined with flowers and coiffed perfectly, fell at her hips as she posed for a photo at her wedding reception at 24. I remember the snarky remarks and “tsk tsks” of gossiping women at my cousin’s wedding; lamenting her face because she wasn’t “as fresh as she would have been at 24”.
The day I turned 24, I started a blog to record this momentous occasion; not because I would be getting married but because the Hump was here. Once I cross this age, I will have made my entrance into adulthood with no chance of parole.
According to all the people that have talked to me in my family, I am “at that age” now. Different coloured sarees with blouses stitched to fit me have slowly been piling up in closets. Somewhat casual remarks have been passed about learning cooking and about refining my choices in clothes to “better accommodate my future in-laws”. Astrologers and their words pipe up every few conversations, talking about how my to-be-husband may be and where my future prospects may lie. Poojas and aartis are done so that the chances of finding “a good husband” who is “fair, possibly rich and from a good family background” are increased, and that fate and destiny can be nudged along to work faster.
No one is really asking me what I want though. The frustration lies in not only being told that only your attractiveness and youth are going to get you a good husband, but also in the assumption made that this is what all women want and SHOULD want.
Discussions about career and profession are limited to conversations with my father, who has on more than one occasion told me that HR is a fine option for a young lady who wants to be financially independent. He asks me what I want, but dismisses most options I come up with to tell me that HR would be great and maybe I should think about doing an MBA (still adding at the end that I should do what makes me happy.)
Today, I find myself in a very peculiar place at 24. My auto-pilot mode in my professional life has been shutting down, followed by vivid and intrusive realisations that I am fucking up. I wanted to be financially stable by now so that I can fight off the advances of jobless, nosy aunties who may possibly giggle to me about the wonders of conjugal relations in an attempt to entice me into marriage (THE DISCOMFORT IS BEYOND DESCRIBABLE) and tell them that I don’t need someone to help me out with money and that I am fine on my own.
Right now however, I am barely managing. I don’t just mean financially, but I am struggling in most domains of my life. I am barely managing living a life, I suppose.
I sometimes wonder how my life would have been different if people in my family had celebrated independence and autonomy in women. The only thing I have EVER been told is that my womanhood comes attached with being a wife and motherhood, and with career as a certain backseat. I was shocked when I heard my mother tell my father that it would be better to spend money on my wedding rather than for me to pursue my masters. I don’t like it when my mother tells me to “just sit at home, it’s great” when I tell her I am running into trouble with my work.
I am eternally grateful for my father, who did imbibe this need for independence and autonomy is me, though at times I wonder if he sees how strongly I feel about it.
This week has been a huge struggle, for I have started questioning what I am doing. The last 2 jobs I have had have been the perfect way to distract myself from facing what is coming next; and let me tell you, it is coming to me FAST.
I know that within a month, my life will be taking a drastic turn and I will be put in the middle of a severe shit-storm. Family dynamics that are on the verge of falling apart mixed in with almost certain unemployment and a dwindling support system are all going to take me for what I have. Take the 24th year of my life in the middle of this and I can already hear the fights that I will be having with my parents about marriage and the forgotten pile of sarees in my closet.
In all the time people spent in talking to me about my marriage and the blatancy of my gender, most people don’t care about what I do to earn money. My job seems like a hazy thing, hovering in the room somewhere, but conveniently ignored when families gather. I pipe up about wanting to do a PhD now and then, but it is taken as a light comment: something a strong, independent girl is supposed to say, but will wilt to the societal demands soon enough.
I was so busy in making sure I LOOK busy enough to not be approached about getting married that I never thought about what I really want to do.
I applied to my masters program late, and it was a surprise for me when I got in because I assumed I fucked up the interview. I was again surprised when I was hired at Dharma before I graduated: I thought I might have fucked up that interview too. The day I quit Dharma, I asked an old friend if there were any openings at her company: and in the middle of the quitting day alcoholic celebration, I got an interview at my current internship. I thought I fucked that up too, but here I am, working hesitantly everyday.
I jumped, jumped, jumped without really giving it much thought: and at 24, I am looking at my career path and thinking “I fucked up.”