“I am convinced that most people do not grow up. We find parking spaces and honor our credit cards. We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias. We may act sophisticated and worldly but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we really do.”
― Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter
I always get reminiscent on special occasions, like new milestones, New Year and birthdays, this time I am especially so for reasons that are obvious and others not so much, and to be honest I don’t always pay attention to what year I’m at, what I learned and where I’m heading, because the last 4 years of my life have been relatively stable, they came and went with me standing on safe ground, they were all about learning, growing and basically heading where I am today. Today I turn 22 years old, (in Asian years I turn 16 :p), and this time it’s not the case, this time for me it can’t go unnoticed that I’m turning another year yet it feels like I got more than one year older, and at the same time it feels like it has been way less than a year since the 30th March 2015, since then things went in fast motion, from waiting impatiently to making one of the most crucial decisions in my life, to where I’m at right at this moment, and everything in between, which has been anything but ordinary.
The last time I felt this way I was 17, but for completely different reasons, and the main reason why I’m writing this is to remember what a year felt like, what it took and what it gave to me, and I wish I’d done the same every year since five years ago when my life changed forever. Turning 17 I was literally like the caterpillar that thought the world was coming to an end, ever the cliché example but one that describes that time of my life perfectly, today things are supposedly harder, much harder, I have more responsibilities, more things at stake, I have more things to be afraid of, more bad memories _which comes inevitably the older we get_, more challenges, more things to figure out and much much more, but the difference between now and then, is that now I also have more strength, more confidence, more wisdom, more faith, also more good memories, more reasons to smile, more values, more contentment and the biggest blessing of all; more support.
That is one of the most crucial things that I learned to be grateful for, in the past months I’ve made amazing and real friends, but apart from that I’ve been through situations that made me see what an incredible difference it makes to have a strong support system and friends that treat you as if you were family, I might be in lack of many things that I long for, but I’m blessed enough to say that true friendship is not one of them. The 17 years old me went through hardship alone, which made everything a million times worse, the person I am today will never forget that, and they’re those memories that are the basis of my gratitude today, it is one thing to have something that you’re happy to have, and a whole other thing to have something and knowing what’s like not to have it when you need it the most.
I’m in a better place with yet a long way to go, years ago I would think of my future and picture myself having everything figured out by the time I’m an adult, the truth is, I was yet to call myself an adult until now, and today I’m in the future that I used to think about, and I still don’t know where I belong or what I want in life, but I have a clear well framed image of what I don’t want, of who I don’t want to be, and that image continues to bring me closer and closer to a feeling similar to that of being home. I keep learning new things about myself and what I want to leave behind, and getting a better feel of the things that make me happy and the things that don’t, as you can’t really go far if you don’t truly know who you are.
I’m older but things aren’t clearer, if anything they’re more blurry, like a dream you try to remember with great focus but it goes in vain no matter how hard you try, except that the dream is in this case my future, and it is a question mark that remains unanswered until further notice. This realization used to be terrifying but I got over the initial panic attack that comes with it, and now I’m slowly accepting the fact that there is nothing that I can do about it, not yet anyway.
Another thing that happened to me lately is that I’ve lived through my worst fears, not once, not twice, but countless times, and I lately realized that it’s life’s way of making me stronger and helping me overcome what can only block my growing, they say the best solution to fear is to face whatever you’re afraid of, otherwise your fear will always have a power over you, that is how you learn firsthand that you can survive, that even if you think you’ll die, you actually won’t, and that is a choice that I didn’t have but was imposed on me over and over again until what used to bring me incredible pain didn’t hurt as much anymore, and what used to look like a nightmare is no longer one of my concerns.
And to keep things positive, I’ve also been offered so many great things and opportunities that I didn’t expect nor even ask for, life can be cruel but can also be really good, the last months hold some of the worst and the best days of my life, each one has their own way of looking at things, but one thing is sure, is that no matter how you see life you’ll always find reasons to solidify that vision, if you choose to see it as difficult and unfair you’ll only have more reasons to think that way, but if you choose to acknowledge how blessed you actually might be, to focus on how good life has been to you so far, you’ll ultimately get more of that. That is something that I still need to continuously remind myself of, and it has taught me to keep my thoughts and emotions in check in order to know when I’m being more negative than necessary.
Although not the best but I’m better at blocking away negative thoughts, as one year ago today I was home, I was surrounded by my family and my best friends, everything I loved and needed was in reach and I had less things to worry about, today I’m far from home haven’t seen my family and my best friend in months, and living under more pressure, but it’s okay, I’m not one to focus on what I don’t have or what’s going wrong, at least I try not to, instead I choose to be thankful for the fact that even though my family and friends are not with me, I’m blessed enough knowing they’re okay and healthy, that I get to hear their voices whenever I want, that I can still feel their love and support despite the distance.
Today on my birthday, a day that makes me feel more humbled and blessed than ever because of the love I continue to receive, I wanted to leave a mark of what the last year meant to me, years from now when I think about the time I was 21 I’ll remember that it was the year I graduated from college, the year I moved away from home, the year I met so many different kinds of people in a short time, the year I discovered even more layers of myself and acquired new perspectives, I’ll also remember that my 21st year was full of firsts, and it was then when I learned the hard way to count my blessings and hold on for dear life onto anything that is positive, and I’ll remember that when I was 21 the brave me emerged, that it was then when I became an adult.
I won’t go as far as to say that this marks a new beginning or any of that, tomorrow will be just a regular day, the same as the days after, the thing about change is that you don’t see it until you’re knee deep and it’s already happening, and it isn’t until everything is done and you look back that you realize you’re not the same person anymore. I want to say that I wish a year from now I will have found my way, but I know that everything in this life happens for a reason, just like there is a reason why I haven’t found it yet, and no matter what I wish for, ultimately God knows what’s best for me, that is why I’ve always prayed that he’ll choose for me instead of making me choose (I was never good at that anyway) and so far I have never been disappointed.