Evening. Dusk would hint its imminent arrival, readying the sky for sunset. Shadows would lengthen with the darkening of light and in our shared bedroom, my sister and I would take our cue and switch on all the lights, unable to bear even a slight change in the bright light of day.
My mother – a die-hard environmentalist – would despair at the unabashed lack of conscientiousness in her daughters and our evenings would invariably be peppered with anything from gentle lectures on energy saving to irritated scoldings accompanied by the switching off of some of our lights.
“But we’re children of the light” my sister would protest, leaping about in front of my mother hopefully. My mother would roll her eyes and smile at this defence and I would giggle in spite of myself.
The lights stayed off though.
* * *
You may have guessed, that was a number of years ago. My sister and I no longer jump about calling ourselves ‘children of the light’. Not often anyway.
But since then, light has always held a special fascination for me. I don’t know if this happens to anyone else, but different kinds of light tend to act like portals though time and space for me. It could be a distinct memory that I’m visiting, a different location altogether, or just an impression of a bygone time in my life.
That early morning sunlight – bright but mellow, with just the right degree of warmth. The kind that fairly kisses you good morning and makes you just want to bask in it, prolonging that sleepiness but also easing you into a fresh new day. Whenever I am up early enough to encounter it, I’m reminded of early mornings spent at my grandmother’s house – it was the light that flooded her upstairs, where our rooms were. I would skip out in the morning, full of energy, and run to the upstairs living room. Stare out of the window at that massive bow tree and greet it as an old friend, earnestly asking its whispering leaves to share their secrets.
As an aside, it’s strange that, while light should be something you see, to me it’s more intangible than that – it’s more something that I feel.
But I digress. There’s another kind of light – The kind that’s bright; hot, but non-oppressive; coupled with a brilliant blue, cloudless sky. Unusual in the dusty, polluted bustle of Colombo. But on the few days I do feel this kind of light, it makes me think of my university days in Sydney, where everyday was clear and bright and blue; where the sun was strong but invigorating because there was a constant cool breeze taking the edge off the heat. Days I spent roaming around in Victoria Park, or at the cafés of Newtown, or amongst the massive buildings of the city, feeling small but a part of something beautiful, pulsing and alive.
My favorite kind of light, though, is the kind you get during that elusive time of day, just before sunset. It doesn’t stick around for long and is easy to miss, sneakily passing by unannounced and melting into the more glamorous hues of sunset unless you actually look for it. It’s a dark, rich, golden colour and makes everything it touches look strangely unreal and for a precious 15 minutes or so, the world is… magic. Colours are deeper, there’s a funny air expectancy of hanging in the air and it all makes me feel ridiculously like I’m standing on the edge of that forest in Enid Blyton’s Far Away Tree Series, my nerves jangling with anticipation of the next great adventure awaiting me at the top of that fantastical Tree, through the cloudy doorway to the visiting new world.
* * *
It’s when I think about things like this that I realize that there is still quite a large percentage of myself that is very much like a kid. It’s a side to me that I haven’t quite been able to reconcile with this adult world I am living in. A world where I have a job that I suspect I’m not quite right for; where I’m struggling to gain independence from my parents; where I’m (vainly) looking to establish my identity and find my place within various groups of people I interact with; where I’m meant to know what I want out of life and out of love.
But I don’t know.
I am still looking, I am still curious about many things, I still feel like I don’t know even a fraction of the things I should know, I still want to try my hand at a million different things, and my opinions and my own identity still feel half-formed. Living in a society that requires me to have it all figured out by now and to be motivated to achieve set “life goals” (ugh), I feel stifled, unhappy and restless.
I have been told that I lack motivation, but I think that it is just the case that I lack the motivation to follow the didactic manual that society has handed me. I feel as if I have this massive store of passion and energy but still haven’t found the right direction in which to channel it all. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just tired today, fairly wilting with this awful heat. Maybe I’m just lazy. Maybe I’m always dissatisfied because I have a tendency to want life to be more exhilarating than it is. Maybe this is it. Oh God. Maybe I’m just too curious for my own good. Maybe I’ll never know what I want. Maybe I’m just too damn impatient. Maybe I’m afraid to give it a shot because I’ll only have myself to blame if it all blows up in my face. Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe.
This all sounds so tiresomely adolescent. I read through what I’ve just written and groan inwardly.
A crafty ray of sunshine creeps unbidden through the window off to my right and falls over my face. It heats my face like a blush, and the thought makes me smile.
Right now, in this moment, I don’t understand this urgency, this burning need to grow up. I’ll do it in my own time. Five, ten, fifteen years from now, I want to be able to look for that magic light and feel it transport me back into the pages of an Enid Blyton book. I want to giggle with my sister about being a child of the light. I want to remember the precise texture and feel of the light in my grandmother’s house and be comforted by those memories of a time that was happy and simple.
Where’s the need to rush decisions that could change my whole life? I owe myself more than a slip-shod job of it, surely.
My world is a little dark at the moment but eventually I’ll find that switch. Till such time, I’m doing some energy-saving of my own, and am content with the knowledge that I’ll find a place for it and myself soon enough.