While waiting for the train one summer, I had a realisation.
It was early evening and the sun had reduced to a pale lemon line in the distance. The horizon had turned a smoky pink and the summer’s dust heralded a rapidly gathering dusk. I could feel the warm breeze in my hair, hear it whispering as it passed through the red gum branches, and when I breathed it in I caught the scent of hot asphalt and sticky jacaranda flowers. I held the warm air in my lungs for a moment as I thought, I like railway stations. I always have. It was as I sat suspended in that jacaranda-coloured moment, that I first understood why.
It struck me that the term ‘railway station’ itself is tinged with some lost pleasure one finds in waiting. Essentially, a railway station is a liminal space. ‘Liminal’ comes from the Latin word for ‘threshold’. A liminal space is one of transition; of waiting and not truly knowing. Neither ‘here’ nor ‘there’. A liminal space is one where boundaries dissolve and we are left standing at that ‘threshold’, subconsciously preparing ourselves to move across the limitations of what we were within what we are going to become.
No Strings Attached
At a point during a difficult period with a guy, I realised I loved him unconditionally. He wasn’t the first person I’d exchanged the word with. But, during that period when ‘we’ as a unit were in trouble, I realised that the warmth I felt towards him remained uncompromised. The narrative surrounding romantic relationships often feels like a stream of Game Theory, where caring seems to be synonymous with weakness. This time though, I realised that there was no possibility of me ‘losing’ as such. I loved this person for who he was, not what he could offer. This didn’t necessarily guarantee a future for our partnership. It may have been the glue that kept us together, but it also may well have been the generosity with which we let each other go when time called for it. This was somewhat unnerving. But ultimately, it brought me such peace and contentment, to truly experience something born from a depth beyond my own self-interest.
The Moment I Realised I was Old
I realise it’s somewhat absurd for a 20-year-old to be writing about how old he is. But what you come to realise whilst at university is that we in fact have two ages: our biological age and our university age. Now, I’m sure I don’t need to explain natural aging to anybody, but I think university aging begs some elaboration. Your university age is purely based on the number of years you’ve undertaken to complete your degree. You may be an objectively young person at the tender age of 25, but if you have been at university for more than five years, then you’re a dinosaur! As a third-year student, I’m certainly not old, but I am starting to get on a little bit. This realisation dawned on me earlier this year when I found myself saying, ‘Back in my first O Week … .’ Basically, I had experienced more than a few O Weeks such that I had to specify which one I was referring to. As the years continue to pile on, and the number of O-weeks under my belt continues to grow, I expect this will only get more unnerving.
The Vegan Friend – An Evolution
I’m the vegan friend. You know, the one you tag in memes about how you can’t talk to a vegan for five minutes without mentioning that they’re a vegan. Or maybe the one with the broccoli earrings (somebody get those for me please). You might be wondering, how did I come upon veganism and how did I know it was right for me?
I was 16, and on a field trip with my high school. We visited a school in a village in China where we were shown a documentary about the environmental consequences of the meat and dairy industry. I was born and raised vegetarian, so I was under the impression that I was doing enough for the earth as it was. But when faced with these facts, I realised that it made little sense for me to support the breeding of cows for milk without eating them! I gave myself an ultimatum: go vegan or start consuming animals.
In May 2012 I made the choice to go vegan. It took me until September to actually commit to doing it. It wasn’t easy at first, and I kept falling back for cheese and omelettes, but I persevered.
This, friends, is how I went vegan, and it’s been almost five years. Bring on the memes.
Letting go of Bitterness
For most of my life I was surrounded by people who, by virtue of having tastes and preferences different to mine, thought it their inherent prerogative to judge me against yardsticks determined by them as I went about life on my own terms. On a subconscious level, I myself had granted this culture some degree of legitimacy and often unwittingly looked on others in a similarly harsh light. Thanks to all the hushed whispers and snide sneers that came my way, being cynical of every new person I met was hardwired into me.
Fast-forward to February 2017 and I found myself plonked in the capital city of Australia, tens of thousands of miles away from my home country, India. As the first few days wore on, heartening gestures by those who were complete strangers to me took me by surprise. From hauling my luggage on the day of my arrival, to the warm introductions that followed, every single person that I met at the ANU has unknowingly contributed to helping me move beyond my cynical preconceptions. As I ponder this in retrospect, I realise that my negativity was spawned by all the scorn and scoffing that I had been receiving; a rather vicious cycle. As I let the affability sink in, here is what I have learnt – bitterness cannot diminish bitterness. Au contraire, it only adds to the already existing toxicity. It takes hard work to move beyond bitterness and treat other people – particularly those who do not reciprocate – with dignity and compassion. But the freedom that engaging with the world in this way confers on one is most definitely worth it.
The Fallacy of Adulthood
For me, turning 18 felt like a long time coming. So much so that by the end of my time as a 17-year-old (better known as the Dancing Queen Era) I was pretty certain that my 18th birthday would be anticlimactic. I had come to realise both that I had already grown up – and also that I, like everyone else, never really would. Or at least not into the cool, calm and collected, totally confident image of adulthood that we so readily aspire to as a society. This discovery evoked memories of the one I had on my sixth birthday, when I realised that growing taller was in fact not an annual occurrence that happened overnight on one’s birthday but rather an ongoing, incremental process. The night before I turned 18 I sat chatting to a friend in my polkadot pyjamas and as the clock ticked over to midnight, I realised once and for all that I wasn’t in for any instant transformation. It wasn’t that my birthday was dull or that the novelty of being able to categorise myself as an ‘adult’ wasn’t exciting, it was just that that’s all it was – a day. A single day could never confer all the social expectations embedded in the notion of ‘adulthood’ upon an individual. And honestly, there’s something reassuring about realising there’s no need to have it all figured out just yet.