The bigger question

I can’t make up my mind on a lot of things, but the thing that sits at the top of my mind right now is marriage.

There is this idea that certain things need to happen to you, in your life, by a certain time in your life. You should finish school by the time you’re 18. You should finish college by the time you’re 25. You should be married by the time you’re 28.

For almost everything else in my life, I have stuck to the timeline. I am not 28 yet, so I might achieve the marriage timeline too. But somehow I doubt it. I have analysis paralysis for almost everything in life, and marriage seems like the biggest decision of all.

There are times when I think I might as well settle down with the first available option. At least then I shall have a friend for life. Someone who is legally obligated to spend time with me. As bleak as that sounds, it has a certain comforting tone to it. Wouldn’t that be nice? To stop looking. To stop having to go on half-assed dates with men I am not interested in the first place where all we do is talk about inane things. What is your favorite color? What do you do for fun? What is one thing you have ticked off your bucket list? What exactly is your job description? Do you enjoy the job you do? What are you looking for in life? Or worse, we make inane connections. Oh hey, I have a cousin who works at your company. I love dogs too. My job pays well, but I too, am trying to move into something a little more impactful. Oh, the dread of it all. The list goes on.

On the other hand, sometimes I find the idea of marriage suffocating. To be legally bound to one man; forced to build a life together, actually taking into consideration his opinions on things like furniture arrangement? No thanks. Sounds horrible. I can’t imagine watching a show someone else wants to watch. Or ordering food that is mutually desirable. I didn’t work this hard to become independent only to have to take someone else’s choices into consideration too.

On a more serious note, I can see the arguments made on either side of the debate. To settle down seems as fun as never settling down does to me. And that is my problem. I somehow always find myself standing in front of Sylvia Plath’s fig tree. Indecision galore, because in this moment, I could go for everything. So why spoil life by going for anything?

This is just what I think though. There are a lot of other players in my life, as much as I don’t like to admit it. My parents for one. They really do want to see me “settling down”. Because I come from India, a part of the world where arranged marriages are still very much a thing, the task of marrying is not an individual task. The entire family, sometimes the whole community, gets involved. So, once in a while, my parents will bring this up.

Why don’t you let us look for a boy?

If you have someone in your life, we would be happy to meet him.

If you don’t, let us at least start looking at some families. If we start now, we might find a boy in a couple of years.

After all, the process is long. We have to check if the family is suitable first, then check if the boy is someone you like, then see how all of us get along, and a hundred other things.

You don’t have to get married right away silly! You can have a long engagement. Really get to know each other before you decide to tie the knot.

I am skeptical. There are a lot of loopholes here. How do you get to know someone? What happens to the long engagement after you have gotten to know someone and decide you don’t really like that someone? What do you mean by a ‘suitable boy’?

But these are questions for a later date. First, I have to decide if I am ready to start the process at all. I have given it some thought already to be honest. I don’t have an issue with my parents (or even extended family) looking for a boy. No worries. In fact, the more the merrier. To me, it seems no different from a friend setting you up with someone they know and like. To be clear, I am extremely lucky to have been born to parents who are significantly more chilled out than a lot of other Indian parents when it comes to marriages. For me, letting my parents try and ‘arrange’ my marriage is a choice, and not a compulsion as it is for many others. Maybe someday I will write about the absolute horror stories I see around me on a daily basis, but not today. So, for me, it appears the marriage will be more ‘facilitated’ than ‘arranged’. Besides, I really don’t have the time or the energy to go out and look for someone myself (at least, right now). So, why not?

Losing friends

I am sure everyone has this, but there are a lot of times in my life, when I think I am the only one making any effort in my friendships. I seem to be the only one constantly reaching out, asking to meet up, or asking the other person how their day has been. While this description feels tilted in my favour (and rightly so, since I am very unlikely to cast myself as the villain in my own story), I do acknowledge that it might sometimes also be the other way round. Maybe there are people in my life – friends – who feel like I’m the unresponsive one. Like I am the one who never wants to reply to texts on time or to hang out with them. While I certainly know the first instance to be true, I am self-aware enough to admit that the second one might not be so far from reality either.

So why have I been losing friends? Why does anyone lose friends?

Apparently, there is an age beyond which most of us will start to lose friends. That age is 25. Quite accurate I think – since I’m 26 right now. Till you’re about a quarter of a century old, you have the energy and the willingness to keep expanding your circle and to cultivate whatever circle you have. But more often than not, once that mark has been reached, your enthusiasm starts to wane. You inevitably start letting go of people. And that isn’t a bad thing. You start to let go of people because you are (usually) no longer looking for transient or frivolous connections. Now is the time to build a life you want, and people who do not contribute to that in a significant way will inevitably be left behind. That is just the way it is.

And I’m not talking about emotionally draining or toxic friendships. Those you should let go of regardless of the stage you are at in life. I am talking about good, decent friendships that one may have enjoyed at some point in their life. I am talking about really good school friends or college friends.

Another reason a lot of people have been writing about nowadays is the pandemic. Because the pandemic clarified a lot of our priorities, naturally, the only people we spoke to during this time were either people we deeply cared about (thereby removing an entire layer of superficial friendships) or people that we found convenient to talk to (thereby removing some long distance friendships too). The pandemic led to the formation of something called ‘pandemic pods‘ in terms of relationships. It reduced the number and kind of people we had historically interacted with to either people who were very important to us or people who were following the same standards of care and hygiene as us.

But as guilty as I feel for not reaching out to people more often, or as mad as I am about people who don’t bother to reach out to me, there is nothing unnatural about losing friendships as we grow older (and hopefully wiser). It could be for a number of reasons. Reasons I have mentioned above, or even some of those toxic reasons I have deliberately left out (don’t we all just have a couple of friends or people we know that are such an emotional drain on us?). Instead I really like to think of it in terms of this new concept I learnt – something called “friendscapes“.

As you can probably tell by the name, it means cultivating landscapes of different kinds of friendships and acquaintances that serve different purposes in our lives. Put simply, “your friendscape can change during certain, specific situations during life – going away to university or a summer camp, or being in a certain job – and you often begin curating new friends to fit that current life situation. Not everyone can fit into your current friendscape.” I like this idea a lot because this is exactly how I feel about a lot of people that have either come into or gone out of my life. There are friends I have lost touch with because I became busier than them, and friends I have gained instead because we work the same kind of hectic jobs; friends I have lost touch with because they are in long-term committed relationships, and others I have gained instead because we are a bunch of singles looking to do fun group based activities around town.

So, yeah, while it is tempting to think of lost friendships in terms of blame and bitterness, I think it is a lot more helpful to just think of these lost connections as a fact of life and move on. Makes for a more peaceful existence. And I’m nothing if not obsessed with that.