“If nobody responds to your call, then walk alone, move on alone, proceed alone and march forward alone”
-Rabindranath Tagore (Jodi Tor Dak Shune Keu Na Ase Tobe Akla Cholo Re)
Being alone is nothing new to me. I had been left alone at home as a toddler a bunch of times when Mom had to go to work. She recounted that, back then I used to be so comfortable staying home alone that whenever she got back I used to greet her like a happy puppy.
I do not remember of days when I was comfortable being left alone, but I do distinctly recount days when I have been forcefully left alone. In my primary school, being a kid with the leaky nose, I had repulsed every other kid and hence was alone most of the time with none to play with. In my high school days, the all-rounder of the class hated my existence, bullied me to the core and ensured I was not part of her gang of friends or any of the allied ‘gangs’ which were mostly everyone in the class. During those days, I have felt like a loser for having had no company during lunchtime on many days. Even in my adolescent days, my so-called friends deserted me after an abusive ex-boyfriend tarnished my image making everyone hate me and before I knew it, I was back to having lunch alone and dealing with none wanting me around. For a long time, I wanted to forget these days and let go of the memories associated with them, but today I look back to these days not with so much of self-pity anymore. It was those days, I came to realize lately, which prepared me for greater things in my life, far greater than what I ever thought was possible.
Being a single adult with a traveling job means a lot of alone days. Some years back, my Facebook feed constantly reminded of something that I was missing out on. Or that’s how I perceived it to be. So many smiles and happiness on engagement photos, wedding shoots, baby showers and the photos with super cute babies did make me green with envy. Especially when I have always had to come back from work to an empty home or hotel, whatever the case may be. It took a while to accept the fact that the grass might be greener on the other side. For all I know many of my married friends could be saddened by my pictures on social media which might remind them of their single days when they had the most flexibility and control over their lives. It again took a while to realize that unlike many of my friends, I did have control over my days and having none with me meant extreme flexibility to do anything I wished. This realization helped me embrace my single hood and revel in every precious moment of it. Accepting single hood was not an overnight happenstance, it took a lot of work and in the process, I discovered who I am– my likes, dislikes, passion and probably even my calling!
Being left alone in new and sometimes strange places isolated me from noises of the known world and suddenly to my relief, I was able to go about my life normally without any judgmental person from the known world gauging my every move. It allowed me to know who I am as a person by constantly pushing me out of my comfort zone.
Cooking and trying out new recipes after getting tired of the outside food; embroidering on many a self-starter kit to get over the boredom of long evenings; trying out different kinds of fitness activities like hot yoga, kickboxing etc. to burn up the calories consumed during the cooking expeditions; hiking up on so many beautiful mountains and hills nearby, biking around lakes and river; checking out the fancy museums and events in the cities I was deployed in without any inhibitions– I did them all while in the US. Thus, on the path to get over boredom, I discovered the real me.
The real me, who learned that while cooking and mastering some kick ass dishes is great, doing so for others makes the whole cooking and hosting process all the more enjoyable. The bonding that home-cooked food creates is something that can’t be matched. I have made more long-lasting friendships through my desserts (specifically my Banoffee) than through any of the life-changing favors I might have done for others. That’s the magic of cooking.
The real me, who refused to be confined by the indoors and so ended up enjoying the different sights and sounds in the US. Given, how easy it is to become a couch potato in the unknown land thanks to the ubiquity of regional language films and shows available at a click of remote control, I had to push myself out of the hotel rooms during weekends, sometimes even forcefully. This helped me explore many a city and witness many a beautiful sight that otherwise would have gone undiscovered. It was while doing so I discovered my love for Science museums here in the US. It’s these museums in Philadelphia, Washington DC, Denver and Chicago that opened-up my mind to so many wonders in the world and re-kindled my passion for practical learning.
The real me, who realized true love in any form is beautiful in it’s own way. I have interacted with and enjoyed the company of many LGBT people; I have witnessed many marriages in unorthodox setting; I have walked by and took notice of many pets being lovingly taken care of; I have seen how excited people get about their second dates, even old people far removed from the prime of their youthful days. And before I could realize, I started to appreciate different kinds of love, all of them magnificent, glorious and breath-taking. My travel expeditions bonded me with many an offbeat person – so many Uber drivers, front desk personnel, housekeeping staff, and many others met here and there – all of them such wonderful people, who took great care of me in the new world. I would always cherish the friendship I have with every one of them.
And the real me, who had my back when needed. I have found myself in quite a few unfavorable situations in foreign soil when I had to deal with so many things alone. I learned to rely on myself when there was no husband or boyfriend at that point to protect me from many a vagary of life. Thus, I ended up becoming very self- reliant, confident, and bold enough to face all the curve balls thrown at me.
If only I had gotten married earlier and had a family of my own, I could have been better off and probably much safer. Yes, I could have been married and been someone’s wife and avoided all those unnecessary circumstances. I could have said yes to one of those guys I dated. I could have silenced my doubts and married one of them. I probably could have silenced the naysayers in the process. The thing with such speculations is that there are endless possibilities. I could have married a millionaire. I could have married someone who could have given me beautiful babies. I could have been happy (probably happier than I am now, maybe) and could have even ended up in one of the umpteen numbers of scenarios of a divine union. But I can say with utmost certainty that even if I had had the best marriage possible with the nicest husband in the world, I wouldn’t have learned about me nor grown to accept myself for the way I am. And that, makes up for everything that I do not have today.
You know, I have always wanted to go back in time to stop my younger self from making some of my worst mistakes. I believed for a long time that those mistakes defined me and my life, the mistakes which led to me being alone a lot back then. But today, when I look back to those days, I am reminded of what a wise person once told me, “If you hide your stories you let it define you, but when you own it, you can write a brave new ending”. Guess that is what I am doing, writing a brave(r) new ending. It’s a process and I don’t know how long it will take, but I am glad I started it and now there is no stopping me.
I still want to go back in time though, not to stop myself from making those so-called mistakes but for letting my younger bruised self know that everything would be ok soon. And while at it, visit my Grandparents who were alive then, eat my Grandma’s delicious home cooked meal and tell them they are and will always be loved. Yes, I no longer hold any resentment over my past nor over my alone days and definitely not over the few who had made me feel alone then, for it’s those low points which led to me becoming who I am today. I, for sure, wouldn’t have it any other way.
The parting image would be the collage I recently framed and put up in the wall in my home which sort of depicts my career and life as a single woman.
Featured Image Credits: https://unsplash.com/photos/_4DNaLXQlDg