Most people who know me now wouldn’t believe it but I was an extremely timid child, afraid of everything and everyone. I clutched my mother’s clothes and would cry if she was ever out of sight.
At some point that changed. I discovered the stage. Under those lights I could be anyone I wanted to be. I could leave my life behind and be bold and brilliant. I fell in love with acting. It was my first crush, my first love. It promised me fame and fortune, a place in the history books. I was obsessed. But my parents warned me that childhood crushes don’t make good life partners. “Be sensible”, they told me, “you’re smart enough for engineering. Do what’s good for you.”
Begrudgingly I agreed. For a while, my childhood crush was out of sight, out of mind. But this life partner career was just so vanilla. So boring and predictable and plain. I longed for the adrenaline of my first love. I pined for the butterflies, the chaos, the high. I put it off for a few years but finally gave in. I broke up with my stable, boring, husband material career and chased my first love.
The beginning was a glorious montage of every romance movie you’ve ever seen. I was being love bombed by the industry. Plays, ads, movies, web series, shoots. I was on billboards and in theatres, on YouTube and TV. I had done it. The dreams came true. I made it. I had proven everyone wrong. My first love was my true love. I couldn’t have been happier.
Then the pandemic happened. And I turned 30. And I lost two of my favourite people in the span of nine months. And I stress ate. And I gained weight. And then I busted my knee. And then I was in bed for three months. And then I was just barely moving around the house for three more. And then a year had gone by. And then I was 31 and 10 kgs overweight. And then I saw the light in my lover’s eyes slowly fade.
I was no longer young, and thin, and pretty. I had assumed that my lover chose me for my talent and chutzpah. I was wrong. My lover’s attention waned. He longed for someone younger and prettier, with fewer problems, fewer opinions, and more time for him. He wanted someone who knew that he was in charge and submitted fully and completely to his whims. I was now too old, too fat, with too many opinions, and too many expectations.
For a few months I remained in denial. I told myself that I just had to lose some weight, be a little bit more agreeable, not make a fuss, and my lover would come back to me. I told myself that it was all my fault, that I wasn’t doing enough to make him love me. I just had to try harder, love him harder, be more submissive.
I changed my definition of what we had together. Okay, it wasn’t an exclusive relationship anymore. I would do things on the side. Meet other careers. I would find ways to supplement what my true love wasn’t giving me. I thought of plan after plan to do whatever I could just to make sure that I at least stayed in the peripheral vision of my one true love. I was so certain that if I just stuck around for long enough, that if I could subsist on the breadcrumbs he threw at me.. if I could just manage with less.. if I could just be less, want less, but stick around… if, just if..
I felt my sense of self dissolving as I gave more and more away just for him to hopefully notice me again. Until one night the exhaustion gave way to sadness, which broke into rage. I screamed into my pillow, “When will I be ENOUGH?”.
In that moment something in me snapped. The blanket of lies I had spun around myself had been ripped off.
I deserved better than this.
Why was I sacrificing myself to be embraced by a lover who didn’t even see me any more?
I thought of my ex — my safe, boring corporate career. I thought about how he valued me, appreciated me, took care of me. I remembered how he paid for vacations and a new car and a luxury apartment. I realised that my addiction to chaos had prevented me from seeing that my plain, vanilla, husband material corporate career was actually dependable, predictable, and supportive.
Why was I spending every night wishing I was younger and thinner when I could live a life in which I was appreciated for my intelligence and my skills, something that would only grow with time rather than wrinkle and fade?
Then the shame sunk in. Would he take me back? After all these years? Would he smirk and say “I told you so”? Would he say “It’s too late now. You made your bed, now lie in it.”
The shame turned to fear. The fear gave way to panic. The panic screamed at me, “You dumb, bitch. Look at what you’ve done! There’s nothing more for you now other than being some washed up old hag who was once in a 10 second long skippable YouTube ad. You’re a failure. A pathetic, washed up, failure.”
I held myself and waited till the voices subsided. I had made it past denial, anger, and bargaining. Not in that order, but the Kubler-Ross model was an oversimplification in my opinion.. moving on.
In that moment I stood at the line between courage and stupidity.
Then as the depression set in, slowly but surely, with my bruised ego sore and tender, with my pride set aside, I texted my ex career, “Remember me?”
For hours I sat staring at the screen. Hoping he would remember me, remember what we had together, how good we were. Hoping he could see a future with me again, believe in it again. Hoping he would take me back and love me again…
I hovered at the line between courage and stupidity. It wasn’t too late. I could still take it all back and run back to the adrenaline filled chaos of my first love.. it was familiar to me now. Maybe a known enemy was a better choice? It would hurt much more if my ex didn’t take me back. Feeling my most vulnerable, I hovered at the line.
As acceptance finally dawned I stared at the line with a clearer mind and realised, or decided, or chose, I’m not sure.. to step away from the line.
It is one thing to persist, to pursue, to try, try, try again until you succeed. That’s what all the great heroes are the result of. But as is said in He’s Just Not That Into You, they’re the exception, not the rule. They are great stories because they beat the odds. Most of us won’t. It is people like us who live our normal daily lives, that make them the exception. There are no heroes without villains, there are no exceptions without the rule, there are no stars without those who gaze at them.
I accepted that I may not change the world or a million lives, or make history, or end up in textbooks but I could still build a life worth living. I chose to find love in the little things, comfort in safe spaces, with safe people. I chose respect, growth, and fulfilment in doing a little bit every day rather than running breathlessly towards a finish line that may not even exist.
Maybe some day I’ll find a new calling, one in which I can be the change that I wanted to see in the world — without sacrificing myself to do it. Who knows.. but for now I sit here, still staring at the screen, hoping he’ll take me back.
My wonderful ex career took me back and in a way that made the best of all my experiences come together. That being said, letting go of my first love hasn’t been easy. It really does feel like a long, drawn out breakup as I dismantle the castles I had built in the sky. Hopefully over time, the safety of today will become more and more important to me than the uncertainty of chasing a dream.