Having recently turned twenty-three, life’s inevitably inching closer to a point where it’s beginning to feel like a zero sum game. The start of a great job, marking the end of a relationship that’s fluctuated between Sunday movie marathons to being thrown out of cars at 3 am on a cold winter morning. Moderation, I’m grudgingly accepting, has never been a strong suit. Between memorable cold baked beans and OJ dinners and the most intense coke chats carried out with the fervour of a political debate, turning twenty three, I realised, was a point where the haze of the early twenties starts clearing up a bit and the looming deadline of the late twenties starts setting in. Too young to really give a shit, too old to not. There are days you wake up with a hangover that’s a constant reminder of how you’re not a twenty year old college kid whose only life skills include chugging beers and plagiarising essays at breakneck speed, but that you’re now an adult who has recently learnt how to make scrambled eggs but a legit Benedict still remains a distant reality.
Between the back and forth of a constant lack of sleep and the advent of dark circles, I call it my ‘adult face,’ and waves of tepid nostalgia where a bunch of your college mates get together to relive some of those memorable nights, and wake up to strange objects in your handbag that you didn’t previously own, more bruises than are okay and the sinking realisation that you have work on a Saturday.
A lot has happened in the six months that have gone by. In between the minor accomplishments that have brought forth newer excuses to drink, an ominous increase in the number of people who want to be around me and the confusing reality of knowing that your craft could be used as part of a meticulously constructed pick-up line, there has been a debilitating rejection. One that, on empty nights, seems like a soul-crushing moment followed by the usual stages of denial, anger and reluctant acceptance. Contrary to what my reaction to rejection previously has been, this time I completely detached myself from the situation and at the risk of being branded ‘a selfish c**t,’ decided to live life solely for me. But, it dented enough of a hole in this wavering heart for me to look back on the years of crippling anxiety followed by rejection, imagined or otherwise. Sometimes, it’s almost a relief to admit that you’re no longer a shiny, feisty 18 year old who still believes the world is theirs for the taking, but a fledgling adult with a questionable sense of style. Doesn’t it feel good to finally admit that? I know there are many here, like me, who’ve gone with the term ‘personal style’ as a euphemism for being a lazy junkie through college years.
I suppose, the first real taste of rejection was getting rejected from University. Sure, we’d all been dumped at least once by then and a few of us had woken up to early morning texts from our high school crush only to figure it was meant for our best friend, but the real life rejection doesn’t really start until the safety net of being allowed fries for Sunday breakfast (Thank you, Welham) falls away, and we’re left rudderless and lost, hopelessly trying to navigate the inky waters of life. Around the time school ends and college is about to begin, rejection would come in all forms – via apologetic emails, unnervingly polite phone calls. You will get rejected from at least three universities, and then lie to family friends at get togethers that “you just didn’t see yourself living in Delhi.” Fast forward to end of University and you realise that the only thing that matters is how often you have sex, what you’re having for dinner and how good your WiFi connection is.
Around the time of this heady liberation that comes with starting University, also comes a one-way ticket to ‘party paradise.’ The first taste of independence tastes so much better when your parents are paying for your binge drinking habits. The first six months, you’re the nervous junior writing assignments for seniors to get into clubs, second year on, you’re at the entrance profiling people just ‘because you fucking can.’ Then comes the step up to the real ‘exclusive deal,’ the kind of clubs where waxy, gym-boys pay in thousands to drink vodka out of frosted champagne glasses because regular vodka glasses are too middle-class. There have been Saturday nights where you’ve put on your shortest dress and your highest heels (despite possessing little knowledge of how to walk in them) to turn up at the shiniest venue in town only to be unceremoniously turned away at the entrance. Maybe you aren’t tall enough or hot enough or the capacity is actually exhausted, either way, whatever dignity you have left after having screamed that ‘you’re a regular and that they’d be hearing about this from the top management’ at the frontman is promptly drowned at the nearest ‘Kake Da Dhaba.’
