As I sit with my chamomile tea this evening, reflecting upon my twenties and writing this article, I feel a sense of liberation.
I have a candle burning, soft jazz playing, and my husband sitting next to me, quietly reading a book. I am thrilled to be sitting on my sofa at 9:00pm on a Monday night—something I would have probably considered lame in my twenties.
My husband travels a lot, so his time at home is very sacred for both of us. Instead of feeling the pressure to try a new restaurant or a wine bar or a spa because he is in town (unlike in our twenties), we went to Equinox health club together and got in a good workout. And came home and ate a well-balanced and delicious meal.
The being in the moment, doing what we desire and the quietude is music to my ears. But that’s not always been the case.
Reflecting on my Twenties
When I was in my twenties, I saw life through other people’s eyes, even if unintentionally. I thought being surrounded by hundreds of people, partying hard and throwing massive dinner parties, maintaining an aggressively busy schedule, bending backwards to accommodate everyone, and sacrificing my own needs is what defined life.
While I had a lot of fun, I rarely did anything stupid—maybe it was the Indian upbringing or the boarding school training that taught me to rarely break rules. So in many ways, my twenties were about suppressing my own voice. I just went with the flow and what others wanted, even though deep down I had a voice always tell me what appealed to me and what did not.
I shunned the voice and kept trying to be the person others wanted me to be. Or the person I thought others expected me to be? I turned into a people-pleaser to maintain peace in my personal surroundings even when things seemed ludicrous and cruel.
Facing the Happiness Dilemma
I didn’t feel happy. My husband kept reminding me to acknowledge my own needs and desires and detach from certain people, but I paid no heed. He told me to do what felt right in my heart because honesty is sacred to me.
How do you fight what’s deeply engrained in you? How do you give yourself permission to walk away from people and situations that give you bad vibes when you are brought up to believe: “A woman who accommodates and makes sacrifices is a ‘good, Indian woman.’”
In all of this bedlam, I noticed how many mistook my niceness for weakness. In this entire monologue, I didn’t notice anger had started to fester inside of me.
Writing in my Twenties
Even as a writer, I felt that others had control over what I could or couldn’t write. Being authentic is extremely important to me yet there was this constant pressure to write about topics that didn’t offend others. Or to write about subjects that others wanted to read.
No one wanted to understand that it’s the words and stories that picked me, not the other way around.
I created a distance between my writing and me, and started to write from a place of self-consciousness and anger. I was too young, perhaps, to understand what I wanted. I was, perhaps, too insecure to say, “This is bullshit! I wasn’t born to create happiness for others.”
I definitely lacked the tact to express myself without getting emotional and that backfired. I definitely became a martyr even when not required.
Fast Forward to my Thirties
It’s the decade where I lost my Mom suddenly and grew up overnight. It’s when I started to recognize that while life is a gift, it is also unpredictable and sudden.
My compassion had to include me. I couldn’t squander my life away by only thinking about others.~Sweta Vikram
I definitely couldn’t waste it over meaningless interactions and self-centered relationships. I also accepted that if certain people think they can treat me like crap, it’s because I have allowed them to take that liberty in the past. But if you learn from your mistakes, it’s called an experience, right?
What Getting Older Has Taught Me
I found my voice and myself. The transition wasn’t easy, but I told myself: No one can give permission, but ourselves, to take charge and create the life we want.
You get a sense of self, learn to respect yourself and pay attention to your needs. It’s true; you can impart true happiness to others only when you are blissful at your core.
2. Clean Up
You start to trim out anyone, without involving anger, who creates drama, wails for unjustified attention, tries to control your life, or weighs you down. You’d much rather have a few, high quality relationships than too much noise and many unfulfilling ones.
You make peace with who you are and stop apologizing for what others expect you to be. The real people stick around; the moochers leave.
You have a better idea about what you want from life and you surround yourself with like-minded folks who lift you higher.
Your bullshit detector becomes stronger as does your ability to walk away from toxic relationships. You don’t care for empty words or nonsensical social traditions.
In the end, sure, I am grateful for my twenties, as it’s made me the person I am today and given me material to write about. But I wouldn’t trade it for my today, as the peace of mind I have from getting older is non-negotiable.
“Accept responsibility for your life. Know that it is you who will get you where you want to go, no one else.”