Hello, my friends!
It’s time for our annual post. I began drafting this mid-September, and then it was slowly forgotten until days turned to weeks, and before we knew it, we had four more days before the end of the year.
I was reading a recent New York Times newsletter on how we were in the “heart of best-of season right”. The newsletter said, “It’s queue-building season. It’s a playlist-creating… cultural potluck, a time to depart from your peculiar media diet and sample others’ dishes.” – and that’s right, isn’t it? I love looking at what others have gotten up to during this time of the year and trying to understand just how much I have accomplished this year, and then we spiral downwards, haha!
But let’s not lose heart just yet. I want to list down my learnings from 2022. I used to coincide this list with my age, but soon after I was out of my 20s, I realised this was a slightly more challenging task.
These are in no particular order. Of course, these have also been possible due to certain privileges I have (in all transparency).
Allow yourself to be welcome to new experiences.
It’s daunting, isn’t it? Trying out new things? When I was younger, I wanted to bungee jump or skydive. Now though, honestly, I am not sure I would like to do that. I also think of my bones being slightly more brittle and the occasional knee and back pain I get when I strain myself a little more than I am comfortable doing. I’ve realised that the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve strayed away from the fun or the exciting or less familiar. And it wasn’t fear of judgement before anyone threw that at me. I am my own worse critic, and no one can top that. But it’s also settling into the mundane every day and becoming comfortable with the routine. But this year was slightly different. I moved countries, at least temporarily – into the first world! I had to go way out of my comfort zone to meet people and make introductions, not just for dating but also to find work and to continue freelancing. It still is daunting, and I have to recharge in near solitary confinement for extensive periods. Still, it’s also working (I think).
Do something out of the ordinary.
Surprise yourself. Spontaneity and I do not work together in one sentence. I still think I’m not the Sagittarius I was born to be. But what has happened with this welcoming of new experiences and being open to receiving (good) energies, if you may, is that you find yourself in situations your 25-year-old self wouldn’t have thought would be possible. (Just how you cannot believe what – or who – you may have done in your early 20s, haha!) But not want to sound like the next spiritual guru encouraging you to change your life, but if there is anything we have learnt in the last few years, it’s the unpredictability of life, of self and of the plans and goals we aspire to have. So if it’s within your means and you want to do something, go for it. If it goes well, you take it forward, but if it doesn’t, you have something to come back to or fall back on.
And yes, for those who know me, I always say that you cannot miss something you didn’t know. But if this something is solely within your control, then I don’t see what’s stopping you (and again, privilege).
It’s okay to leave and to try again.
Do you know what’s even more difficult than trying out new things? Unlearning that of which you already know. This includes but is not limited to the knowledge you believed to be true, friends you thought would be with you forever and belief systems you held on to because it felt right. The difficulty, I believe, with unlearning things, especially in your 30s, is that these are so ingrained in your everyday day that they’ve become a part of you. So to unlearn is essentially to ask oneself to not be themselves. It’s been difficult this one, I”m not going to lie. It’s a constant learning process, but I think we make little progress every day.
New environments can help (to some extent).
While we all have our own grief and traumas to heal from, I have learnt now that sometimes being physically away from an environment you found to be traumatic can also be helpful – especially for those of us who are better at labelling and helping others navigate their own traumas and grief than trying to work on our own. It’s too soon and early to say if this is all folly and the equivalent of brushing things under the carpet, but perhaps it will be stored and kept safe when we are ready to deal with all that has happened and allow ourselves to heal from the damage caused.
Give yourself time to heal.
On the subject of healing, while physical environments can trigger all sorts of emotions, sometimes time, aided by medication and any other forms of therapy or spiritual offering of your choice can be helpful. This is not to belittle the extent of traumas or grief anyone has faced or to label one as greater than the other. Though if you are anything like me, you need to feel “special” at all times. But with time (and I’ve also been privileged that I have been able to slow down), you can make peace, and though you may not find the answers you are looking for, you might at least find closure.
