A look back at the me I used to be: Life Hacks by Charles Assisi - Hindustan Times
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A look back at the me I used to be: Life Hacks by Charles Assisi

Jun 22, 2024 05:24 PM IST

We don’t often see it, but life is defined by transition, that wily sidekick to change. Each phase is a chance to mourn a previous self, or celebrate a new you.

So much of life is really just curveballs, isn’t it?

One of the things that makes the series The Bear (2022-) so compelling is that each of its key characters, all chefs, are navigating personal turning points or transitions. PREMIUM
One of the things that makes the series The Bear (2022-) so compelling is that each of its key characters, all chefs, are navigating personal turning points or transitions.

We keep hearing that change is the only constant, but nobody mentions its sly sidekick: Transition. Change is the quick swerve one didn’t see coming. Transition? That’s the whole journey.

As my friends and I edge into our 50s, we are grappling with another new phase. What are we afraid of, I wonder? After all, it’s just another transition. And don’t we each have a long trail of these behind us now?

As a child, I vividly remember my first big one. It occurred when my father retired from the Indian Air Force, and our family had to move out of the well-ordered defence enclaves we had always lived in, and into the chaotic civilian world.

The military quarters we left behind were part of my identity. I remember crying at the deep loss I felt.

This period of adjustment, filled with the echoes of unfamiliar noises and the absence of old friends, was particularly hard to navigate because I did not know how to articulate what I was feeling. I barely understood it. The change had been neither immediate nor abrupt. We had known for years that it was coming. Why then did it jar so severely?

I now know that transitions such as these, geographical, personal and professional, are essential chapters in our life stories; the plot could not progress without them.

As I navigated my next series of transitions, through high school and college, each one seemed bigger, as they tend to do.

Then came the leap from unstructured teen years to the structured demands of adulthood. This was a particularly difficult shift. While I now had the liberty to choose (routines, expenditure, how I spent my leisure hours), the responsibility that came with it was a heavy weight to bear. Even the financial independence and the monthly paycheque felt like reminders of the various ways in which I might now falter (what if I lost my job; or didn’t know how to manage my money?).

I found myself on uncomfortable ground again. I began to mourn the other versions of me that I had lost.

I would learn, eventually, that every transition is a mini-requiem for a past self.

And I know now that transitions are necessary. They may not all be inherently good, but they all cultivate resilience and depth. As I adjusted to new realities each time — from shifts in residences to shifts in roles — it is in these in-between spaces that I saw my most authentic future self emerge.

I have learnt that transitions are not something to be endured, but embraced. They are the architects of our character, sculptors of our disposition, moulders of our relationships and world views.

With this realisation comes the understanding that each “me” is a phase. It is only a matter of time before something new, something potentially enriching, comes along, and then a new self will emerge from this one too.

As Tennyson so beautifully put it, in words immortalised by PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves: “Men may rise on stepping-stones of their dead selves to higher things.”

This journey does not follow a linear path. It is often a meandering one. And, on reflection, I have come to realise that many of our most significant transitions happen without fanfare. They occur in our quiet moments and in the acceptance of who we are becoming.

Standing at the brink of another phase, I can see the stepping stones of my past selves. And so, to the annoyance of some of my friends, I ask: Why fear? Let’s acknowledge the past, appreciate the present, march into the future. We’ve been here before.

(Charles Assisi is co-founder of Founding Fuel. He can be reached on assisi@foundingfuel.com)

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