October 25, 2022

I may Never Know what I Want—but I Finally Know what I Don’t Want.


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I was traveling by a metro train a few days back and a little kid was doing his best to embarrass the living daylights out of his parents.

It was the mother of all temper tantrums. He cried. He yelled. He screamed. He scratched his mother’s face. He bit his father’s hand. He threw the cookie his mother gave him to the floor and stomped on it, much to the chagrin of a few fellow passengers, a rolling of the eyes from others, and an I-am-so-sorry-for-you empathizing look from some of the rest.

As this continued, for what seemed like hours, the parents literally put their hands together and begged him to tell them what he wanted.

“What do you want?” They beseeched him even as eyes continued to roll and judgement spewed from every corner of the train.

There is no happy ending to this story—unless you count the fact that I exited the train three stops later and my ears slowly got their hearing back.

As I walked back home, the question the parents asked their child repeatedly played inside my head on a loop:

What do you want? What do you want? What do you want?

And I thought, this is a valid question that we should all ask ourselves: What do I want?

So, I asked myself…I literally spoke to myself in the third person and said, “Roopa, what do you want?”

And I found myself a little shell-shocked. Apart from a few cliches, like “I’d like 10 million dollars” and “I want to see the world” and “I want to eat all I can and not put on weight” and “I want to find a man like Fitzwilliam Darcy and swoon over him,” I genuinely wasn’t sure about what I wanted.

All this life I’ve led and the experiences I’ve had and the smarts I’ve gained, and I was no less clueless than that kid on the train who had no idea what he wanted. And then it struck me.

The kid had no clue what he wanted—but he knew what he did not want. And that was all the things his parents were offering him. I immediately circled back to myself and asked myself (in third person again):

“Roopa, what do you not want?”

And guess what? The answers came rolling.

I no longer want to waste time with people who don’t really want to spend time with me.

I no longer want to brood over something that cannot be fixed—from lost relationships to lost love to lost friendships to my undying love for pizza.

I no longer want to be friends with those who don’t deserve me.

I no longer want or care for society’s definition of success. I no longer measure success with how many houses or cars someone has. I measure it by how happy they are. By how happy I am.

I no longer want to feel bad for doing what I want. I’m lucky to have a job where I can work remotely. I also have a fair amount of personal choice in how I want to work. So, if I want to sleep 14 hours one day and wake up at 3 p.m., not shower for two days, and then suffer through insomnia and work for 24 hours straight and be up for the next three days, I’ll do it because I’m able to and because I’m allowed to.

I no longer want to explain why I behave a certain way. The ones who really love me and know, get me. And that’s all that matters.

I no longer want to waste time doing anything that causes me pain.

I no longer want to care what anyone thinks of me. I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, but this is genuinely, 100 percent the come-to-Jesus moment I’ve had in the past few years. I give zero-f*cks what anyone thinks of me. I am who I am. Take it or leave it. A fraction of those I know take it—and they’re my family for life. But most leave it—and that’s A-OK by me. The freedom that comes with not caring what others think of you allows you the freedom to live life exactly the way you want. I challenge you to get to that point, y’all!

My list could go on and on but I’ll end it here and throw it open to you. Does any of this click with you? Do you know what you want? Let me know in the comments section!


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