From as long as I can remember, people have been telling me to Be Myself and to be honest I still don’t know what it means. I mean yeah, I do know what it literally means – but it has always invoked a different response in me over my life-phases. Why yes, I’ll explain!
Phase 1: Childhood
Okay. I’ll just be myself. I’ll eat crayons. *stuffs face with plastic crayons* *gets taken to the doctor* And Oh, I’ll open a caterpillar zoo in my room! *mom looks pissed, though. Maybe it’s the heap of leave I have lying around the house my caterpillar babies.*
Phase 2: Pre Teen
Cool. I’ll steal books from the school library. *gets caught, parents summoned to school* And also, I’ll only wear RED. everyday. Everything. Only red. *gets laughed on but, duh*
Phase 3: Early Teen
Whatever dude. I don’t care. I am awesome. I listen to Hard Rock (and some Backstreet Boyz, but shh!). I Dress up with Dad’s neck-ties as head bands and mom’s long ear-rings as belt accessories. I am my-f#@king self, B!&#hes! Also, did I mention I don’t care? Yeah. I tell the neighborhood kids – Why be your pathetic selves when you can be someone awesome, like me? *neighbors complain of bad influence on their kids* *Parents bring in their first intervention on me*
Phase 4: Late Teen
Shut the hell up. I’ll be whoever I want to be. *Refuses to take up biology after school, enrolls in English Literature for Grad Course. Also signs up for a distance learning I.T. course just to see what’s it like. *Mom parts painfully with her My-Daughter-will-be-a-Doctor dream. Friend’s parents makes her stay away because – bad company*
Phase 5: Early Twenties
Yeah, but which one? This is the phase where I finally understood the perennial tug-of-war between And and Or. Until now, it either ‘just fun’ or ‘I don’t care’. Now, the AND v/s OR drama took center stage and I found myself questioning the choices I’ve made in my world-weary-age of 22. No, it’s not funny, I was really on a back foot at a lot of matters in life. I felt pathetic for a while. But then, I am not the one to give up or give in. I figures the aforementioned drama is utterly useless and only AND is important. I figured that AND is the critical factor if I want to adhere to the Be Yourself advice. Once I figure out that I have to ditch the OR and stick to AND, I was golden!
And, then came the last twenties.
Phase 6: Late Twenties
You Bet! I am ME.
And v/s Or.
And & Or.
And & Or?
Oh cutthroat strike-through, how I much love thee!
It took me a while but I got there.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that everyone will magically figure things out in their late twenties. I know wonderful ladies who had the And/Or battle beautifully under control their teens, and I also know amazing ladies who took it all in their stride a little later, and are supremely inspiring. Experience is the key here. There’s no time frame to realize that ORs can be striked-off and you can fill your life with as many ANDs as you want – that, you can be everything you want, all at the same time.
It’s easier said than done, of course. I’d know because I took too long to figure it out (I mean, late twenties is still too late, no?). All around me I have seen bright girls giving something up for something else. Like it’s a bargain.
A barter system of choices.
Be this, Or That – Take your pick.
It makes me sick.
And when things accidentally rhyme, I get a kick.
*tee hee hee*
Anyway. I was saying that the ORs are just not fair.
Take that new project with tight deadlines OR be a good mother who spends quality time with the baby.
Go for a solo-trip to Paris or be a good daughter and stay home.
Support your friend in her inter-religion marriage OR be a good girl and don’t ruin your reputation.
Women are always being told to pick one. We girls have heard this or a version of this ultimatum too many times. It looks like a choice, but it’s not. It’s almost a threat. A dare.
Picking one is a mistake. Don’t ever do that.
Now, in my current Post-Marriage Phase, I see women make this mistake more frequently than it should be legal, really. I am an Army Wife. The Army Wife world is – to use the mother of all clichés – very different and somewhat (actually, a lot) tough. Apart from dealing with long separation from the husband, moving from station to station every 2 years or so, and the dark fear of What-If constantly lurking behind, Army wives also have a strict code of conduct to follow. In the religion of being an Army wife, abiding to the unwritten wives-rules is gospel.
- You’re an MBA, a writer, an Advertising girl but you need grooming because you didn’t stand up when I (only another Army wife) entered the room.
- Dress your best, but hey, you can ONLY wear a saree, like, ALWAYS.
- Attend that welfare without the baby, your breast-fed kid needs to get used to being a fauji kid, you know?
- Don’t mind your discomfort, sing at that ladies’ meet because I did it in my time, yo!
- Oh, cancel your conference call with that important client, go participate in a napkin folding competition because THAT is what grooms you.
- Your husband is in the Army and you want a career? Ha-ha, you’re cute.
Funny AND annoying, I know.
But not everyone conforms to the OR, there are girls who are fire and sparkle all the way -girls who, even as Army Wives, refuse to let the OR define them. Because, when you refuse to choose one thing OR the other, and instead followed your heart – you truly become yourself.
And mind you, the And/Or struggle is never-ending. It’s a struggle and there’s art in it. Our true self has multiple personalities, and this is what keeps us going, what keeps us sane.
As for me, I knocked off a lot of ORs in my life that seems like figurative suicide at the moment, but I went for it each time. And viola, I’m still thriving and happy. I used my ANDs, and I’m still looking for more. Today I am an Army wife AND a working woman.
A mother AND an author.
An enthusiastic singer AND a slightly-crazy dancer.
A serious, committed reader AND a senseless knock-knock-jokes teller.
A parenting-category writer writer AND a Buzzfeed‘s ‘What Modern Family Character Are You‘ quiz taker.
An Android Fan AND an addicted iPad user.
A John Keats lover AND a Potterhead for life.
A Salman Rushdie reader AND a Tina Fey fan.
A logical media-planner AND an incorrigible dreamer.
I can list gazillion things here, but they will all say just just one thing about me – I am a sum total of all my ANDs. Just the way one should be!
Why define yourself with EITHERs and ORs?Why no go for endless ANDs and many Mores?Let’s just ditch the struggle, it really haunts.And let’s just pick everything the heart wants.Stop picking one, keeping the other on a shelf.Because if you pick your ANDs, you’ll truly Be Yourself.
Yeah, I do write a mean poem once in a while, hehe. Oh-oh, that is an addition to my AND list, right?
Writer of looong prose AND poet extraordinaire (according to me, of course)
So darlings, here I am – choosing my ANDs and ditching all the ORs.
Here is ME and all my ANDs, living happily ever after. *your cue to applause*
Why thank you, Mr.Dumbledore!
I am proud of my journey from ‘Or’ to ‘And’. Are you?
This post is a part of #UseYourAnd activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette Venus, and I’m attempting the Journey from ‘Or’ to ‘And’ theme.