A while ago, I was sitting in a coffee shop and inadvertently, a conversation between a group of middle-aged women fell into my ears. The words “shaadi” and “settle down” were being used a lot and I got the feeling that somehow life revolved around just these two things. Needless to say, they were discussing the future of their grown up kids.
Somehow, my fertile brain started spinning as I had a grown-up daughter at home too and I had never ever spent a minute thinking about her settling down or her marriage.
What Exactly Does "Settling Down" Mean?
Let me begin by analyzing the concept of “settling down”, because my mind was buzzing like a mad bee after hearing that phrase. As we grow older, we all have to hear this magical phrase quite often as if, it’s the elixir of life; the be-all and end-all of one’s existence.
It’s almost as though “settling down” is akin to attaining Nirvana - once this stage has been reached, life is almost filled with “look no further” moments, with no need for seeking any fulfilment or growth any more.
In the beginning, we’re told we must focus on finishing our studies; then it goes on to to our careers, our marriage, having kids and maybe it can be extended to when the kids grow up. It’s a shifting goal post but most think that getting married and having a home and hearth is what embodies “settling down” the best.
But What About the Other Side?
Does settling down ever mean finding peace with one’s self? A kind of calmness that should make us feel happy with where we are and what we have?
My educated guess is that there are three different kinds of people. One group that likes this concept of peace and calm and comfort and like the traditional understanding of settling down. They need it to function and to grow. Then there are others who find that exact concept misleading and thwarting.
For them, life is meant to explore, to wander, to love, to lose, to fail, to rebel. A structured life is not exciting for this group.
And then there’s the third kind who are a go-between. They need the comfort of a “settled” life to be used as a springboard to explore and to taste adventure again. This group finds peace in their settled lives and yet one fine day, wake up, restless and ready to begin a new journey of adventure. They are willing to learn, unlearn, try things out to see if we like them or not, and pursue new hobbies and passions.
I must admit, I belong to the third group. I can’t really analyze if I had always been the adventure-seeker and didn’t realize it because of my upbringing and because I was never allowed to experiment, try out new things, or make mistakes.
“Whatever happened to the quiet and shy young woman who always seemed to be at peace with herself and her surroundings?”
A question I have been asked often. We change, we evolve, we rediscover ourselves.
So if a person who had seemed nicely settled down and has suddenly taken to a life of uncertainties and adventure, even at the risk of struggling - just accept her and her decisions. And if you can’t do that, then at the very least be polite enough to hold back judgmental remarks and comments to yourself.
Whichever group you belong to, just be true to yourself. Do whatever makes you happy and never judge anyone who’s different. Most importantly, let our children decide which group they choose to belong to and stand by their choice. Imposing our ideas of what defines a peaceful life is a wrong thing.
I read this somewhere a while ago too: “Even our ashes don’t settle, they fly away in all directions.
Sure it sounds beautiful and justifies not settling down; but nothing should be glorified as the only right way of living. To each her own. Amen.