The 30s have been strange, my friends. Starting off with our favourite pandemic, which really changed the course of how things turned out to be and to an extent defined who I have become today. This year alone has been, well, bizarre. There has been death, destruction, a lot of change with little pops of colour and I don’t honestly think I’ve given myself enough time to think and reflect on it.
So as always, here are a few things I learned this year, in no particular order, which I would like to share with you. Some of them are lessons I have also learnt due to my privilege and lack of financial commitments and responsibilities – prefacing to be transparent.
Time is all we have at the end of the day.
The time with what we do here, what we leave behind and what we would like to be remembered for.
When I wrote here on Monday, I spoke a little on the importance of working within your temptations and capacities. Adding to this, we dwelled slightly on the importance of splurging on occasion. As someone who has always prepared for doom and gloom, this required a certain amount of unlearning. Pre-pandemic, 2022 was the year that Kilimanjaro happened. Since that isn’t happening, I might or might not be spending the budget I was putting together.
It might not be the most financially sound decision, but we’ve all learnt in ways we never anticipated, just how little time we have for ourselves and with others. Use it well, use it wisely.
Having seen a lot of death this year, I have found myself thinking of how I would like to be remembered when I die. Most people are not fortunate enough to hear words of kindness and gratitude when alive and instead have wakes and celebrations thrown in their honour following their death. I want to celebrate life while I’m alive and I want to celebrate those who are with me while they are alive as well. And more often than not it’s the actions of what we do now, while alive that also helps define us p, how we are remembered once we are no longer and the legacy we choose to leave behind.
Preparation helps calm down anxious people.
As a child who grew up at the height of the war, preparation has always been important. Sure, we were safe in Colombo, but that still included occasional curfews and periods of staying in. Later as an adult, I also found out just how much I enjoyed planning, making one too many lists than what’s required and how it calmed my anxious mind. For a similar reason, for example, I enjoy reading the synopsis of a film before watching it so I am better able to absorb what happens and can stay removed from emotion and anxiety. I often feel like life, even for those who live relatively low-key like myself, has a way of throwing you off guard when you least expect it. So wherever possible (like entertainment) it’s best to eliminate the aspect of surprise. Of course, this doesn’t work for everybody but being prepared has always helped calm me down.
Practice kindness and gratitude, always.
This is something I try to inculcate into my life to make it a common practice every day. Last year and one of the previous years, I tried to be more public on this topic of gratitude and encourage people to also share what they were grateful for. While I wasn’t able to successfully capture all of the data because life got in the way, I have definitely gotten better at doing this for myself, reminding myself of all that I have to be grateful for, but there is a long way to go.
Then on kindness. Most of us, also thanks to masks now, do not voice out how we are feeling, what’s on our minds unless asked. Sometimes, even when asked, how many of us answer honestly? Being kind is always a good route to take so there is no need for guesswork. No need to assume how the person in front of you might be doing or what they are feeling. Similar to practising kindness with others, it’s a good time for all of us to be kinder to ourselves.
Reminisce over regret.
Did any of us foresee these things? Were we able to plan for what has become?
As someone who likes to have multiple plans, I once saw myself married at 31, and perhaps travelling the world with my millennial money. But here we are. While I agree that it’s difficult to remove regret completely, as the human tendency leans us towards thinking about what was, what could have been; perhaps it might be helpful to look back on what was and realise that it was a chapter in your life that was necessary. The growth we have achieved today is due to all that took place in the past. It might not be an easy past but most of us, I would like to assume and hope, are in a better place and hopefully, in a happier place.
Next time you catch yourself thinking back to what was, give yourself a moment, take a breath and realise that it’s a time from the past. Onwards and upwards to the future.
Grief is really a strange phenomenon.
This year alone, I have helped out in a particularly higher number of funerals. And no, I don’t mean that as an achievement. I lost my granddad in March 2021 and my grandma in November 2021, the only grandparents I’ve known since I was five.
