The New Normal

I think it was my dad who ingrained the idea of being independent after college into me. I’m sure for many the ‘you’re on your own’ deadline was even sooner, say 18. The reason I had a later deadline was because Dad’s reasons were different. He wasn’t teaching me some grand lesson about being your own man. He just had no savings and could not afford to keep funding me after college. I had to get some kind of work and figure it out. I finished college, with a Masters in Film and television, at the age of 22.

I turn 27 this year and the only reason I am surviving the pandemic is because my parents had put aside some savings for me when I was born that matured in time for this nightmare. I also use my dad’s Netflix and Disney+ subscriptions, and my friend has a private server setup that lets us torrent everything else. I pay for Prime if that’s saying something. I have two cats, rescues that I took in before the pandemic. One of them has a chronic condition and is pretty old so she needs a lot of medical attention. Last year I got by on paying their bills but this year I only managed cause of the aforementioned savings. Before the pandemic, when I still had a job and was not reliant on my parent’s future planning for me, I paid for my day to day costs; including electricity, insurance, and internet. But on the flip side, I didn’t and still don’t have to pay rent cause I live in the family home.

Note: My family owns two houses, each in a different city, each bought by one of my grandfathers. They all live in the other city, I live by myself in Mumbai cause its ‘closer’ to work.

I say all this because often I feel frustrated that I am not completely independent. That I don’t have my own house, pay for my own subscriptions, etcetera. I told my dad the other day when he helped he get an oven (cause the old one had broken down), that I feel like a failure when it comes to adulting. And it would be easy in this moment, to chalk it up being lazy or not working hard enough or not choosing the right field. But as my dad laughed when I said that I feel like I fail at adulting, I am willing to bet that this is not the case.

I think anyone who knows me knows that laziness or hard work are not the issues. In fact I can say that for all my friends, despite everything they go through, they are all incredibly hard working. More often than not, they are busy in the evening, or on a Saturday, working on their jobs or on a side project. Most of us live with family or have had to move back since the pandemic started. And even though it is scary out there, depressing too, we are all trying to get by day by day. So no, I don’t think the reason I don’t pay for my own subscriptions or have my own house, is because I am lazy.

It could be that I didn’t choose the right field. Writing, film or otherwise, is not very profitable. It takes a long time to build up a sustainable life through it. But then one would wonder why doctors and programmers aren’t also living independently. Why the ones who do, cram up in a small apartment and split the rent three ways when the advertised life states that they should have their own penthouse by now. Sure, maybe there are a few people who are even managing to achieve all these ‘normal landmarks’ but I am not sure if anyone can argue that it is the staple.

I guess what I am getting at is something that has already been said. The advertised normal, if it was ever even viable, is no longer plausible. Life is not only too expensive, but resources are limited and the large majority of us, despite our education, skill, and dedication, have to make decisions based on cost not dreams. Compromise is a natural instinct more ingrained than fight or flight. We plan our lives or at least our daily sustenance the same way we all shop; Sort: Price Low-to-High. Find the dream, the job, the activity, that is cheap but good enough to last a short while. And we are the middle-class. So one can only imagine how much worse it gets as you trickle down the financial ladder.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that I have friends and family that look out for me. But surely this shouldn’t be the way of life? It is worrying that the only reason I am able to sustain my life as it is right now, is because someone, twenty years ago, put aside a little cash. Most people could not have done that cause even now most of India does not use banks. And hell, I certainly can’t do that right now. So what happens twenty years from now when another pandemic hits? Because if my generation is barely getting by then rest assured the next one will have nothing to work with. But then again, if you are reading this, you already knew that. For you, this is the fire alarm going off after you’ve already smelt the smoke, felt the heat, and realized that the only way out is a hail Mary through the window. If its any consolation, you aren’t jumping alone.

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