The other day I read a quote on Happiness Economics – it said that Happiness X Age graph is “U” shaped – viz. people are happiest when they are very young or very old.
That might explain it. Might explain why as people I know, people who are in their late twenties and early thirties – people who on the face of it are entering the peak phase of their lives with a career (that has begun to take shape and take off), a partner (for companionship) and in some cases a child, feel the way they do.
People who ARE talented, educated, reasonably affluent professionals – but who secretly, within the confines of their homes – battle with demons – unremitting and vitriolic of anxiety and stress.
And it’s happening across the genders, across the professional and personal spectrum, across socio-economic classes, and familial backgrounds.
At a personal level for the girls – I thought, I could understand – it was either the pressure (societal, familial, peer or even self sometimes) of getting a spouse before marriage. And the adjustments and compromises AFTER marriage – and make no mistake, a significant amount of onus still lies on the girl.
I have seen most of the girls I know – brought up to be independent and opinionated and free spirited – shed that skin, after they get married to morph into someone’s wife and daughter in law – with all the concomitant pressures and expectations.
Often give up on flourishing careers to trail with the husband all over the globe. Change countries, career paths, lifestyles, everything – and do so gracefully, happily and willingly, not as a forced sacrifice, but as a conscious life choice. Or sometimes, not do any of those things and continue exactly the way there were before marriage. But in all cases, something subtle changes within – I have seen this time and again as my friends, and acquaintances have got married – that somehow, they lose a little bit of the “light” within. Maybe what I call the “light” is nothing but the spark of adult independence which gets dulled as it gets enmeshed with another individual’s life. A child of course, will tone down a person even more. It has nothing to do with how happy or unhappy one is in the relationship – or how much in love one is.
Maybe that’s what one calls growing up. Where one gives up a part of oneself in order to gain something else. This process of changing or giving up, of losing oneself to become someone else is almost phoenix like – in the sense that the earlier avatar needs to be completely destroyed, for the new one to be born. Add the pressures of a professional career, priorities recalibration, to the mix, and that’s a fairly potent recipe for anxiety.
The men (and for the so-called-career women), the anxiety seems to stem more from a financial and professional standpoint. Perhaps it’s the state of transition between learning and performing, or between choice and need, between enthusiasm and ennui.
And to a great many of us, it is often coming to terms with one’s ordinariness. Making peace with the fact that even an above average intelligence often, doesn’t not translate into anything much in the daily scheme of things. And accepting the reality of the environment, of a lopsided world, where merit often needs to kow-tow to shrewd mediocrity
For many, it is facing upto the unpleasant truth that the professional glass ceiling is not too distant– where the opportunities are scarcer and the competition, exponential. Where the need to hone skills is high, but the drive is fading, and energy often drained away, dealing in a morass of managerial mundanity.
And for both is the constant balancing – between work and home, between parents and children, between companionship and ‘space’, between sharing and independence, between integrity and getting-work-done, between salary and fulfilment.
In this scenario, it is not surprising that there is no balm for the anxiety – the only thing which is there is the strips of ineffective plaster – in the form of consumption and the addiction to buy, to booze, to over indulge. To suppress the symptoms but not affect the cure.
The time where one is willing and able to absorb, grow and blossom the most is often strangled by the poison within.
A pity, really.
The second of the posts I had wanted to write on anxiety and depression. The first one is here.