Additional Lessons I learnt by age 36

About one year ago, I wrote an article on 15 lessons I learnt by age 35. It all still rings true, at least to me. However, so much has happened in a year; the pandemic, my move to Canada, finding my way in a new country, falling in and out of love, back to being a full-time employee, to name a few. I believe the lockdown transformed all of us, in one way or the other. I recently turned 36 and below are my additional life lessons acquired.

Imposter syndrome is real

I came across the term imposter syndrome a few years back and while I found it enlightening and certainly true to a degree, I sort of brushed it off as a glorified psychology jargon. I braced a pandemic and started a new life against all odds and when people tried to compliment my courage, I could not appreciate it. In my head, I could have done much more from the circumstances, I felt like an imposter in an unfamiliar territory and that any day I would be called out. Called out for what? I still do not know. I believe imposter syndrome affects a lot of people, whether in a personal or professional setting. Competent people that are doing good for society but beating themselves up for unrealistic expectations. It has got to stop or be dealt with and it starts with me.

Important relationships take work

I love birthdays, not only because I feel extra special, but it allows me to reconnect with friends. Some who used to be a big part of my life, but we lost contact for various reasons. It is not always those who are physically close to you or that have known you the longest that matter most. Sometimes we take for granted those that have been there for us at a different phase of our life or those that we cherish but life gets in the way. On birthdays, I try to catch up with these people with the reminder that no matter where we are, we care for each other. Building or nurturing relationships is a full-time job, but it is never too late to make up for lost time or catch up on your friends’ lives.

Family duties are overrated

In both Asian and western cultures, there is this unspoken foundation that your duty is towards your family and you should support anybody related by blood. You do not really need to attend Sunday lunch or tea at someone’s just for the sake of fulfilling family duties. Yes, you will be seen as unattached or uncaring but if any gathering make you feel drained or like you are comparing achievements’ notes, let it go. There is so much more of life to explore and people to meet instead of forcing yourselves into traditions that were never questioned. Your duty is first to be a good person and not harm anyone, anything else is living up to society’s expectations. Yes, we need to lean on family relations and support each other. But being fed a meal with an expectation of helping out when they need you is emotional blackmail and nothing else.

You can truly learn anything at any age, it is just harder

Recently I started learning how to cycle. It is almost funny that I have to explain myself on why I do not know how to ride a bicycle. It is what it is. Adult learning is tough first and foremost because it is hard to put yourself in ridiculous situations where you have to be utmost humble and fall flat on your face. (thankfully has not literally happened so far). When you are a kid you do not care, you just do it. As an adult, you already fear what can go wrong, because you have felt it before, probably many times. I fear breaking my bones and unless we overcome the fear that hinders our goals, adult learning would seem much harder than it is. Harder but not impossible.

Mental health is as important as physical health

Advocating for mental health has almost become a discipline, especially after so much time indoors. But mental health is precious. Nobody is allowed to disrupt your peace, not your job, not deadlines, not expectations, nothing. We are slowly getting better at setting boundaries and putting our foot down, but we still have a long way to go. Think about it, you will take a sick day off if you feel physical pain or fatigue but will dismiss any overwhelming sensations, feeling extra anxious or just feeling super unproductive.

Chasing happiness is futile

It amazes me how many of us are still chasing happiness, even after a global pandemic forcing us to revalue our priorities. Transitioning to a developed country where the material display of wealth is flagrant, it dawned upon me that a lot more people are still swimming in the quagmire of chasing happiness. I will be happy on my next stimulus check, on my next job, on my next successful relationship, on my next achievement. Strive to make a better world for your loved ones, wake up and aim to inspire people every day, work on your goals but appreciate the little moments. I feel that is a better way to be happy, if not, at least content or peaceful. Embrace suffering as part of the journey. Do not chase anything, let alone happiness.

Love is worth it

In my twenties, I chase dreams and build many memories and experiences. And I am extremely grateful for the storyteller it turned me into. I would not change anything in that chapter. However, I never fully invested in a love story, scared that it would tie me down and chain me to a story that would not be my own. In my thirties, I changed that. Which started with a change in mindset, coming from a very traditional Asian mindset of waiting for love. Romantic relationships are beautiful, but heartbreaks are painful. I see so many people being burnt and swearing off love. But if you do not love, you do not live. Love makes life worthwhile, being disappointed and hiding your heart away is self-protection but it is not allowing you to live and feel emotions; emotions that you might not have felt before. Maybe long-lasting love is a myth, but every love story is a teacher, above all it teaches you how to love yourself and in turn love others more.



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