As the fancy college education nears its ending, you’ve finally decided to let go of your idea of opening ‘a studio/bar/bistro financed through PE investment’ and decided to get a real job. You get your dad to help draft your CV out, fill excel sheets with every buzzword relevant in your industry and send it off as a blast email to 20 places. You go out feeling like you can take over the world, champagne in one hand, twirling your moustache with the other. You imagine job security, beach houses, a shopping spree not dependent on clearance sales, and before you know it, it’s been three weeks and you haven’t heard back from a single one of those places, except the ‘exciting, new start-up’ on the block that ‘is almost like a cafe to work at’ but won’t be able to pay you right away. You start debating sales jobs as you start stalking your newly employed friends on Facebook with an unhealthy dose of curiosity.
There will be a point in between a seemingly stable job and an entirely boring second serious relationship, you might have an ‘early life crisis’ or rather, a ‘non life crisis’ where you decide that being a ‘curator, writer, artist, sculptor, jazz musician’ is really your calling and explain this idea passionately to extended family at Gymkhana evenings, who in a few years, would take to introducing you as ‘the freelancer.’ You will email some cool, creative people for internships, including a production house in Chile (because, you know, South America) and never hear back or be called in for an ‘informal chat’ at the nearest Starbucks because most of them can’t afford new underwear, let alone office space. So, you’ll either bite the bait and be okay with an ‘unpaid gig but with unbelievable perks’ that mostly includes free muffins or be expected to assist ‘up-coming Indie’ professionals – a job that often involves googling how to remove sweat patches from suede jackets.
Nothing is quite as realistic or as horrifying as being exorcised from a friends group. By this point, you may have locked down an underpaid, possibly demeaning, definitely boring job that leaves you in an endless cycle of exhaustion, boredom, hunger, guilt, beers, pizzas, boredom and sleep. Now, this one is hard to spot because it happens so quietly, so surely, that one minute you’re all chilling with beers on sofa-cum-beds sharing cigarettes and exchanging notes on Jamie Lannister, the next minute you’re force feeding yourself burnt toast on lonely Saturday mornings as you scroll through their latest Euro Trip complete with #nofilter beach selfies and low-angle majestic shots of the Eiffel Tower in black&white (because, you know, vscocam). I haven’t quite figured why this really happens. Maybe you had sex with too many of them, maybe they’re all in relationships and you’re the perpetual third wheel on the constant hunt for the next booty call, maybe you ranted too loudly about “Hindutva.” Either way, they hate you and everybody knows it.
This post, so depressing and relatable, that even a wired Scoopwhoop intern can’t make it happy, there will also be a list of all the people you seriously believed would be your life partner regardless of whether they happened to have an alcoholic dependency, a propensity for ‘white baggies’ in dressers, and still insisted on referring to pot as ‘the good shit.’ This will happen so often, and with such astounding consistency, you’d often wonder if the only form of a functional relationship you’d experience is the one you share with your hairdresser (one who can differentiate between a ‘trim’ and a haircut in down in my books). They’ll cheat, you’ll cheat, you’ll spend nights curled up watching reruns of ’10 Things I Hate About You,’ pause it and switch to ’50 Shades of Grey’ as you pore over old text messages and conversations, performing autopsies on conversations you had lives ago. These are all transient rejections, and while you carry the weird kinks of each relationship with you onto the next, maybe you’d finally find a man who knows how to hit the away from the ceramic instead of a lovely aural rush for your ears first thing in the am. Or, one who you love enough to put up with his obnoxious need to comment on everything you ever wear – ‘this lipstick’s too dark, button up, that dress makes you look fat.’ We all know they exist.
You might also get rejected from an audition because you thought ‘you had the looks for TV’ but then realised radio might be more your thing or from yoga class because you promised you would make it on time but only managed to turn up stinking of mouth wash and smoke, or a modelling assignment that went south when you gave up your unrealistic diet of cigarettes and diet coke for KFC dinners, either way, rejection, I’ve soon learnt, is just another step in the final meltdown of adulthood – the mid life crisis. See you there.