Saturday, September 6

Who are you?

In conversation with a recent acquaintance last week, I realised my contribution to the exchange was gradually becoming one-dimensional. After the easy hors d'oeuvres, the main course was a well-plated dish of almost nothing. In that, I could only talk about work-related stuff, which (even to me) suggests that I am a very boring guy, with no real interests or hobbies. No life, basically.

Admittedly, talking to new people is difficult, and gets more challenging as we grow older. If you are lucky enough to meet them early in life, then there's no pressure to come across as an interesting person. You are who you are and social Darwinism will either cull or preserve, and allow your friendship/relationship to evolve. On the other hand, meeting someone new when you're entrenched in a demanding job, with nary a social activity in sight, challenges the limits of creativity. The most mundane of things have to be generously embellished; you have to constantly evaluate where this new situation is going - What can you share about yourself? What  kind of jokes can you make? How do you react to their opinions and lifestyle choices?

And, how much do they differ from your other friends? This is in a class of its own because the rest of the stuff can be controlled. You could compromise a bit and accommodate the new person's kookier baggage, but would your friends do that? Should they? How much? And how will group dynamics affect everyone? By which I mean, will the incumbent Alphas knowingly and unknowingly influence the situation?

If you choose to think about this, the experience is exhausting, though if the chips fall correctly, worth it.

"I don't need new friends" is a phrase heard quite often as we grow older. Why? Because old friends are like expanding bookends (pardon me S&G); they know us well enough to tolerate the bouts of one-dimensionality because they go through it too. Once we were young, reasonably wild and full of beans. Now we're not exactly over the hill, more inclined to less hairy adventures and full of hummus. Not to mention, the inside jokes, phraseology and eccentricities, which would bewilder and effectively isolate the outsider.

Coming back to the original point - Am I this person who gets through 12-14 hour workdays, week after week, month after month, getting on and off the trains at odd hours, walking into an empty house, cooking for one at ungodly hours, exhaustedly falling into bed and making semi-obligatory visits to Pune? Or am I someone else... Someone more interesting, if only I chose to be?

I won't fool myself. Or anyone else. Right now, life is pretty one-dimensional and is unlikely to change any time soon. I may want to cook up a storm, but the kitchen shelves are slight bare. As I've said before, routine, good or bad, is a dangerously addictive drug. One part of me might yearn to break free, live a bohemian life, allowing me to fry up plenty of conversational meat; another is constantly whispering sweet nothings about rising inflation, needs, wants, responsibilities, etc. and urging me to gulp the green tea of mundaneness.

The Id rattles the cage doors. The Super Ego gives disapproving looks. The Ego? It's out to lunch.

Song for the moment: Traffic in the sky - Jack Johnson

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