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Uncertain and Afraid

Photo by Alfred Kenneally on Unsplash

Forgive me in advance if this post doesn’t seem like your cup of tea. I’m unspooling a lot of thoughts from my head at the moment, but fear not, I’m fine. I’m just taking my time to speak my mind.

I’ve been mesmerised by this poem lately after watching it on Vlogbrothers, called September 1st, 1939, by W.H. Auden. Like John, or even more so than him, I only treated the poem as a glimpse of the past, a past I could never fully understand. As a fifteen-year-old, I barely understand my own time, let alone an era of war that existed eighty years before I did. But as I read the poem again and listened to John, I found that there were certain parts of the poem that I could comprehend.

I find myself in this spot of my life where I feel responsible for things I’ve never done or never intended to do. There’s this strange aura around me right now that’s both very new and very discomforting, to say the least, which makes me feel terribly guilty of my actions, and until now, I didn’t know what was causing this.

The poem begins “I sit in one of the dives/ On Fifty-second Street/ Uncertain and afraid/ As the clever hopes expire/ Of a low dishonest decade“, and while these lines refer to the 1930s, it holds true for the present as well. I can’t put a finger on what it is, but something about the the decade we’re living in feels deeply scary. Sure, we’re at the pinnacle of scientific and technological breakthroughs, countries are way more secure than they were back then, but there is still a lingering aftermath of the hatred that the past endured. We find ourselves at the mercy of the social internet and its vagarious nature. Virtual communication is usurping the need to form real-life bonds. Relationships (not talking about just romantic ones, mind you) are made and shattered in seconds, and I hate it.

I find myself deeply and consistently aware of the transience of life, and though that’s an accurate description for any decade — the truth that life as we know it will end — now, that’s mixed with another, more disturbing truth: in today’s world, we are precariously tied to being fake and happy at the expense of being real and honest.

What I hate the most is how most people, including me, are terrified by this image, but not moved enough to change it. In John’s words, it’s like we’re all actors stuck in a play that we can’t rewrite.

We call people trash. We lash out at them for things they don’t necessarily control. We say it’s fine to break trust as if it’s something transitory, easily mendable, and in the process, we actually end up treating people as trash, we break trust, and we hate people just for the sake of not being able to love enough.

I now realize why I feel so guilty. It’s because I let myself be swept away by these waves of fear and hatred. I actually believed, even if for a moment, that loving people and being kind to them was not only stupid and dumb, but also extremely dangerous in this world, where hate runs everything. I hold myself responsible for the things I say out of hatred, but now I realize more and more, that the world we live in pushes me to treat every interaction with a neutral, indifferent tone. So who, exactly, do we blame? Ourselves? Circumstance?

I realize that I probably should reiterate the statement that I’m fine, but I am at the same time, absolutely clueless about how to resolve this. The last stanza of the poem does well to translate my thoughts into words:

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

As we grow older, and just a little bit wiser, I hope that we can learn to put our intense emotions aside, and just for a while, feel safe, knowing that the light we shine towards others is fair, real, pure and full of love. As Auden said,

We must love one another or die.

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Life Is One Big Young Adult Novel.

You know, I often feel like my life is just one big young adult fiction novel, stuck forever in the middle. I’ve been thinking that thought for the last couple of days. 

Today, my story started its new chapter. Or, at least, the biggest plot twist. 

It involves sports. Wow, I never thought I’d say that in my life. 

My sport of interest has never been consistent for more than, say, half a year. Ever since we were allowed to pick a sport in 4th grade, I have jumped from tennis, to athletics, to basketball, to football, and now finally taekwondo. So when I stick with a sport (basketball, in this case) for more than two years, I know that I actually like it.

Soon after moving to my new home, a gated community, I joined basketball coaching classes on the weekdays. The basketball court, in the most basic sense, is the ONLY place where kids my age meet. We have close to no other social life outside of basketball class, trust me. So, obviously, the people who I’ve stuck with in there are nothing short of my best friends. But that still doesn’t stop me from feeling like I need to be on an edge in the court.

