I typically write something around this time to reflect on the year that’s about to pass, kinda like how one writes a eulogy for someone’s funeral. Now, eulogies are usually written in praise of the dead because no one wants to be the asshole who speaks ill of the former, even though the dead person might, in fact, be a royal asshole.
Well, 2017 WAS in fact, a royal asshole of a year. For those who surf, have you ever experienced being wiped out, tossed around under the waves and thrown to the other end of the shore? And then expected to stand up, smile and say it was an awesome experience even though you were bruised all over and crying inside? Yeah that’s what it felt like, all year.
But through all these I learnt some things, and maybe, hopefully you will find it useful too:
- Be kind. Everyone is fighting battles you know nothing about. You will never know how much it means to the other person even when it means little to you. But be kind most of all to yourself, especially if like me, you are your own harshest critic. Forgive yourself. Love yourself. Be gentle with yourself. And tell yourself that this too shall pass, and everything will be OK. Someday, if not today.
- Be OK with being alone. There will be times you will feel isolated — physically, mentally and emotionally. You will feel no one really understands you, and the ones who do are on the opposite ends of the earth. Your well meaning friends will tell you that you are not alone, but you will still feel utterly and deeply alone, and no one will be able to do anything about it. You will need a hug (or a hundred) and for someone to tell you everything will be OK. Sometimes, no one will be there when you need it the most, and you will have to be OK with that too.
- Be honest. Look truth in the face and stop making excuses, for yourself or for someone else. You might make excuses to make yourself feel better, that someone chose not to be with you because they live thousands of miles away, or that someone didn’t respond because they were too busy. But the truth is that they just didn’t want to. Because people do everything in their power to make something happen if they really want it.
- Be open. Listen to new ideas, learn new things and try to see the value of everything, even though your inner sceptic is laughing her ass off. Sometimes your inner sceptic is wrong, because she is viewing things from a limited perspective. Just like people do in improv, just run with it and see where it goes. Sometimes it leads to a dead end, and sometimes it leads Alice down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. Try everything.
- Be generous. Give what you can, be it time, love, understanding, money, food, spirit, joy, help in any form, etc. Don’t expect someone to give it back. Give cheerfully and freely. It will come back to you, often when you least expect it, in exactly the way and moment you need it.
- Be real. People have told me all kinds of things this year. That I should be more this, or that, or some “better” version of me that they think I should be. You know whose opinion matters the most? Yours. Don’t let other people’s perceptions, expectations or opinions of you define you or dictate your directions, behaviours and emotions. Stay the fucking course. Your vibe will attract your tribe. Beautiful authentic souls always find a way towards each other. Like Dr Seuss said, be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
- Be human. People often make the mistake of taking pride in being logical. I know, because I was one of them. This is because society often equates emotional with “crazy”, when people don’t know to deal with someone else’s emotions. It’s OK to be emotional, because being emotional means being happy as well as sad, excited as well as disappointed, and it is not a negative thing to be at all. It’s called being human. It’s also OK to be logical, it just means you can see the different steps that lead to a solution/conclusion. But we already have computers to do that for us, and that’s what an algorithm really means. I sometimes view it as a mathematical Hegelian dialectic but that’s just me. Be creative, and take pride in free association. That’s our edge over computers. Read Sapiens to understand this.
- Be vulnerable. My mother always taught me that showing emotion was a weakness. So for most of my life, I always tried to be “strong” by behaving like I was OK, even when I was really hurt/sad/disappointed. I learnt this year that being vulnerable is one of the strongest things I can be. Putting aside all your pride, saying how you really feel, then crying together and arriving at a new understanding of each other is an amazing experience. It’s easy to close up and say, fuck this, people suck and I don’t believe in loyalty/love/honesty/<insert idealistic belief> anymore. It’s much harder to reach out and tell someone you need help. But good people will come along and take care of you. Let them. Trust them. Love them back. But let them fucking earn it over time. And on that note ……
- Be patient. Here I paraphrase Ecclesiastes 3:11; everything is made beautiful in its own time. And in the meantime, please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. And last but not least ……
- Be thankful. For the people who check in on you. For the people who cook for and feed you. For the people who sit silently beside you and listen to you. For the people who hold you while you cry your heart out. For the people who tell you that you are amazing even when you feel anything but. For small luxuries like the time and space to take long quiet uninterrupted walks, to finish books, to sit in bathtubs and listen to music, to travel, to reflect, to run, to live, to dream and to love.
I hope 2018 will be a better year for all of us. :)