Happy New Year, everyone!!
2017 was an insane year for me, with the ‘reset’ button pressed for many parts of my life. It included a complete 180-degree turn of events (since 360 just makes a circle, I’m using 180 because that seems like the exact opposite. Let me know if that’s wrong, guys) for my personal and work life, which was also predicated on an overhaul of my love life.
Is that very vague? Yeah, I guess it is. But I’m slowly getting into the groove of writing about my feelings, so cut me some slack, okay? Which leads me to my next point…
What have I done, what have I learned and what are my goals? Honestly, I’m not sure either, but let me attempt to explain with a couple of points below.
That’s probably not what you expected to see, right?
After all, we’re conditioned to always believe that it’ll get better and that all we have to do is wait for the rough patch to blow over, etc etc.
Sorry, guys, but I think that 2017 was the year when it hit the fan for me. Life sucks. In 2017, I got pneumonia (at the sprightly age of 20-fucking-6) and was hospitalised for almost 2 weeks, went through a rough work patch where I cried all the time (details are purposely fuzzy here because I still want to work, kthxbye), and had to face the fact that, when I turned 27 in June, my life was miles away from where I thought I would be, 3 years away from 30.
It sucked. It was tough. (Also, the dumpster fire that was American political news, as well as the sexual assault allegations rocking my favourite industry in the world that bombarded my Facebook feed every single day didn’t help, but I’m far enough away that all I can do is shrug and say ‘Sorry, guys. Wish I could help from my perch here in Singapore, but…I can’t. Good luck!’)
However, what I found comfort in was in the idea that, by having lower expectations of life, it meant that I could stop focusing on the idea that my life would magically get better with time.
Life will not get better simply because you did one right thing today.
I cleaned out my room, cleaned out my life for a week in early 2017, and then spent the next month wondering why my life didn’t suddenly feel better. If I kept talking about the mess in my room hindering my productivity, and then cleaned it, why didn’t I become more productive immediately? What was still wrong?
When I finally got used to the everyday struggle, it got better; Yeah, today I’m still in the hospital because my lung infection got worse, even though I was such a good girl and spent the entire day yesterday getting stabbed by needles and feeling woozy on antibiotics. It didn’t get better. Okay. Today’s another day, then, and it’s about getting through it.
Focus On What Matters
So, how do you get through the general negativity that can permeate your life? I won’t lie, most of my days my feelings can fluctuate wildly between happiness and crying-in-my-closet sadness.
One thing that helps me get off my bed? Figuring out what my focus is. That sounds easy, right? I mean, I wanted to stop being sick. I want to be a writer. I want to be independent. I want to be generally healthy. Sounds straightforward.
It was hard as hell because there are so many minute details that live within those goals.
And it took me until the last quarter of 2017 to realise that, for me, it wasn’t accomplishing those goals that mattered to me. It was the ability to sustain them that mattered. So, instead of ‘I want to write’, it became ‘I want to write every week and become a better writer over time’. Instead of ‘I want to get well again’, it became ‘I want to make sure I don’t waste this day by ensuring that I keep awake (while my body did its thing) for enough hours to finish reading this damn book today.’
See the difference?
It could be very different for you. You could be a student, and your aim is to make it through finals. However, do you want to just complete finals? If that’s the case, the grade doesn’t matter. Your focus will be on the six different alarms that ensure that you get to the exam hall on time. Your friend’s definition of ‘making it through’, though, might mean surviving the hellish week that comes with studying day and night to get their A. That would require ALOT of energy drinks and caffeine, and friends to keep them sane.
By breaking down my goals and dreams into what I wanted out of them, the entire dream and goal became much clearer. And the trashcan that is life, became much easier to handle: looking through the pinhole camera and focusing on what I wanted, helped me to filter out everything else.
Just Do It
Sorry, I had to do it. It’s probably more ironic that my goals aren’t as fitness-related, but…*shrugs*.
When I say ‘just do it’, I don’t mean running that marathon or writing that entire novel, or some huge accomplishment. Just the opposite, actually.
I mean the small things. I love this comic by Sarah Anderson; she explains the importance of small steps in the most beautiful way. And for someone who spent years paralysed by the fear of taking the big steps, taking the small steps made my 2017 so much better.
“Stay Afraid, but do it anyway. — Carrie Fisher”
I was so afraid of writing about my feelings, and writing when I wasn’t immersed in inspiration, but then a loved one told me to just write. “It doesn’t have to be the entire piece. Just start. Just write 100 words.”
And can you believe it: that helped so much.
Because when you stop focusing on the magnitude of the task and just focus on fitting in one tiny piece of the puzzle, you end up finishing an entire jigsaw in the end.
Just do a little bit, and move towards it, even if you’re literally inching towards it. It matters.
Let’s round it up with a fitness-related anecdote so I can justify that Nike logo: I’m not bad at yoga. I’ve done yoga before. And I kept telling people that I wanted to go back into exercise by doing yoga. And then I realised, as with everything else, that my main issue was the follow-through. I went to yoga so sporadically that my yoga package was timing out (not the first time in my life).
So I broke it down into a smaller step. My focus was to do it regularly, right? So I chose the easiest class. It’s so easy that I’ve fallen asleep a couple of times, but it’s a class. And so far, I’ve been doing it for 2 months straight, once a week. Which leads me to my last point…
For other people, doing the easiest class once a week is…nothing. It’s so low that they don’t count it as any sort of movement, let alone regular exercise, but screw them.
I’m so freaking proud of myself. That same loved one (shoutout to Joshua Poh) gave me so much encouragement with just a simple ‘Yay! You turned up, and finished the class! I’m so proud of you!’ that it made me more determined to continue going.
And the point of completing those small steps? It’s so you can give yourself a tiny pat on the back that day.
‘Yay, I wrote those 100 words!’
‘Yay, I finished another book while in my hospital bed!’
And that’s what’s going to keep you going.
Wow, that was a long post. Let’s round it up with a summary, okay? Basically, in 2017, I’ve learned that managing your expectations, finding something you want to focus on, breaking that down into small steps, and then giving yourself props for completing them, is the key. Taa-Daa!
2018 is, then, all about continuing that. 2018 is 2017, seen through a pinhole camera, and I’m sincerely hoping I manage to keep taking that one small step at a time.