This time, it was different.
Coming off the high from the end-of-year holidays always feels like a really tragic come down. But with that parting you take away a sense of hope. There’s always that. This cheeky, almost reckless feeling of abandonment, of shedding whatever unsuccessful attempts of the old year and having all these – sometimes recurring – aspirations for the next twelve months. Some of us never get bored of this repeating pattern, because new beginnings are fun! And some of us look our noses down at the former, moulded in our cynicism and disappointments, and therefore approach each new year with the same begrudging sense of never ending doom; even though on the outside, we have that same hopeful smile mirrored by our counterparts.
I feel like I fall on both ends of that New Years spectrum. Which is basically what I am. A bunch of contradictions. I try to console myself and say, at least I’m not cliched. But then sometimes I so painfully am, that my inner opposing force literally wants to jump off a building from the embarrassing irony of it all. But over the years, I’ve slowly come to love my very complicated self. In fact, this is a new thing I’m doing, not fighting with myself as much, and accepting every positive and negative facet of myself. Trust when I say, that that is not easy in the least, especially being someone who battles depression.
With that said, my Christmas and New Years break was pretty spectacular. I flew home from Bombay to Malaysia for two weeks. A couple of cousins and I were planning a little reunion for our grandma, who hasn’t had a proper Christmas with her grandkids for too long now, so several of us were flying in from all over. Christmas in the tropics, on our most beloved island of Penang, the pearl of the Orient. I’m not kidding, it’s really called that, google it. There’s like twenty two of us grandkids, but almost half of us managed to rock up, and that in itself was pretty great. It definitely was a while since this bunch of us got together, so emotions were running high with total excitement and hungry anticipation for some carefree debauchery. Which in our case would be lots of alcohol.
It was the first time that I had been home on my own terms, and spent time with the people who I really wanted to see. No forced trips to church with a raging hangover, no obligatory luncheons at a crotchety aunt’s. Just real quality time with my grandmother and hours spent catching up with all my cousins. Each one of us knew that this time it was truly special. Because so much time has gone by, but there we were all again – in our twenties, thirties, forties and a couple in their teens – but still feeling like we were kids again. Still laughing but at different jokes now. Every single person had that twinkle of eternal youth reflected in each other’s eyes. That familiar feeling of kinship and childhood and growing pains and trust. We’ve not had that for a while and it felt so unbelievably good to fall into that warm snuggly nest of feels. It was coming home.
We drank and we ate. We danced till the bar closed then made proclamations of doing it all again the coming year. Because this time, we were the ones making the decisions. Not our parents, just us. And it gave us a sense of liberating exhilaration, that we can actually do this again and again, and not get held back by unnecessary generational family drama. This was big. It’s what I’ve always wanted.
We talked and talked and talked. I finally got the opportunity to listen to their stories, and it broke my heart how most of us have just not had it easy in life. Yes, we’re all over the globe and we have our respective partners and careers, there’s even great grand children. But none of us had anything handed to us. We built our lives up with blood, sweat and tears. Lots of tears. And I felt like the one collective mind that enveloped us, invoked in us a relatively calm feeling of rolling waters. With each of us on a different journey through life, having that oneness with these dear ones that I’ve missed so much, just for that one night of innocent frivolity, meant the world to me. Because we were kids again. Happy in our naivety, in our ridiculous dreams of exciting lives, in our humble beginnings. Despite the cynic in me, I do truly believe with every part of me, that we’re all going to be ok. We managed to find our way back and for me, in the most eye-rollingly ironic yet aching bittersweet way, found a big part of myself that I thought I had lost forever.
Grandma had a ball. As did the rest of us, but seeing her all smiles, and telling us her war stories from WW2, and singing us Japanese folk songs they were all made to learn during those times, made my heart expand till my rib age couldn’t hold it in. I got to squeeze my baby bro, who finishes law school in a year, whose grown into such a thoughtful and contemplative man with a head of unruly soft curls. I got to have the most honest, revealing and emotional conversations with cousins I have not seen in many years. The hollowness in my being was struggling to digest all of this happening, after wilfully being lost for a long time. Looking for a sense of belonging every where else because I could just never fit in where I came from. But it’s clear to me now, that I wasn’t the only one feeling that way. With that knowledge, I think this New Year is going to feel very different for me, in a great way.
Here’s to next Christmas.
Our Grandma at eighty seven years of age. Still having the time of her life.