Lidia Yuknavitch’s memoir, ‘The Chronology of Water,’ is about how being a misfit interrupted her dreams of competitive Olympic swimming and overcoming it. Her words inspired me to write about my own transition from the ugly silkworm to a beautiful butterfly soaring in freedom. I wanted to write about the painful journey of a misfit and the fire that rages in his innermost core before it sublimates and he comes out a winner at the other end of that dark tunnel, having overcome his fears.
Being brutally candid I would say that a misfit is so by his own judgments. HE is the one who does not fit in, is lonely, lacking a sense of belonging for he belongs only to himself. Although he yearns to be accepted, but when accepted by others, he himself moves away after some time; he is forever on a journey of self discovery, feeling different from society’s norms. At times I wonder who isn’t a misfit in some way or the other?
As a child I was a loner. Quiet, introvert, extremely sensitive, got hurt easily- so I would recede into my shell, only occasionally coming out of an emotional vacuum of my own making. However, that did not stop my true strengths from blossoming. Growing up, I became conscious of my intelligence and my hidden talents surfaced which made me a popular student. I realized there was no need for loneliness or inadequacy. I could let my true colors shine and felt that being a misfit was awesome because I had something more, not less than others.
The years spent in medical studies were years of trial, as I was not mentally equipped for the cut and dried, clinically cold atmosphere there. I yearned to act, dance and sing on stage, but went through grueling studies because during my youth it was parents who chose their children’s careers. I was convinced into believing that I was intelligent enough to become a doctor, one of the few ‘respectable’ professions for women. Shelving my own dreams and aspirations, I grappled with studies that were not only laborious but uninteresting to my romantic temperament.
Balancing harsh educational pressures was a tough row for my soft, warm hearted self. I was sickly and delicate and felt a total misfit within those boundaries. I vacillated between creative surges and attempts at studious application to academics. Needless to say, this not only crushed my spirits but my grades as well. Having always been a topper, it was disheartening to accept my poor results. I wanted to ditch the whole idea of becoming a doctor but could not voice it for fear of disappointing my parents. I tried to find new road maps for self discovery whence I could juggle both studies as well as my artistic leanings.
My spirits lifted as I turned to writing poetry. A welcome respite came in the form of youth festivals where I could excel on the stage, being one of the rare good English speakers and actor. I would sweep every possible award and won the best actress gold medal every year. Finding an outlet for my suppressed emotions, I dug deeper with a ferocious energy, tapping every aspect of my multifaceted personality, honing every talent.
With will power, honest intensity and an explosive force I travelled the difficult and slow process of self discovery till I shone brilliantly.
As I was recognized for my extra-curricular talents and achievements I started loving myself more and more. I warmed some hearts even as others disapproved of me. I realized I was not a MISFIT-I was UNIQUE. I started celebrating being different, not walking the beaten track, a little on the fringes, my very own special creation. If at times I felt like a fish out of water I did not change myself, I found a new stream. I reached out, connecting and drawing support from some incredible people who felt the same. I took these phases as an opportunity to keep unraveling new layers and reinventing myself.
I often drew inspiration from a quote, “Any dead fish can swim downstream but it takes a live one to swim upstream against the current.” I believed in myself –I was a ‘FREE SPIRIT.’ I came to terms that it was okay not to be a clone. Being different was great, being me was better.
When I started my medical practice I went through great upheavals. Working ethically in a world which is fast switching to consumerism, is very difficult. But based on goodwill, I slowly carved a niche for myself as a compassionate, empathetic doctor whom patients trusted like family. I continued nurturing my talents as a public speaker and a popular personality on the radio and TV. Over the years I was elected as chairperson of many organizations, channelizing my love and compassion into social service.
Around sixty I retired to do all that I had put on hold. Now, I get to spend more time with family and self which keeps me emotionally fulfilled. Writing is my lifelong passion and has paid me richly. I am a writer following my heart. My spiritual practice imparts a sense of peace and equanimity as I embrace and love myself fully connecting and drawing sustenance from The Source in the winter of my life.
Written byDr Sunil Kaushal
Dr. Sunil Kaushal is a retired gynaecologist turned writer and loves everything about life. Besides a passion for writing short stories and poetry, she is an accomplished actor. Chairperson of a number of socially committed organizations, she brought about a number of changes for Women and Children’s Welfare through National TV and Radio. As Lioness Club President in 1982, she was awarded ‘Best Lioness President’ Asia. She is associated with Mother Theresa’s home. She listens to Indian Classical music when not writing or blogging. You can catch this 71 year old on her blog- http://sunilkaushal44.blogspot.in