“It’s too late.”
In my mind, those are some of the most damnable words in the Universe. Along with “If only.” Those are the words we tell ourselves when we brush aside our regrets, pile up our weaknesses, and refuse to meet our strengths.
When was the last time you told yourself “it’s too late?” Let me tell you a story of how I was reminded of how wrong that phrase is and how a friend told me to “live your beast life.”
As I told the lovely Restless Eccentric in an email, I have been on a bit of a “declutter my life” phase recently. No, not channeling my inner Marie Kondo, but more out of a feeling that I have accumulated too much junk in my life – on my waist, in my soul, in my wardrobe, on my hard disk, and in my Inbox. So, I began by throwing away one item every day that I think I can do without. The process has resulted in mysterious benefits. Old ticket stubs are discovered. An old tracksuit shows up with a prominent tear in a prominent place. (Seriously, what was I thinking even keeping it?). A wrinkled old letter unfolds to reveal a friend’s words from across time. Random wires. Old phone cases. Older phones. A lot of plastic bags. (That’s our Indian middle-class syndrome – keep those plastic bags!).
And in my Gmail Inbox? I whittled down from nearly 15,000 mails in the “Updates” tab to 240. Yes. I can be very meticulous when I want. I ruthlessly deleted old eBay orders, promises from someone to improve my love life, bus tickets, credit card statements, insurance receipts, mutual funds payments, Amazon delivery updates, and more. Pictures of my material life peeking through every delete. I kept clicking on that little trash icon in a frenzy. I paused, though, when I saw a mail that shouldn’t have been in the Updates tab at all. It was from an old friend – back in 2008.
Once upon a time, back in 2005, I was working in a company that I think has one of the world’s funniest names: International Business Machines. (Which copywriter came up with that?) I had met SS, as I will call him, then. We both worked in the same department, and we both detested our job. At that time, I was easily swayed by peer pressure, lacked compassion, and didn’t know kindness if it hit me. I also thought people should be ‘figured’ out. I couldn’t figure out SS – he annoyed me – and my colleagues thought it a hoot that we were friends. Or more, as they imagined and gossiped. I caved in to their judgment.
I left IBM soon enough. For a while then, I tried to still “be in touch” with SS, but I couldn’t ‘figure’ out his eccentric emails. (I have a problem with figures, I see). We fought. Enough, I thought, and mentally clicked “delete” on SS in 2007 or so. So easy, right? Then, in 2008, SS emailed me:
Any way do keep in touch if you think we can be friends past some of my difficult ways of the past. I would like to be nice and peaceful with you and exchange lots of ideas, talk of books etc. I do hope you respond.
I didn’t respond to that. I never did.
It was that email that popped up a few weeks ago in my clearing frenzy. I stared at it. Someone had tried to mend ways, reaching out to me 12 years ago, and I had ignored it. For whatever reasons.
My mind went back to all the people who have done that since to me.
- Another girl from the same IBM gang: 2011 and 2018.
- A girl from Bosch: 2017
- A bunch of assorted guys: 2006-continuing
- A girl from Chennai: 2019 (This last, I thought, was most unforgivable since I thought I had written the world’s most beautiful email last year to her. Ha! My pride was shattered by the non-response to that).
See the pattern? No. I don’t think it’s karma because I don’t look at that beautiful law as retribution. But these were messages from the Universe. In each of those instances, I had felt humiliated, rejected, and deeply hurt when they chose to not respond. Their silence burnt screams within me. I had written pretty much the same email to these people – messages of reconciliation, forgiveness, and closure. I received nothing in return—just the tenuous bare walls of contemptuous silence.
And here I am staring at one of my mistakes magnified in Arial 12 on a 15″ screen. This is what I had done too to someone else.
12 years ago.
I gulped. Took a deep breath and clicked on reply. I sent a hasty email. See the irony in that? I then tried frantically to find SS on social media. But no. He was simply untraceable. I went through paroxysms of anxiety. What if he wasn’t even alive? What if I was too late?
But. 24 hours later, I got a response.
A warm, kind response.
You don’t have to be sorry for not responding sooner or around the time I sent you this email 12 years back. I am not in IBM anymore. Nevertheless, it is wonderful to hear from you.
Just like that, I smiled. I thought I was foolish in sending a reply 12 years later. But SS’s beautiful response showed me that it wasn’t so foolish. Since then, SS sends me snippets that fill my days with warmth.
So don’t stop caring for people, and like you write, don’t give up on the ones you love.
Be kind to yourself, love yourself intensely
You are indeed fortunate, so never ever doubt that and live your beast life.
It’s a typo that last. But I liked it. And I realize how much I need a beast life. We do.
We need to lead our beast lives. A beast is not anger, but beast is being wild enough and brave enough to do the foolish things. We can lead our beast life when we can tame that beast of pride and ego. We can live our beast life when we tame that beast of time. 12 years, eh? Who cares? Say that freaking sorry. Reach out, if you feel.
It’s never too late to be a beast.
The Chennai girl may have discarded my email last year. But SS gave it life when he told me this:
And your email will remain the most beautiful email ever written