For someone who writes for a living now, I sure haven’t done much documenting this last year. So many, many reasons for it. I will start with the first one. For the first time ever, I have had a truly adult year. I grow a little every year, sure. I say the same thing every year, sure! But the number of lessons I learned this year – about myself, about my marriage, about family, work, money and finances, about people in general, about what “home” feels like, what freedom really, truly means to me, about contentment, discontent and happiness, about life being a zero sum game. About feminism. About writing. About the difference between responding and reacting. I always thought I could articulate what I need to when I write. But nearly half of the lessons I learned this year can’t be articulated in words. These lessons have no form or shape. They just have impact on my mind in ways I didn’t know was possible. It wasn’t a bad year, not really. But the high highs and low lows of this year? They are going down in history for changing something inside of me. Maybe that’s what coming of age really is. Not how little or how much you lose your temper, not how much or how little you are willing to be there for others. And definitely not how much or how little you “achieve”. True coming of age comes from a strange kind of self awareness and this shifting of priorities. It comes from a deep need to be there for yourself first. Of needing to balance your own ambitions and needs with those of the people around you who you think need you. As a woman, I am starting to realise just how fine this balance really is. And how easy it is to cross over to the side of forgetting about being true to myself vs the person I need to be in the different relationships that I am part of (except R, who deserves an award for the sanity he brought to to my inner chaos and conflicts, the almost-robotic, no-nonsense straightforwardness he brought to my “I DON’T FUCKING KNOW WHAT I WANT”).
Or maybe, that balance is just harder for someone like me, who thinks too much, loves too deeply, and throws tantrums like a 2 year old whose mother is trying to drag him out of his favourite toy shop. Except my toy shop was the need to find closure on a couple of ongoing themes in my life – motherhood and true, unadulterated freedom to choose selfishness and discontent that comes from drifting further and further away from what may have been an easy, relatable, convenient, and socially acceptable choice.
While I am not going to get into the murky or glorious details of how the year rolled out for me, I need to put down the highlights for posterity.
- 2017 is going to be the year when I became truly self-employed. It wasn’t very hard because things practically fell into my lap. But the year did its bit to reaffirm my belief that if you have been committed, loyal, and reasonably sturdy in your past professional relationships and work, people will remember that no matter how those relationships ended or how long you worked with them. Life will come a full circle, they will give you chance, and it is up to you to say ‘yes’ wholeheartedly and see where it goes. Professionally, 2017 was a mixed bag of amazing surprises with a little bit of impostor syndrome thrown in for good measure. I am working on the latter and I will tell you this – it is harder to overcome it in your mid-30s but you’ve got to keep trying. I know I will.
- 2017 was also the year when I realised that it is rather impractical for me to expect to be everyone’s top priority at all times. Throwing in another syndrome here – the older child syndrome. I was a bit of a people-pleaser and the strong independent type rolled into one and boy did that suck the life out of me.
- It was also the year I dealt with amazing amounts of change-related anxiety and drama. Working from home didn’t help, because it meant that if the internet didn’t work or if the neighbour’s renovation didn’t end at the prescribed time – both major peril here in desh – I was stressed out more than I needed to be. I got over it in bits and pieces, but there is still work to do there. At another time in my life, I would have been stressed out about not being able to put an end to the stress. But not anymore. I am learning to be as forgiving of myself as I have been of others. It is not easy but nothing worth doing ever is.
- 2017 was also the year I made more feminist choices than I ever had before. I told off body shamers instead of shrugging and laughing at the fat jokes directed at me, walked away more often, uttered the word patriarchy way more times than the patriarchs around me would care for, and supported and stood up for more women than I ever have before. 2017 was the year I figured out that while men may not always be the enemies and while I continue to love the the lot of them in my life like I always have, there is nothing wrong or hurtful about pointing out the ways in which they have inadvertantly internalised patriarchy/ gender roles as the absolute truth, even when it doesn’t affect or inconvenience me. It costed me a few showdowns, sure. But they were all well worth it, eventually.
- With the highs and lows of the year, I also figured out that life is fluid. Things change, times change, professions change, life priorities turn on their heads, and expecting life to be youthful and glorious all the time is immature. I also saw that very little is truly in our control. If I have one regret for the year, it is letting my lows come in the way of my daily phone calls with mum. It is far easier for me to dwell on it and let the guilt overtake me. But that’s really pointless. I am making an effort to see her point while I try and say my piece and stay true to myself. It was a year of conflict and I am sure that eventually, something good will come out of it. But I will tell you this – as a child of expectations, it was always hard for me to stand my ground with my parents so I usually resorted to manipulating the truth, giving incomplete information, or just lying through my teeth. But 2017 was the year I realised that mid-30s was old enough to finally, for once, truly stand my ground as an independent adult woman. It may not necessarily have been a pleasant experience, but it was something that needed to be done eventually. I am glad I did that and hopefully, nothing is damaged because of it. It’s mum after all!
2017 had its share of immense highs that had me in a pool of awesomeness. From the baby sister becoming a bride to realising the fluid nature of my personality and life in general but also that of family, I felt more life in my pulse in 2017 that I had these last couple of years.
2017 was when everything changed. And I am glad about all of those small and big changes, significant shifts, and the ability to stay as steady as I could have been in the face of this whirlwind. My hope for 2018? Hopefully more travels and outdoors, a little less conflict, a lot more letting go, and restoring a little normalcy after what has been the year of 14 flights, five family functions and reunions, and the dramatic highs and lows that come with them. I know I could do with some equanimity and peace and some of the coldness of KL days that I had grown to dislike so much. Some balance would be nice, god. Can you please?