Look, whether I or anyone else in this universe admits it or not, I am a nerd. I enjoy solitude with a book in my hand, walking peacefully in the winter sun. I listen to podcasts about the kilogram being redefined, or John and Hank Green joking about death, all while finishing Telugu notes or preparing for my finals (which are a month away-i know, it’s too soon) downstairs.

Doing random things way outside of my comfort zone is definitely something I enjoy once it’s done, but something I absolutely dread while it’s happening. That’s how I felt with this basketball match. I know that there are other, better, actually dangerous things for me to be afraid of, but sue me for being concerned that my heart might pop out of my chest due to nervous tension.

I have never played an official basketball match outside of school, so I am awfully nervous when I go down to play. We start out okay, with a lead of 12-6, but then the good guys(including me) get substituted, and soon the score is 19-25. I am beyond shocked. I am devastated. I am beyond exhausted. I played so well, and so hard, but now we were embarrassingly behind.

I’m on the verge of giving up. Not just pressing-pause-to-resume kind of giving up. The kind the where you stop and have to start all over again. 

Here’s something:

I. have. never. given. up. Ever. 

Not on people, not on tough situations, and definitely, DEFINITELY not on myself or my friends. 

So I don’t.

I push. And push. And push. And push harder and harder and the hardest I could and I fight back my fears and my tears and the pain and the despair and I just give it my all. I run into people, snatch the ball, pass, scream until my lungs burned and I’m 100% there in that moment. 

I know the situation is more and more like something out of a movie, because after 40 minutes of play, both teams are tied and we go into 3 minutes of overtime. I think that this is do or die. But nah. We both score, and we go into overtime again, this time for two minutes. And I think that this situation is as unpredictable as walking on a tightrope 20 feet up in the air with the wind blowing right at me. 

But I hold on. We all do. 

For the last 2 minutes, I hold on to whatever hope is left in me and I give it my all. 

7…6…

I don’t know how, but we suddenly have the lead. 29-27. The ball is, literally and figuratively, in the opponent team’s court right now.

5…4…

But our hope rises just enough for one last boost of energy, and we fight back. 

3…2…1…

It’s inevitable. 

The whistle blows.

Time stops. 

Long enough for us to realize that we actually won. 

The screams are loud and roaring, and they fill me with the voice to scream too. 

I’m running towards everyone. I hug my friend, Akshita, who was sitting on the bench, cheering for us.

I’m hug my friend, Ishaan, who was the reason we won. 

The specifics don’t matter because this success wasn’t about individual glory.  People told me I was really, super aggressive and I defended like a  boss, but that’s not the primary cause of my immense, overwhelming joy.

I often think that my life is one big young adult fiction novel stuck in the middle forever. It’s not always easy, or fun, or even kind.

But goddamn it, it’s good.

Cheers,

Udita.


“I have realized; it is during the times I am far outside my element that I experience myself the most. That I see and feel who I really am, the most! I think that’s what a comet is like, you see, a comet is born in the outer realms of the universe! But it’s only when it ventures too close to our sun or to other stars that it releases the blazing “tail” behind it and shoots brazen through the heavens! And meteors become sucked into our atmosphere before they burst like firecrackers and realize that they’re shooting stars! That’s why I enjoy taking myself out of my own element, my own comfort zone, and hurling myself out into the unknown. Because it’s during those scary moments, those unsure steps taken, that I am able to see that I’m like a comet hitting a new atmosphere: suddenly I illuminate magnificently and fire dusts begin to fall off of me! I discover a smile I didn’t know I had, I uncover a feeling that I didn’t know existed in me… I see myself. I’m a shooting star. A meteor shower. But I’m not going to die out. I guess I’m more like a comet then. I’m just going to keep on coming back.” 
― C. JoyBell C.