What is Your “Third Thing?”

I was catching up with Girish, an old friend who now lives in the US, over coffee. He mentioned that apart from his consulting work and time with family, he does karate as well as dirty Israeli defense. I gave him a knowing look and mentioned to him that almost every colleague or friend I know seems to be doing something different and new. I keep attributing this to an existential angst that a large number of middle class and upper middle class folks in their mid-40s seem to have. Girish had a name for it… “The Third Thing”…that each one of us should have in our lives apart from our family and work.
I had finally found the catchphrase to describe what our generation is going through at this point in time.
Our parents never had to go through this “third thing” issue and went straight into their 60s and 70s apparently satisfied with their families and work. But now when the time has come for them to slow down, they find that they have missed the boat and don’t have a “third thing” to fall back upon. Our “third thing” (and for some of you there may be “fourth, fifth and more things” as well, depending on the kind of triple type A personalities you are) is what will take us through the next 20-30 years and into our old age.
Girish told me about Ajit, another common friend of ours, who lives in Dombivli and recently completed the Durban Comrade challenge, an 89 km run over a 650 meter incline, in around 11.30 hours. I was astounded. I called Ajit and spoke to him. Ajit has been running since 2004. He has gone from 110 to 75 kg and routinely runs up from Neral to Matheran. For a small-time runner like me, he is next to God. Running is Ajit’s “third thing”.
This “third thing” takes many forms. A friend of mine went and bought a Harley Davidson and now goes on long rides on weekends with other HD owners. Another one has learnt Sanskrit and now teaches the language as well. Yet another friend is preparing for the Mrs. India contest. Someone else has become a fitness freak. One more is into gardening. Another has taken up photography. One friend recently told me that his “third thing” was to get 8 hours of sleep each day, come what may. Many others travel or hike, or trek or whatever. Some have started cooking and others have found religion. And some use Facebook as a surrogate “third thing”, which perhaps is a bit sad!
Many of us have been there and done that. Our career paths are set and it is unlikely that there will be any major change in the next 20 years. There is reasonable money. The children have grown up. And there is a boredom-laden angst, manifesting as a “difficult-to-describe” unease with life and its direction, coupled with questions about our very purpose of being!
While the “third thing” is a way of externalizing this angst, some are reaching into themselves and disrupting their “first thing” and “second thing” as well. This explains the rising divorce rates, sometimes for no reason but that one or both partners have had enough and want to move on. Others are changing jobs and sometimes even professions! And yet others are looking for a “third person”. And irrespective, cutting across-board, alcohol use has increased, in an attempt to blunt the angst and to reduce our ever-increasing vulnerability.
Writing is my “third thing”. What’s yours!

One Comment

  • Jagdish Grewal wrote:

    This is for everyone to emulate the “Third Thing” in our lives.

    Excellent article

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