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All of us are 'settled'?

In this article, I am inspired by the million moments that are like pit stops into the literal game of life that most of us don't even know we play. It was only later that I discovered that the board game had much more to it than cute pegs in little cars and piles of fake money. This game would not be as entertaining as Jumanji if it ever became a reality. Oh, snap! We are in it?!

Those who have played the board game will eventually notice that it exhibited a predefined or should I say pre-approved structure that represents everything wrong with our society. Once you start, you find a career or more like a career path and rely on it for life, you marry as soon as you begin working and while your life unfolds, you continue to fill the backseat of the car until you can turn the steering wheel over to those behind you. (Haha, that last part doesn't happen because it's too close to reality.) In any case, it defines for you all the pressures you have to deal with to be accepted as someone who belongs in society. The creaky white wheel dictated the direction I had to hop and skip to the next tile as a child. The 'hamster's wheel' is what I now call it, the system that determines where I go next in real life. It is like hanging a piece of cheese in front of a hamster on a wheel. He may never get the cheese, but he will keep running on that wheel believing that the more he runs, the closer he gets to win or what is called being 'settled'.

What is settled? It is a moment in life where all is well at the exact time prescribed by God knows who. Despite knowing what you want out of life, people will always comment on how you should ‘settle' quickly. But mind you, it’s a moving target. I was promised settled when I struggled through RD Sharma books I could not comprehend, I was promised settled when I was seeking a good college, I was promised settled when I nervously answered philosophical questions during my first job interview, I was promised settled when I got my first project right at work, and I am still being promised settled in every other walk of life. And it is never-ending.

People claim to care about you, but all they do is make you feel anxious, which forces you to do things you wouldn't normally choose to do. Visualize this - I am entering a department store in order to pick up a pair of jeans. Comfortable, versatile and easy to wear, this one pair works for me. But as soon as I enter, I am surrounded by a thousand counters selling jeans, pants, and trousers. The salesmen on these counters are all activated like talking zombies as you pass, telling you our jeans will change your life if you take them. "You will catch people's attention on the street when you wear these, they will discuss you in social settings as an inspiring example, and when you walk in a room wearing these, you will be breaking glass ceilings with every step you take." So now you could either walk out of the store with things you never wanted to spend on or you know what you want, make a beeline for the counter and buy the pair you want and you are, as the Gen Z say, "cancelled."

It's funny because, instead of asking you how you're doing and what it is that you are going after, they directly gauge how settled you are and offer you solutions that were never asked for. All because this secure space in life needs to be achieved as per certain standards from a bible equivalent script that is written, edited and exists only in the pressured minds of our society. But it gets worse. It's more than a question, it's also a statement or a declaration if you will. They can tell you that it is good/bad that you are settled - maybe you are too settled and need to slow things down, or maybe settle like that neighbour who got married or advertise to everyone how that new car in your garage is the newest addition to your settled status. However, there is only one possible outcome: an existential crisis.

There is a problem in not acknowledging that people want different things in life. And they achieve them in vastly different ways. The most important thing is that all of this takes time and is dependent on a lot of factors that are outside of our control. It is a shame that society is blissfully ignorant of this. Since it is so much easier to announce achievements than to understand how they happened in the first place. A genius like Leonardo Da Vinci would have struggled to fit into a world that would have judged him instead of helping him succeed. It's easier, isn't it?

But, I’ve got a joke for you - none of us is settled. We probably never will be. Both you and I are aware of this. Yet, this negative outpouring of comments is just a way of saying - “We know you are working on it, but can you make it a point that we can brag about what you have done?” When you own a Hamptons mansion, a dream family, and a company that has made Time's best-performing companies list by 30 for a man/25 for a woman (conditions apply, of course), then you are considered settled ONLY BECAUSE THESE CERTIFY AS settled. People don't care enough to know what actually happens in reality. It doesn't even matter how you got there. Even you who might die trying. In order for a man to succeed, must his life mirror that of others?

Get rid of cookie-cutter thinking based on age, gender, background or any other construct that makes you hate as much as it makes you feel like you belong. The next time you meet someone, switch the question to are you happy? Instead of are you settled? And maybe you will gain some insight into what that person is going through and maybe appreciate that it is okay to be a work in process with your own unique goals and an even more distinctive approach to achieve them.

Bottom line: For me to be happy, healthy, and successful, my version of settled need not look like yours.


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