The Eternal Jazz of Mid-life Crisis
By Indranil Choudhury
As a kid, I believed I was special. And I’m sure pretty much everyone has had this belief. It’s more because the people around you constantly made big of every little thing you did. “Abhi itna samajhdar hai, bada ho ke to qayamat dhaa dega” (So smart as a kid, when he/she grows up, he/she’ll wreak havoc). While many usually grow out of this dream quite early and realize they’re lesser mortals, a few like yours truly choose to live in it for as long as it takes. For me, this belief, over a period of years, became so strong that no matter how much I faltered and goofed-up, I’d dust off the failures to move on because, you know, I was made to do bigger things! Well, I didn’t know what that “thing” was, but that didn’t stop me from holding on firmly and pseudo-positively to the belief. When my boyish voice subsided and I stepped into puberty with a more man-like voice, my school buddies told me I could sing. And with whatever little maturity I had as a 12 year old, I realized I had a natural sensibility towards music and its nuances. My initial training in musical instruments was because Dad wanted me to learn, and that was one of the only things he decided for me and I complied (I’ll be ever grateful to him for it!). With this initial euphoria, I got into stage performances, participated in competitions and recordings much later and learned further.
Few years into it and I almost started seeing myself as the next musical sensation – maybe just as a young Udai Chopra saw himself as the next Sunny Deol, but ended up being just that, Udai Chopra! Singer, composer, instrumentalist, sound engineer, I’m not sure what exactly it was, but something around music’s periphery is where I visualized myself. Studies to me were like acting is to Sunny Leone, but I managed to acquire my engineering degree somehow, always knowing my destiny lay somewhere else. Fast forward a few more years, and here I am, all of 34 years, Ajit Agarkar’ish college-boy physique now transformed into Inzamam-ul-haq, slogging at a 9 – 6 job (officially, since work timings often go up to 12 hours a day). Minus the occasional voila moments, even more occasional fokat ki company sponsored parties, rare appreciations and the blue-eyed chick two cubicles away (there’s always one wherever you go), I’ve pretty much hated my 10+ years of work life. But then, this is what makes sure my home loan EMI, house rent, weekend party expenses, once-a-year-home flight trips, anniversary and birthday gifts to the better half and folks, thousand other bills associated with living in a city, and (the irony dies here) expenses needed to keep residues of the still-elusive dream alive, are all taken care of. And as much as I might feel every day of my life that I am stuck in the wrong place, no baby no, I cannot afford to lose this financial cushion. Welcome to mid-life and the crisis of its uncertainty!
There are quite a few types of people out there, some of whom I’d like to write about. First are those souls, who are well past their blissful unmarried days and have stepped into reality. These are the ones who always knew they were never good at anything in particular, the average jacks. Reality sinks into these people early in life, and hence, they have it easy. Let’s say these are the Kadar Khan’s of real life. The man knew he wasn’t “lead role” material ever, and with this realization in mind, he explored a lot of other roles and had an immensely consistent career. Such people realize their lack of any outstanding abilities early on and make peace with their lives. They aspire to do good in whatever line of work they are in, fully aware of their limitations and living a considerably safe life.
Second are those, who are extraordinarily talented in a field, discover it at a ripe age and aim towards making that work. The Sachin’s and the Nawazuddin’s. Most of these people are meant to make a career out of just what they are good at, because they are born for it, you put them anywhere else, and they’ll fail miserably. A lot of these people face hurdles and hardships, but these are the ones who refuse to tread the beaten path and fight for their destiny, since they just know they’ll succeed. They may not have it easy as is often the case, but they stay put. These are the ones you see as successful actors, artists, writers, entrepreneurs, dancers and what not. Some having achieved everything they ever aspired for and more, others not as lucky, but not doing bad either. Some of these are utter failures too, and not because they were any less on skills, but for some reason or the other, it just didn’t work out for them.
A loose third category is of those who are the downright laidback ones falling short on raw talent. While they’re definitely not naturally good at anything in particular, they don’t try and excel in anything particular either. They just remain content within their Abhishek Bachchan’ish cocoon, not putting enough efforts ever but still surviving just fine to lead an okay life with probably no regrets.
Which brings us to the most unfortunate among these. The ones whom mid-life crisis hits the hardest. They could be really or moderately good at something, try to some extent to achieve their goals but things don’t pan out as planned, and they’re compelled to move on and settle with other alternatives to put food on the table. Some of these trickle down to the second category above. The worst thing for these people is they age with time just like everyone else, but find it impossible to extinguish the flame burning within. Mid 30’s are a particularly difficult phase for them, as they realize that time isn’t on their side, there’s a family to support, earn as much as they can while the body is still able to, save for the future, and live a sufficiently comfortable life, while still believing maybe, just maybe something will click someday. Some of them keep fighting for it, one step at a time, slowly, but consistently, and reach maybe half-way of where they aspired to (which is still better than having given up entirely). While many completely surrender, pack their dreams into a bag and throw it into the river with a tonne of rock making sure they don’t resurface. Tragic end! Take a look around and you’ll probably see many shaking hands with you on a daily basis: Tallying massive balance sheets, doing humongous audits, raising kids and keeping a house in order, selling desperate insurances, fixing bugs in code, or trying to solve stupid problems on a call for some guy thousands of miles away. Just a run-of-the-mill guy or girl, who’ll in all probability live that life of oblivion, anonymity and thanklessness, who if given a chance, could easily send the best in some other profession on a run for their money. But they’re scared – to take the leap of faith; of the consequences of the million unforeseen hurdles along the way. “How can I be so self-centered and leave my loved ones to uncertainty while I go pursue my dreams?” kind of dilemma. There’s a fine line between the ways by which one can decide whether to derive happiness out of it or live with a sense of incompleteness for rest of their lives. There is no sure-shot way of knowing how “good” one is at something, because it’s a relative concept. Leaving everything for something you “think” you may be good at could lead to disastrous consequences. Thousands of strugglers who spent entire lifetime’s dreaming of making it big, because “they” thought they were good, but ended up doing 10 second appearances on screen or singing in chorus of songs, can testify to that. But then, what if they never tried, and lost any remote chance of making it altogether? After all, we have all grown up on numerous rags-to-riches stories. But at the end of it all, there can never be a “right” way of doing things. Having dreams, not pursuing or pursuing them to death, failing, succeeding, there’s no definite answer to anything. The key is to not lose touch with reality. But then that’s also a vague theory. Phew! I give up. Let me go back to the song I am working on – who knows! 🙂
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