I’ve recently turned 29.
Just a week before that, I was at the hospital doing a bunch of medical tests for work (ultrasound, ECG, X-ray, stress test and so on) and as I was daydreaming, I overheard the nurse trying to plan an appointment with another patient and that was when I remembered my birthday was coming up.
Every year before this, I would be excited for my birthday. It was never so much about the presents etc but more like YAY, I WAS BORN! so it threw me off guard that:
1. My birthday was just around the corner and I was not excited enough to remember it
2. I WAS TURNING 29!
Maybe it was all the stress, the constant struggle getting through the days with a plastic smile on for a good few months but I was very surprised when the doctors said I have a complete clean bill of health and fitness. Like, really?? After the episodes of insomnia and the binge-eating of KFC about twice a week? The one who has not stepped into a gym for the past 3 years? I am healthy?
A friend of mine said maybe my body has internally somehow adapted to whatever circumstances I was in, where although I would be stressed and worrying, I was still fine. Despite my thoughts, I may have had some sort of intrinsic coping mechanism that helped me survive. On the upside, it made me want to take care of my health better and become more consistent in working out or just walking more, in eating somewhat healthier. It got me thinking about everything that has led me to this point.
How would my younger self view me now? Was I happy? Am I being the person I thought I would be? It was hard to think of what you would want for yourself when you are busy putting out fires. However, there are some things I learned:
1. Anxiety has been a part of me ever since I was young. Whether it was about something as small as having enough change for the parking ticket machine or my conversation with other people, I would worry and analyze every detail endlessly about the worst that could happen and what my contingency plans would be. I did not recognize what it was and though I thought I was normal back then, it’s only been more apparent that I was not completely normal. I often had had panic attacks but somehow, my body had cooperated with me and still does today. Things could actually have been far more worse. Once I recognized what it was, it was easier to breathe, not flip out/beat myself up and feel that things were spiraling out of control. It took being more patient and mindful to help me calm down and slow down for a bit.
2. Let go of the things you cannot control. Gosh, it was really hard to learn this. I would always want to fix things or think hey, maybe I can try a bit more but it ran me ragged when it came to things that I could not control. What people say should not define who you think you are in life, no matter who they are. Do what’s right by you. Some people may say all the most beautiful things in the world, yet you can see if they are truly sincere in their actions. I would often get disappointed and wonder what I did wrong. I would try justifying myself for all my actions, when there was no need to do so. I still do some of these things, but with the amount of practice and tests I have, I don’t lose much sleep over the things and people who don’t matter anymore.
3. Learn about yourself. I know we always try to be the best we can be. There’s something innate in all of us that thinks about it even if we may be lazy, something that drives us to achieve things and behave certain ways but you can’t be the best at everything. As I was trying my best all the time with all the happenings, I would put very little focus on how I felt about those things and it would hit me one day in a huge tidal wave that was hard to not drown in. I am very blessed for my support system, but upon introspection, I wonder why I let myself suffer that way for so long.
I was striving for what I thought were perfect ideals of being the perfect wife, the perfect mother, friend, etc but I went with other people’s definitions of these “perfect ideals”. When it seemed somewhat misaligned, I would think they knew better than me, I either did not know enough or was not good enough. Why did I not care a bit more about myself and why did I base a lot of my worth on whether I would succeed at something? Why was I so hard on myself? I seemed to be doing well, but internally, I felt so hollow. It even showed in my old blog posts that I was so alive with a brimming curiosity and love of life. How sad is that?? Nothing I accomplished seemed good enough so there must have been something wrong with that formula.
I needed to know what was right for me, the kind of mother and wife I want to be, the kind of person I wanted to be. A person I could look at and smile at in the mirror, a person who’s company I could enjoy even when I was alone and someone I could depend on whenever I went through things. Ultimately, I could break my back for others but would I also be able to live with me?
I learned that I need to be more patient with myself. Now, when things seem crazy, I would just stay home for a day and cry cry cry and then continue with things. It has helped me SO MUCH MORE than just pushing on, thinking I was some infallible superwoman and I SHOULD succeed at everything. It’s not wrong to feel like crap and take enough time out for yourself. Just make sure you get back up again.
