Friday, November 06, 2009

The True Milestones of Life

In various pregnancy and early childhood development books, the word 'milestones' often come into use. The first kick in the womb is a milestone of the second trimester - usually ending those nauseous days and beginning what is mentioned as 'the honeymoon phase' of pregnancy. The first step is a milestone taken during the turn of the baby's first year - officially no longer an infant and turning into a toddler. In my research as well, milestones are set to keep me following the tight 4-year schedule - seminar, first chapter for publication, exam.

There are milestones in every aspect of our lives. Personal and professional. Private and public.

The term got me to thinking of the true milestones in life.

When you measure your life's development not from the social achievements but from emotional and spiritual maturity, the milestones become a bit less distinct. I began reminiscing my life's decision from which I had learned a great deal.

It wasn't my graduating from school. It wasn't me meeting my life partner. It wasn't the 9 months of (attempting to) selflessly carry a human being wherever I go. It wasn't labour, it wasn't the promotions, it wasn't even becoming a mother.

It was more in the little, mundane, everyday tasks that I thought contributed most to my life's worth. The unmemorable, trivial events that had actually pushed me to my limits, overcome them, and set them higher.

It was in listening to Arya's day even after I had a very long one. It was in waking up at nights to tend to Malik's cries, despite having worked all day. It was in the sincerity of not wanting in return anything, aside from hoping that what I do for a living could in fact touch another human being in the tiniest little way. It was in my students' questions that urged me to know more - so that I could tell them more. It was in sighing with patience, when everything had gone wrong - and I knew still that life is more that I could ever deserve.

It is in the gratitude. The wanting to fight for a cause. The balance. The effort to be better.

The effort to be better for something bigger than myself.

To feel small and weak and yet the same time the actor of my own destiny.

To be more for other people than to myself. And not losing myself and my thoughts in the process.

I think life is not the obvious milestones that we decide upon. Not the jobs we choose, the acknowledgments we receive, not marriage and a family. It is in the most random things shoved in our faces unexpectedly, which mold us in ways that are surprisingly permanent. It is the things we take for granted every single day, as they are microscopically small for us to truly appreciate their worth.

As days go by with responsibility, it is very easy to only focus on the obvious and ignore the things that actually matter most. It is very easy to resort to blame when things don't go our way - and what is 'our' way anyway? - when in fact it isn't their battle. It has always been ours. That, I believe.

It was never about losing or succeeding in our set goals, it was about us simply doing better than the day before. A bit sharper, a bit wiser, a bit more patient, a bit more humble.

As lonely as it sounds, life is, at the end, a battle with ourselves. And that realisation, I think, is a milestone in itself.

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