We all were sitting on chairs, trying to make a circle, leaving some space in between. To my discomfort, I was asked to sit in the front row of one side. I always feel nervous when I am somewhere I don’t have anyone nearby to talk to because everyone was talking to each other or doing something and I didn’t know anyone there. I had no idea what to do with myself. The program started and the guy who was conducting the event started explaining the purpose of the gathering. He used words like community and connection, and said something about everyone participating. “What have I gotten myself into?” exactly my first thought! It’s not like I have never been a part of something like this but it takes time for me to start feeling comfortable and join in.

I tried to look stern and confident to show that I am very much comfortable with myself and I am just not interested in those exercises, even though I felt like running away from there.

He started with body movements, arms, feet, leg, torso etc. Everyone was following him and I was just sitting there looking at him, not knowing what to do with myself. People were clapping their hands, tapping their feet, trying to produce rhythms with their bodies. I decided that if anyone asked me why I am not participating then I would just say that I am here to observe. I tried to look stern and confident to show that I am very much comfortable with myself and I am just not interested in those exercises, even though I felt like running away from there. I was afraid of being seen by someone I know doing those weird things. It would be so embarrassing for me! I would just tell that imaginary person that I know I am very rigid and there is nothing wrong with being rigid.

Before I joined that group, I was sitting in the smoking room with some people, almost eight years younger than me, and one more guy who I know only by name and face. I always sit in that balcony whenever I am there. Those young people were very comfortably smoking there from which I guessed it was nothing new for them. They were nice, talkative and full of life. It was good to see how confident and informed they were. They were talking about how their parents don’t allow them to pursue certain things but they still find a way to not let their wishes die without being fulfilled.

Two very different events, same evening, same place, seemingly disconnected, taught me the same lesson. We grow up listening to dos and donts, rights and wrongs, always under the scrutiny of people around us. There is always someone we are supposed to be afraid of, be it a supernatural being or an earthly one. We grow up listening to things like “sit like this”, “eat like this”, “don’t talk like this”, “don’t dress like this”, “don’t do this”, “don’t do that”. And our elders think that we don’t do things we are told not to do behind their backs. We are not allowed to question. We are not allowed to express. We grow up into rigid adults who find it extremely hard to be comfortable with themselves because we are so used to being scrutinized all the time that we are always subconsciously afraid of being seen, being ourselves. We have become very good at pretending to be obedient when our supervisors are around and being our rebellious selves behind their backs.

You cannot mold or stop life. It’s a force beyond your control. If you control it from here, it will find a way out from there.

I realized that my rigidity comes from being scrutinized all the time as a kid. My family had an idea about how I should be and they started trying to mold me that way, without stopping to think if the life within me was supposed to be molded or not. There is nothing wrong with teaching your kids values like kindness and love and friendship, but forcing them to be the kids you want them to be doesn’t seem to do any good to anyone. They grow up, start learning about the outside world, come across new interesting things like music, theater, dance, cultures, philosophies and things you never exposed them to because you thought that they should concentrate on their studies because that’s what’s important for them, trying to fill their thirst for life with junk and clothes and things completely useless for a meaningful life.

You cannot mold or stop life. It’s a force beyond your control. If you control it from here, it will find a way out from there. It will always find a way to breathe if you try to suffocate it. Then what’s the point of trying to control it and always be in a conflict with it when you can actually see it grow and even learn from it?
P.S. I ended up enjoying that event a lot and I hope I will be smart enough to be there the next time it happens because I don’t want to be rigid anymore.

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