What makes a life well-lived ?

Just heard of a batch-mate's demise. Really sad news, especially since it came during a phone call to wish another friend for his birthday. Had a college reunion type get together last month. All of us in the age group of 27 - 30 - married, or engaged-about-to-be-married soon. One couple had an eight month old baby. That's the routine, isn't it ? undergrad - grad school - internships-car - jobs - money - gf/bf/arranged meetings - courtship - marriage - house- kid - another kid etc. Just going through life...

But what if life doesn't quite pan out in that order, in quite those timelines ? Life sometimes takes a detour - I've seen people who've chosen alternate careers - stand up, music, non-profit, teaching, you name it. I've also seen people who've chosen or have come into a different personal journey. Some have chosen to travel the world for years. Is one life choice really better than the other ? Will the stable-bank-account-house with picket fence-two-kids person regret not living the travelling carefree life ? Will the vagabond regret not having a home and a partner to come back to ? Who knows ?

And then you have those whom life has decided to bestow something else upon - crippling illnesses, family burdens, and such. Is it really fair to compare within your peer group ? How would you even go about such an endeavour? On the other hand, humans are a social lot, living in communities and societies that make up a part of who we are. Is it realistic to completely do away with peer comparison ? Where does one draw the line between healthy and unhealthy peer pressure ?

And then you have the few batch mates that are no longer with us. Like this one. This wasn't a friend, barely even an acquaintance. It took a few Facebook clicks to place this one. But it doesn't matter - this is someone who shared a unique college experience spanning four years with me. The social group - the shared attributes over the past four years. He was there when BITS student association elected its first woman president, he was there when the IPC (Computer centre) decided to let its students wear footwear inside the lab, he was probably there in the Auditorium, raucously cheering during the Ind vs Aus final of 2003. He graduated, interned somewhere, had a job, was married for less than a year, like most of us in his peer group. And just like that, he is no more.

It really does put life in perspective, days like this. In the final analysis, what makes a life well lived ?

A completely unscientific take on Chemistry...

Husband and I were watching something on TV and chanced on a Jerry Springer outtake - a trans woman having a meltdown. This led us to a discussion of the hows and whys of such a procedure , if you can call it that. How does a man act, feel and gesture like a woman ? Is it an acquired trait, like an accent ? Is it all down to hormones at the end of it ? At the end of it, is it all down to biochemistry ? In that case, can you engineer anyone to act and behave like someone else ?

This led me to think about other things. Like the way we seek a partner. Everyone has thought about this at some point in their lives. Thought about what makes a man and a woman special to each other ? Is it physical chemistry, is it intellectual and emotional compatibility ? Is it humor, is it the ability to laugh and have fun ? What makes a couple tick ?

And then of course, the societal mores. The peer influence, the worry about old age, having kids and such. Every race, every ethnicity has their own peer pressure to deal with, when it comes to relationships and marriage. Even the most liberal ones. After all, late twenties-early thirties is when a majority of people find love, get married, have kids , not necessarily in that order.

What I think it boils down to is this : There is the "you" piece, and then the "us" piece. Both pieces are equally important. Each individual has to go through a personal journey before which they are ready to be an "us". To some that journey is pretty short, they seem to be prepared for it since childhood. To some others, it involves a soul searching journey of meeting and making friends, falling in love, career, money, travel - all of this somehow contribute to getting them to a place of relationship readiness. That is the you piece.

And then there is the us piece - the part where chemistry happens, you both hit it off. All about compatibility and such. Much has been written about why we marry the people we marry - tons of theories about chemical composition, hormones, psychological reasons, sociological, anthropological - you name it. This particular emotion has been the most well-researched topic of modern times, and entire multi-billion dollar film industries depend on it. So I won't comment on this piece, except say the most cliched thing in the book - When it happens , it happens.

So then there is the timing bit - when you both are at that place in your personal journeys where if you meet the right person, you'll give it what it takes - your everything. Right person, right timing. I guess thats what it comes down to.