While my grandparents and I were not super close, my sister and I were the oldest grandchildren and there was this sense of familiarity of having seen them every week, checking up on them, wondering if it rained too much and the river would overflow and once again would there be a flood. Do you know what I mean?
During these funerals, I often catch myself thinking why we don’t get a ‘break’ in between these just so we can process, does that even make sense?
But no, there hasn’t been a break.
We keep going, moving despite the grief and it is now suddenly bigger than us. I have written on grief before and to date, this is one of my favourite videos to watch as well. Looking back at my previous annual reflections, I realise that grief has been a constant ‘reflection’ since 2019 and to be honest, I’m not sure if I even know more than I did then.
Another thought that often crosses my mind at this point is to wonder what the best practices are around grief? What does one do, how do we react, how long are we to grieve for and on the other hand, how do you extend yourself to comfort someone in grief? Who teaches us these things or like many other things in life, do we learn on the job?
It’s okay if you don’t know the next move.
As most of you know, I left my job this year and while I have left and switched jobs before, this is the first time I left with no guaranteed job at hand.
And I was completely okay with that and didn’t freak out.
I mostly and still continue to rely on my savings and my allocated budget for what was to be the Kilimanjaro trip of 2022. Of course, some freelancing happens on and off but besides that, I’m taking one day at a time and not really worrying too much about what’s next. I am also using this time to learn, study and focus on a couple of pet projects that have been on my mind for a while now. I haven’t been able to make great progress with it, but we are getting there slowly.
Prioritise your mental health.
I couldn’t stress this more. This was one of the reasons for me to leave my workplace as well. The pandemic really threw my mental health off-balance. Last year I got on medication because it came to a point that was a little beyond the capacity I can manage. Since April 2021, I have also begun experiencing a series of anxiety-induced panic attacks. Leaving work has allowed me to refocus on my mental health, encourage me to slow down when required and be more present for myself and for others.
Yes, you can do something completely new. Even in your 30s.
As some of you know, I have for most of my adult life been interested in yoga. This year after many months (since 2019 actually) of deciding I finally decided to start my Yoga Teacher Training. I might or might not have been encouraged by a lot of Zoom learning because it doesn’t require a lot of human interaction.
I’m still doing my YTT and boy, it’s among the most difficult things I have chosen to study, haha. Adding to this, a few years ago I decided to try Pilates (because it includes a mat and no shoes) and it seemed like a beautiful workout as well. To my surprise, might be God, Karma, life – please insert the appropriate word -, simultaneous to my leaving, my favourite Pilates studio had called for new instructors and that’s how we are now teaching Pilates. There is a bit more to this story but if you came to this blog post from Instagram and join my classes, thanks so much for showing up, I really do appreciate you! It’s really encouraging to me because I do not come from any athletic background whatsoever.
On the same lines, of doing something new, this year I decided to start writing about personal finance after years of deliberation. I did, and a lot of people seemed to have seen it and well, I guess that’s part of what I do now. While writing is familiar to me, writing about money and managing it is completely new and if anything, I have learnt that disclosure, honesty and transparency really go a long way.
You never stop growing up.
Until the end of this year, I thought I had completed my cycle of growing up. I felt like an adult and have for the most part of my life but I realised that growing up and reaching a supreme level of adulthood is still possible. When crises happen and you step up, through your practices of kindness, gratitude and just showing up by making time, really goes a long way.
With that, I am signing off for 2021. Unsure of what the future holds, unsure of where we would be. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, my friends.
I hope you are safe. I hope you are healthy. I wish you well for 2022. Thank you for reading and for being here.
PS: This is one of my favourite posts to do. I usually start writing it after the first half of the year and bring it to a close a little after my birthday. This year, writing this has been a struggle. I don’t think I was ready for the perspective it brought me, but I am grateful nevertheless. Here is a link if you are interested to read the ones from the previous five years.