Trudging through the final week of 2017, I pondered about how best the year could be summed up. Sure, it was a big year — and perhaps too big a year to completely comprehend: strongman figures said ridiculous things and made ridiculous decisions; textbook ethnic cleansing took place in my regional backyard; various powerful movements emerged (and the momentum for one is picking up speed); some needless wars (and necessary ones) continued being fought; and Mother Nature had her say about how we’ve been treating her.
Closer to home, 2017 was — without a doubt — one of the more challenging years I’ve encountered. However, it was also a year that made me understand the complexity of power and consensus between individuals — not necessarily just between a man and woman, but also between those of the same gender.
Kim was a second-degree acquaintance. She was a year above me at university and we might have crossed paths a number of times at various international history/relations gatherings. I never did interact with her but I had come across her work on Sri Lanka via VICE. I did not know her work spanned across countries/continents until her passing, and I was so inspired by Kim’s fearlessness in seeking out stories in the some of most underreported places in the world.
Her passing made me suddenly feel very aware of my being both female and a writer, and my underestimation and ignorance of the dangers female journalists and writers face when they’re covering stories across the world — be it in foreign countries, war zones, or even within the confines of a professional office.
Many underestimate the belittlement some might feel when they speak to “powerful” men; the overt sexual harrassment some face when covering stories beyond the workplace (and even within it); and the snide remarks one woman might make to another if they judge someone to be using their physical features to get ahead in their careers. Yet, women continue writing and inspiring others to step up and out and I am very proud to have several reporter friends who are fighting the good fight.
Over the next 12 months, I hope to better understand the lives of others by writing more. I want to talk about the unbalanced dynamics individuals face and endure every other day — be it people who are in uneven (and perhaps abusive) relationships; people who are in unpleasant situations at home or at work; people who are judged or shunned for leading “alternative” lives (what’s mainstream and alternative now, anyway?); people who are just doing what they have to do to take care of their loved ones; the list goes on. Many stories from the past (this was one gem I recently found) continue to be left untold, and I hope to do my bit part in discovering more stories and penning them down.
Last but not least, being able to say ‘no’ to people is something I will keep working on (as a wise friend once said, ‘no’ in itself is a complete sentence). Complementing that goal — self-care and self-compassion are some other things I’m going to focus on after a rather eventful 2017. As John Steinbeck wrote: And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.
Happy 2018, everyone.