You don’t need the answers to everything.
Leading to this, and I’m also struggling with this one, friends. I find it difficult when I don’t have questions answered, especially when questions are not in my control. My faith in religion is very questionable. I don’t particularly appreciate leaving things up in the air and waiting for them to be answered by a higher power. But instead, I’m trying to exercise patience. And no, before you ask, it’s not easy. I do consider myself patient in traffic or while using a really old computer, but when I don’t have the answers to questions or uncertainties in my mind, it can be unsettling. But I like to sit with these questions now, give them time, give them thought, and if it’s not within my power to find answers, I save them for another day.
Empathise, but also realise that you alone cannot make a difference.
This is a difficult one, my friends. This year has been a lot. For most of us, it reaffirmed truths we already knew, truths we thought were not true, and facts we learned or read up on. It brought to light the harsh realities we were shielded from as children. Having grown up in a country at war, I always tell people that we weren’t typically “affected by war” and that my experience is starkly different from my peers in the Northern and Eastern provinces. As an adult, I try to make more sense of this, to see how I can not appropriate this narrative but try to often understand if it made a difference to the way I was raised, what I was taught or shown as a child. But in 2022, it brought out a new line of thinking to all we believed was true. I still find it slightly difficult to articulate in words without bringing in the deep emotion (and tears) that stirs up every time I talk about it, and also because of censorship. I wrote something along those lines over here, a post I hadn’t revisited until now.
Having said that, practice empathy wherever possible. If it’s not possible, do not engage. It’s not to be politically correct, but maybe we are not able to understand or make sense of the suffering of another, and that’s okay. Be kind if you cannot empathise. And please, I am telling you just as much as I am telling myself, don’t be disheartened if things don’t work out. Systems don’t change overnight, and there would still be a lot of injustice and horrors in the everyday world that doesn’t sit right with you. Do what you can do. Do what is within your means. Your actions count; your actions matter. It might not change everyone, but it might change just one.
Take care of your favourite people.
Suppose I had to guess my love languages. In that case, I know that they are acts of service and giving gifts – I think it’s receiving gifts, but I will take some literary ownership of my version. I know it’s not just me; our circles are becoming smaller. Either people are dying, leaving for new environments, and life gets in the way, and you don’t keep in touch, or you stop speaking for other reasons. This year, having found where I am now, I have become a little more possessive of my few favourite people, a trait I’m not used to. I want to take care of them, spoil them and ensure that for a short while we are all here, they are reassured that they are loved.
If it’s within your means, please give more.
This year was also a year of generosity. I’ve seen people give and donate before especially since the start of COVID-19, but I don’t think I’ve seen it to this extent under these circumstances. I have also learnt that you don’t have to only “give” financially. Do so if you have skills or time you can give or volunteer. We are always a little better off than someone else. While some luxury is always appreciated and looked forward to, it’s also important to remember that there is always enough to go around.
Learn to give and not expect.
One of the main reasons most people end up really upset is because of expectations. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have expectations, but even if we did, we should not try to wait for them to materialise. It’s okay if our expectations don’t come to life. When you give your time, money or even yourself in a relationship, expect nothing. That would leave most of us with fewer disappointments. If you give with all the goodness in your heart, know that it will come back to you, if not now, definitely later.
Yes, that things can get better?
I had to rephrase this one because I’m still trying to find my peace with this one. I know that things can get better, even when it’s bleak, and the situations in front of you make no sense. Maybe as I wrote earlier, we need time to understand and grasp why things are the way they are, and that’s when you find closure. But work towards the good. Be kind; hopefully, it will find its way back to you.
And with that, I hope to see you in the new year. I don’t know what is there in store for us. I hope it’s good. I hope it’s kind. I hope you are safe, and please know that you are loved.
Thank you for being here, and thank you for reading. Writing these are terribly emotional and cathartic for me. If you want to look at what I’ve written in the last few years, here are a bunch of them.