2017: Gratitude and Growth

I walked into 2017 with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. Having just graduated from university, stepping out into a world filled with uncertainties was exhilarating and intimidating at the same time. Exhilarating because these uncertainties meant that I could carve out a path for myself. Intimidating because navigating this path means I would have to experience setbacks, failures, and make hard choices.

As 2017 came to a close, I reflected on the values I learnt and carried with me through the year; gratitude and growth emerged naturally and clearly.

I am grateful that my bosses took a chance on a History major with no film background. It was my dream job and the only job I applied. Becoming a producer with little experience was scary, but this steep learning curve meant that I was given an enormous room to grow. I was a researcher for a documentary for National Geographic, I wrote various pitches for potential shows, I conducted a business analysis on a possible business opportunity, I was a production assistant on set, and I am currently an assistant story producer for a documentary we are working on for Discovery. Stepping into different roles and working my way through them made me uncomfortable every step of the way, but I grew because it was hard, not in spite of it.

I helmed my first community project this year. A good friend of mine had approached me to collaborate and asked if I could produce an inspirational shortform documentary on low-income families in our country where their children have defied the odds and excelled academically in school. I was reluctant at first because of my tight work schedule, but I took it on for my friend. I am grateful I did. The process of producing this documentary allowed me to learn much more from the families than I gave — about love, sacrifices, hope, resilience and gratitude. I learnt to take ownership of a project — sowing the seed of an idea to seeing it flourish at the end with the final product. I felt pride towards our work because it was not accomplished for money, but social good. And from that precious experience, I resolved to do at least one community project every year from here on now.

I started learning Brazilian Jiu-jitsu this year because I wanted to learn a skill and work on my fitness. I felt, and still feel sometimes, like a fish out of water. As someone who has poor hand-eye coordination and atrocious motor skills, BJJ was a struggle. I would look at my peers who learnt faster and better, and felt demoralised. During a particular period, I missed classes because of fear. I came to realise that my growth in BJJ was not just physical — the techniques I learnt — but personal. The narrative I held about myself as someone who could not excel in sports because of my ineptitude became my identity when I stepped into the gym, and materialised when I sparred badly, or could not nail a move. It dawned upon me towards the end of the year that the solution was actually not to improve my motor skills or hand-eye coordination, but to accept that my learning process takes longer than others, and to shift my narrative from that of ineptitude to possibilities, from “I can’t and never will be able to learn” to “I will do whatever it takes to learn even if it takes longer and I have to work harder”. The shaping of this identity is still an ongoing process but that shift has felt empowering and enabling, and that is the space where growth lies.

In the last few months of the year, I also got to experience a new development in the field of relationships. The gratitude I hold towards this is that it expanded my emotional range and capacity to love and be loved. I encountered depths and breadths of emotions that surprised me. At the same time, it also confronted me with hard choices that I would have to make sometime in the future. I looked upon these hard choices with agony and dread for a while, but I am beginning to see opportunities for growth because the making of hard choices define and show clearly who I am.

Gratitude and growth are values I will continue to carry with me in 2018. I look forward to stretching myself even more this year — physically, mentally, and emotionally. To thrive in unertainty. To hope amidst fear. To be kind, be brave, and breathe.

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