People have told me I needed to take that time out sometimes for myself and I guess I thought that was a sign of weakness; as though I am unable to cope. I stopped viewing it as if I failed, it meant I was not trying hard enough. What mattered more was maintaining progress, even if it was just a little bit and realizing that even small efforts added up to the big picture.
Going to Singapore helped me reconnect with the inner me. Being back in the all too familiar city not having to worry about anything and simply living in the present did wonders. I hardly spent time on my hand-phone and as I walked around, watched people as they went about their daily lives, I felt alive and free. The world is so much bigger than just my issues and there is so much beauty, so many possibilities it has to offer. It felt a bit melancholic that it has been so long since I last felt that happy without reason. I also felt guilty that I had not been fully present in enjoying life with the people who love me.
4. Realize what values mean most to you. When I went back to Singapore, I was really touched by how my cousins and close friends were so hospitable. I actually got emotional and cried when I saw Mr Grumpy and AK after the trip. I know we are family, but it truly touched me as to how kind they were and how these people who I have grown up with have always not thought less of me. Regardless of my circumstances and decisions. They have been genuine and consistent though I lived so much in my own head, thinking my presence hardly mattered. They would care and give their opinion but would not isolate themselves or look down on me simply because I was different.
That meant the world to me, that I have family I can truly count on and if they are the way that they are, if I have been blessed with great friends, my partner, his family, my daughter and so on, I should care even less about living my life worried about what other people may say or think about me. That is enough validation for me. At the crux, not everyone will understand you or even try; don’t waste your time with such people.
They are like energy vampires that will suck the joy out of your life and always make you second guess yourself. Though they may say they are happy for you, chances are they are not. They may be secretly judging or saying shit about you but have comfort in the fact that this is often because they either don’t have the balls to say it to your face/make something better of their lives. Often, they are too much in their own tiny cocoon and bringing you down helps them feel better. No need to give them such satisfaction.
Be around people who will tell you the truth but will also bring that ray of sunlight with them. Some of the most beautiful people I know with the most beautiful hearts and lives are often those who are positive, go out there and do things and although they fail sometimes, they don’t take it out on others. They live life unconventionally but would stand up for their own values and the things that matter. Funnily enough, they are also the ones people have the most sh*t to say about so really, there is a trend for the haters in the world. There is so much hate in the world, you don’t need that in your own personal space. There is also not enough time in one’s life to live depressed and worrying constantly. Be happy being you and live life with a clear heart and conscience. Take some risks and keep yourself safe and loved through it all. If you are happy with your own life, you won’t spend most of your time hating on others with such fury.
Also, it became more apparent that working hard is important instead of coasting through life. Singaporeans may seem grumpy when you see them walking about, but you would view it differently when you see how hard they work and how they are mindful of a lot of things they do. It may seem a bit “Captain Obvious” but is always inspiring when I see them.
Consider this: How many times have we chosen a seemingly easier path, which ended up biting us in the bum simply because we evaded what seemed like hard work? It takes discomfort to be your own person, to always try and do what is right, it takes change to grow. Although I have had to work a bit harder and it was truly a struggle before, all of that has opened my eyes to the truth that I have survived. Through it all, I learned to appreciate what I have more and what it takes to maintain it all. Through the pains, I have learned how to also relate better to people and AK. A great gift I would not have gotten otherwise.
Regardless of all that I have been through, I still am alive and breathing, my spirit has been renewed and I will be able to go through whatever comes my way. Whether I’d be running/crawling/walking when I get there, I will get to where I want to be eventually. I still have many dreams, but a big one is just wanting to be happier and more comfortable in my own skin. Additionally, I found that listening to myself and doing things based on my own convictions, when I know in my heart it feels right, has also done wonders. This has also helped: using the pause button to stop, digest and think BEFORE I throw myself into something.
No one is completely protected from making mistakes and we probably always will make some mistakes. It is not the end all and be all of things though. If we are honest and patient with ourselves and others, if we own up to it and try to make things better, we will still be better people than we were yesterday. There is a lot of comfort to be taken from that, especially when you look back one day and see how you have changed a lot for the better.
I want to enjoy life more with my loved ones and take on challenges without worrying about having to control absolutely everything. I’d like days with less anxiety and more courage. There is still so much that I want to do and while it took me a while to get to this point, to learn more about myself.
I am excited for the year ahead! ❤