I spend ten minutes in quiet contemplation. Call it a moment of silence in preparation for an act of utmost creativity.
You see, I’ve lugged my half-naked carcass out of bed at seven in the morning and without even taking a second to rub my eyes, I’ve had to go relieve myself. Today I fly a solo mission dropping doo-doo bombs over enemy waters, and I hope to do it silently without creating too much of a mess.
Since I’ve won this round to my satisfaction, it’s now time to think about what I do next. Do I get breakfast? Do I make coffee? Do I bite an apple and hope it gets me through the rest of my morning? What are the rules of this thing? Are there even rules?
I take a second for it to sink in. There are no rules.
Another second. There are NO rules!
I come to this grand realization, dear diary, that there is no playbook, no instruction manual for living this phase of my life. In contrast, every day of my existence before this was quite protected, and there had always been a sense of routine to everything I did for the past twenty-eight years. Independence is a weird thing when you taste it for the first time. It feels terribly refreshing. Liberating. Invigorating. Gut wrenching.
Yeah, the last one because now I can clearly see the flip side. I have to take care of myself. I love myself, but it’s too much work. Feed, bathe, and clothe on time; wash, repair, scrub, rinse, and repeat. No family, no support structure, and in general no one to debate on how the weather today might turn out. No self-stocking fridge and no automated grocery refill. No gentle voice in my ear that’s making the right decisions in the background. No mom and dad to pick up my dirty laundry and have it washed while I’m still sleeping. No brother to hold my hand and wipe my forehead when I get sick. No one to ask me how my day went. Boy, does independence suck.
America makes it easier to be independent. This is a land of people who believe in doing things themselves, things that in India needed a specialized team of experts. These resilient folk manage the most complicated of tasks, sometimes even when the instructions are in Chinese.
And America makes it hard for people having British conventions imprinted in their heads. It feels like I’m living in a mirrored world, a world where the light switches switch on upwards instead of downwards. Where light sockets look like little upside down frowny faces that need flat pin plugs to hook up electrical equipment. Where measurements are in pounds and inches and feet instead of kilograms and centimeters and meters like we’re taught in primary school. I can feel my thoughts slowing down in my head, unlearning whatever I’ve learnt in an attempt to assimilate the problem at hand. What normally takes five minutes to do, now took seven.
Just last week I decided to do the unthinkable, order furniture off the internet. There were two motivations for this bizarre choice: I’m as lazy as they come, and second I got an excellent deal and free shipping off one of the major retailers. I clicked around the site for things I needed and added them to cart like a trigger happy person at a shooting range or like a to-be-married couple registering for their wedding. Buying big-ticket items online is always a gamble, but they always offered free returns, so I thought I might as well give it a shot. It’s not like the couch won’t fit or the tables would creep around the edges. I’d just have to live with it.
Now here’s the kicker: I did not know what to expect. Back in India, I would wait expectantly for four burly men carrying eight large packages, one by one. The payload was supposed to hold a fully assembled dining table, couch, some side tables, a futon, a bookcase and a night stand. Instead, I came face to face with all the eight packages, left neatly stacked one atop the other at my doorstep, occupying almost no space at all. Shock and suspense ran rampant while I lugged the boxes inside, putting my back into it as some of them were heavy.
The bookcase arrived as planks. The table tops alongside their legs. The nightstand in its box as a series of small polished components and intricate hinges and involved screw assemblies, and Chinese instructions with tiny pictures. The couch thankfully came as a two piece set that was the easiest to assemble.
Step one, get my toolbox. Scratch that. Step one, buy a toolbox. Nah, step one, get a cold beverage and turn on Independence Day on Netflix and watch it while sleeping on the floor. Well, what do you know, today I celebrate my ‘Independence Day’.
A quick trip to the store the next day got me my tool box. All I needed was a screwdriver and a wrench to tighten some lug nuts, but a twenty-five piece tool box made seemed the more sensible purchase. I spent the whole day and half the evening assembling these discrete packages to their advertised forms. At the end of the day, I had some semblance of furniture and a bunch of large unpacked boxes and packaging materials that I had no idea how to handle. Luckily, I had unused space in my living room, so I stacked those boxes in the corner, and I would figure out what to do with them later.
The inner child in me had a great day. There is no greater sense of fulfillment than putting things together on your own. Like little Lego buildings, only this time with screws and nuts and bolts.
You know, dear diary, I’m now sitting in the midst of a full living room. Surrounded by a bunch of opened boxes and packing nuts. Holding a new set of power tools. Nursing a sore arm and a pair of aching legs.
Independence sure isn’t free.