My niece is 4 years old and there is a lot going on in her life already. She came into this world with a life full of adventure and a family of quirky, diverse and multicultural people. In me, she has a 42 years old never married aunt who is nothing like many other woman she’d meet. One who would leave for her, a legacy of living a life without any boundaries of norms and traditions; a life without fear, shame or apologies. On my 42nd birthday, I felt like telling her a few things I learned in my journey so far.

Life is not a project

It is not a series of projects which you take up with a given responsibility and prove how good you are. Life is not a stage where you have to put your best performance. You have to live life, not plan and execute it like a project. When in self doubt, just remember, there is nothing to prove to nobody, including yourself.

Getting educated is not a project

One should be educated in life, but that itself is not the project of your life. The parents should know this and tell their children that going to school or learning is a process but not a project where they have to necessarily beat everyone and be the best.

When you graduate, you get a job but that again is not a project

You need a job for survival, financial independence and personal ambitions. Your job should earn you a living, and make you happy and feel special for being who you are. So you should chose a job / pursue a career that would be a part of your identity instead of following a given career path, because you have to prove something. Even if you can’t find a job that you love so you are forced to do a shitty job because you have to put food on the table, do it without letting anybody including your inner voice tell you that you failed in the project. Putting food on the table is a process, a part of life, but not the project of your life.

Your job, whether shitty or not, do not define who you are.

Next is marriage

You may feel it’s time to get married, because everybody gets married around this time, and so you find someone to fall in love. You manufacture love. Or you get into an arranged marriage but remember, marriage is not a project. You don’t have to be the best wife or best daughter in law. You don’t have to prove anything to the world by marrying a particular man. Your marriage is not a project which you have to build with some special features and have to show to the world as your flagship.

If you want, you can wait for love. If you wish, you may not marry at all. Whatever you do, remember, nothing is a failure or a success. It is just life. Live it.

Motherhood is not a project

You give birth, you do your best to raise your kids, but you don’t have to prove any point to anybody, not even to your children. Remember, if you take motherhood as a project, and try to be the best mother, you may fail. Because projects often fail, as much as they succeed. But if it’s just about experiencing motherhood, if it is something you do together with your children, you will laugh a little and cry a little but you will never feel like you failed.

Experiences and not projects

Projects have beginning and ending. Projects have success and failure. Life is about experiences with no beginning or ending. Life is about evolving. Education, jobs, marriage, parenthood, friends, socialization – these are things we do, because this is the usual things people do. Some of us may find something rare and unique to do or live life differently than others. Which is great, but again, being different or unique is not a project. Don’t wake up everyday thinking I am not unique, I am not doing something rare, I have to go out there and find something radically different to make my niche identity. If that’s what you are thinking, you are looking for a project, not unique experiences that may come your way.

Life is about living, making mistakes, but don’t try to prevent mistakes, not of yours or others

Life is about living. Live it well, live with happiness, never compromise on your dreams and desires for sake of a self chosen project. Live your life well, let others live it well. Let everybody make mistakes. If they hurt you, leave them, move on. Let the people you value make their own mistakes and watch their back. Hold them if they fall but do not try to change anything by imposing your wisdom upon others. Do not presume stupid people need smart people’s advice. They don’t. What people need is information, assurance, love, trust and freedom. Advise never. Mistakes cannot be prevented. Not in life. In projects yes, you can make a foolproof plan, have a plan A and a plan B, but life is about the mistakes.

Finally, if you fail in one project, you don’t have to compensate for it by excelling in other projects. Don’t pick up projects, pick up experiences.

~Sanjukta, 42, never married, never been a mother, don’t have a job, no property, no house, no bank balance, no mortgage, an old car, a failed project, a successful experiment, and a great life.