A huge part of growing up is becoming independent. It’s funny how much I cherish my independence now, considering how much of a “pallu-clinger” I was for most of my childhood. The vivid memory I have of myself is that of a little girl glued to her mother’s side, unable to bear being separated from her for even short periods. It wasn’t a “mother’s pet” sort of situation (in fact, if anything, I was more of a father’s pet), but I definitely had a weird, unhealthy attachment to my mother.
I remember when she and my Dad went overseas (without me) for the first time when I was 6 or 7, and bawling when they called to say they had extended their vacation by a few days. I had set my mind to seeing her again on a particular day, and just couldn’t comprehend that I’d have to wait longer. When I was 11, my Dad was transferred from Bombay to Coimbatore and I came over first in order to start school. My brother was leaving for Singapore to start his university education, and my mother had stayed behind to help him get ready for the big move. When she called to tell me she would be coming to Coimbatore a few days later than anticipated so that she could see him off, I threw a large-scale tantrum. I felt betrayed. (I was so convincing in my despair, in fact, that I managed to get her to abandon my brother and come right away, thus securing my title as Worst Sister Ever.) At 15, when my parents floated the idea of boarding school, I refused to even listen. There was no way I was going to leave my home and my parents to go live by myself.
It came as a surprise to everyone, then, when 2 years and an acceptance letter later, I was hopping up and down to go to Singapore for university. When my father expressed doubts, I got angry and waved them off. I had set my mind to it, and I was going to go. Everyone, including me, wondered where this sudden independent streak had come from, and how long it would last. I guess some people are born independent, and for others, it just sneaks up on them one night and latches on.
During most of university, independence meant freedom. Freedom from authority, freedom from rules, freedom to do whatever I wanted. I had grown-up things, like my own room key and my own phone. I could go to bed at whatever time I wanted. I could eat pizza for dinner every day of the week. I could go out and not worry about coming back late. I could study at my own pace, surf the internet for however long I wanted and hang out with friends all day, every day. It was a glorious time, and though I missed my parents, I never once pined to go back.
Of course, the older I get, the more independence has come to stand for responsibility. Doing laundry, keeping the house clean, planning my budget and monitoring expenses, paying my bills on time. Saving money, making decisions at/about work, keeping healthy. Making time for hobbies, scheduling dentist appointments, sewing torn clothes. Small things, big things, things I didn’t think about when I was younger because my parents took care of them. Things I have to now consider for myself.
These days, I’m back under my parents’ roof, on something of a transition period between jobs. And without meaning to, I find myself regressing back to my teenage self. Someone’s there to take care of the cooking and the cleaning and the laundry and the expenses, so I don’t need to worry myself about any of it. I feel like a child again, so I act like a child. Of course, I also get scolded like one, but it’s worth it to spend a few months not having to concern myself with all the things grown-ups have to.
Just for a while, I’m happy to surrender my independence. 🙂