Finding yourself at 40
|   Aug 29, 2016
Finding yourself at 40

A couple of weeks ago, I watched 36, Vayathinile. A much lauded movie about a woman who at 36 battles being put down for being old. A childhood friend, who is a career woman, re-ignites her sense of self & she finds herself a new career and re-asserts herself.

At many levels the movie annoyed me, read my review here.

But what I found more disturbing is the many messages that came thru in the movie…

Of course, some of it rankled because I could identify with many of the issues the protagonist faces, as do many other women I am sure…

The choices we make as young women in very good faith, often come back to haunt us. And these are not bad choices mind you, the good ones-

– Moving to another city or country once you get married, for many Indian women of my generation, this was not even a discussion point, just assumed you would. With this one decision, came a host of others, starting a career trajectory again. Sometimes in a new line, because what you trained/worked in may not work in a new place.

– Taking leave to have a family, a great family decision, but often the women’s career is either curtailed, obliterated or dies a natural death.

– Making choices like part time work, working close to home….many of these decisions are made in good faith and for the benefit of more than just the child/children….

But what happens when the children grow up or your circumstances change? Does the time that has passed come back? Can you then start afresh??

The short answer is NO!

In the movie, Vasanthi asks her husband, why he is angry with her for having “mundane interests & work” when she made the choices for the family……

Her angst is something very real, happens to many women…they get pulled up for their choices, much much later!

In the movie obviously the situation shown is extreme & probably unrealistic, reality is many women do make work choices that mean they have less stimulating, more mundane jobs, while their husbands may have high flying careers which are exciting- they may then find their wife’s discussion of their days dull OR find it hard to discuss their work at home?

The children too, don’t need a parent as much once they find their wings. And appropriately so, they need to make their own lives.

But what then of the mother? Is it okay for her to expect her husband to appreciate her choices?

Or like the male lead in this film, should he tell her that she did not develop herself enough and he finds her boring?

In many instances, these questions don’t plague women in their 50’s or 60’s….it happens much younger! In the movie she is only 36, which by no stretch of imagination is “old” but it could be too late to start a new professional life! Or is it….

I was in a not very different position a few years ago….

I had left a degree half done, following the love of my life…at that time it seemed so right…it never occurred to me to anything differently!

While I have always found work, it was a long time before I found something challenging and mentally stimulating….

I have never looked at any job as beneath me…so was happy being a $12/hour telephone operator and a low paid call centre worker for many years… After a series of part time and casual jobs…working close to home, working shorter days so I could pick up kids, taking unpaid leave during school holidays, never going out with colleagues after work, because I had to pick up kids…..I did find more stimulating work, but then we moved…I found work I enjoyed again….and then we moved again……In effect, I was back at the starting line every few years…

While finding enjoyment and challenge in your work is great, what is not so much fun is finding yourself in the same spot forever…

When so much of yourself is attached to what you do and what difference you make to an organisation…

No one is given a bonus for a great meal or a spotless home or even in fact for raising good kids or supporting your partner in their dreams….

It comes across as crass and needy when you point out that you made choices that benefited the other person….And while your family may truly appreciate what you have done, I wonder how many people actually acknowledge or do something about it…

In my instance, my life changed with a single sentence that someone uttered…..I decided to go back to Uni, finish my Master’s and snatch back the things that I put aside….the interests that I had….If I did not take myself seriously, no one else would….And in the end I want to be author of my destiny… And I was lucky that it was not too late to realistically get back in track, had it been a few years later, any steps I took would be too late…even now, when I apply for work, I am weighed up against people 15 years younger than I.

While I found so much empathy for the character of Vasanthi in the movie, I was deeply troubled at her attitude toward her family and others……In whatever you do, never become irrelevant to people closest to you & if you do, get them out of your life…her acceptance of her husband’s apathy was shocking!

And the sentence that changed my life- Someone said “I will never be caught in a dead end job, my abilities demand so much more”…

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