In the Battle To Be Independent, I Lost to Myself

Ever since I was in school, the one thing I was most excited about was going on a trip with my friends. Initially, I didn’t quite understand the reason for it, but I was always infatuated by the idea – perhaps because everyone else around me got a chance except me.

But every time I asked my parents, I got the classic Indian parent responses: “Dekhte hain (We’ll see)”, “Papa se puchhlo (Ask your father)”, “Abhi chhoti hai, jab badi ho jaegi tab chale jana (You’re still too young, go after you grow up).

And when none of it worked, they shot the classic, “Shaadi kara lo, phir jo karna hai kar lena apne husband aur uski family se puchh kar (Get married and do as you wish if your husband and his family agree)”.

Finally, when I got my first stable job they knew I wasn’t going to listen to any of those reasons anymore. And in February 2021, at the age of 24, I finally embarked on my first trip to the mountains with three of my closest friends. 

For someone who had to seek permission a week in advance to be able to go watch a movie with my best friend, the feeling of being able to manage everything – bookings, cancellations, research, packing and travelling – without asking for my parents’ help was unmatched. It was one of the best experiences, and I felt free and independent. 

Still, something bothered me. At that moment, I couldn’t quite pin down what it was. And, as a coping mechanism, I ended up blaming it on other unimportant things like lack of research or timely planning, I snapped at my friends for being late. I thought it would eventually be subdued once I would go on more such trips.

But it only got worse. 

It was January 26, 2022, and I woke up to the sound of the reporters hollering on the TV covering the Republic Day parade live. For the record, I am a nocturnal person, so anything louder than a whisper early in the morning is enough to rankle me. So, evidently, I woke up feeling annoyed and anxious. But the reason behind my anxiety was not just the misophonia at play.  

One of the most awaited trips was in the making and I was psyched to go with four of my closest friends. However, two of them were uncertain and finally cancelled due to unavoidable reasons. It made me spiral and I almost cancelled the entire plan – though it had been in the works for over three months. Initially, I felt so uncontrollably sad that all I wanted to do was go home, curl up with my blanket and cry. 

I have had mood swings before, so the feeling of being suddenly hit by a thunderstorm of emotions wasn’t entirely unknown to me. But this one lasted long… long enough for me to think of all the worst possible scenarios. And the most prominent one was the fear of narrating the entire situation to my parents. I was terrified by the thought that they would mock me for being the only one excited about the trip; that once again, I was being abandoned by the people I chose; that once again I would have to bear the consequences of going against them and making my own choices; and that once again, I will have to turn to my parents for rescue. 

And that is how you turn a mood swing into what seemed like an anxiety attack in less than ten seconds. 

After a couple of hours of sulking, being forced to pour my heart out on a phone call with my best friend, a little bit of distraction, and being surprised by a large KFC chicken popcorn at my doorstep, I finally snapped out of it. Because what can’t a box of chicken popcorn fix?

That day meant a lot to me as it was on that day that I realised that the problem was not because I didn’t start packing soon enough, or that I didn’t do the research well, or that someone cancelled last-minute, or that I shouldn’t expect so much from people.

While I was searching for the problem outside, it was actually rooted deep within.

Although I had gained the new found ability to be able to go on trips, instead of feeling independent I had ended up feeling more dependent as even then I sought their approval. I realised that in those tiny moments where I was able to safekeep my luggage, or when I could negotiate with a cab driver to get a fair price, or spend the nights travelling via public transport without being mugged, I was not being happy in my little achievements but because I could prove them wrong.

Somehow, I wanted to prove to them that I could be on my own and that I don’t need anyone’s help. But in the process, I forgot to enjoy that so-called freedom that I fought so hard for.

It makes me sad that I spent all these years fighting a battle against them, only to lose to myself in the end. 

So, while I am yet to truly understand the meaning of being free and independent, I am trying each day. However, as I write this, I wonder – isn’t it sad how throughout our lives, we are taught to live up to our parents’ expectations or else be deemed a horrible and an ungrateful child for the rest of our lives?

But who is to blame? And more importantly, what is the solution, if at all there is one?

Featured image is provided by the author.