I was talking to a professor of dance. We were discussing about how to sustain a life of creativity and whether one can actually teach someone to be an artist. I asked her what she thought was the most important lesson she taught her students. She paused, her crow-feet lined eyes looked immensely sad and said, ‘I try to teach them not to self-sabotage themselves.’ In her voice I could hear the forgotten feet of the students she had lost, the ones who had succeeded in destroying themselves.

 

I think all of us have it. A little element of self-destruction, which we have to be careful to keep under check. For some, it’s small things, like getting into a pattern of constant nagging about buying the milk. For others, it is much more vicious where the games you allow your mind to play gets bigger and more convoluted. If you don’t understand what I mean about getting trapped in circles your mind spins, you are one of the lucky ones and I hope it remains that way.

 

A friend of mine got divorced two years go. She left behind a bitter marriage full of abuse, manipulation and intentional cruelty.

 

Today, it sickens me to see she is in another destructive relationship with someone who from the outside seems just as terrible. She reassures me that, ‘He is not as cruel as P’. It frightens me that in two months she plans to tie the knot again and engage in something that is clearly self-sabotage.

 

Is it the classic syndrome of not being able to see how horrible your situation is because you are in it? I know I have lost years in not facing up to specific problems for I just couldn’t see them. I would vainly try to fix a lot of things that were a reaction to what was wrong and ignore the root of the issue.


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Even today, I don’t know what I am not seeing and what I am. So how do we understand we are in the midst of doing something self-sabotaging? I have a small filter, which is by no means perfect but I would like to share it with you. I do not remember who imparted this little bit of wisdom, but I try to look at everything I do in life through it. My mantra is simple - ‘Never do anything that will harm your craft’

 

For each one of you there is something that is precious. For example, ‘Never do anything that will harm your kid’ or ‘Never do anything that will harm your laughter.’ or ‘Never do anything that will harm your business’. That thing which we value most, has the power to become our north star and guide us to safe shores as we travel through life without a map.

 

 

Still Figuring It Out’ a funny, sad, questioning take on adulthood will appear every Saturday on Asianet Newsable. Arathi Menon is the author of Leaving Home With Half a Fridge, a memoir published by Pan Macmillan. She tweets at here. The views expressed here are her own.