“We’re all mad here.”
– Cheshire Cat, Alice in Wonderland
2016 began with the customary laundry list of resolutions, a charged attitude towards whatever challenges and opportunities the new year may have to offer, moments reminiscing about the good, bad and ugly of 2015 and of course, some scotch on the rocks! As the days began to tick by, I realized that in a matter of months, I would have to bid adieu to the glorious age of 25, and with much zeal welcome my 26th year of survival.
While I am not entirely ready to accept that I will be a year older, I have to, and am wholeheartedly willing to accept the wonderful, ghastly, and transformational lessons that the last quarter and in particular, the last year have taught me. Be warned that all the lessons are about putting yourself first – none of that selfless love stuff – because if you don’t put yourself first, who will?
- Adore your body like it is gold
In my early 20s, I was quite anxious about my body – although I was of slender build, I was always conscious of my thighs being too ordinary or my belly being, well, not model-like. Also, like every other girl, I was told to stay out of the sun lest I lose my colour, or to stop eating too much cheese because I would apparently become too large for my height. This continued for the next four years. However, when I turned 25 I realized that my body is amazing! This realization did not occur overnight; it took a while for me to understand that my body is, for lack of a better word, perfect. I’m not speaking of the perfection, airbrushed or not, that we see on magazine covers and on the internet. I am referring to my body having taken great care of me, survived through the nights of too much spirit and too little sleep, overcoming all physical exertions that I may have put it through, and simply put, being my rock. Also, in terms of appearance, I realized that the more I admire my body, the better it looks. The more I accept its flaws and strengths, the more I take care of it. The less insecure I am, the more confidence my body exudes. The more I love my body, the more it loves me back.
- Pay heed to yourself; you are your own seer
I’ve always had really good hair; all humility aside, I love my tresses and so do my friends. For a long time I was afraid of doing anything to my hair – colouring it, styling it differently and even cutting it short – because I felt that it would ruin my look. Add to this, my friends somehow made me feel, or rather I let them make me feel, that I would not be able to pull off a short hair-cut. One day, I woke up and said ‘Screw this, it’s my hair’; two hours and a couple of hundred bucks later, I had the most amazing hair-do! I loved every bit of it and couldn’t care less as to what anyone else had to say. Year 25 taught me that I know myself best; I need to give more credit to myself and my opinions about me, rather than give weightage to what anyone else has to say about me.
- Believe in yourself as though you are a religion
When I was working as a brand manager of a start-up for a brief period of time, I began to realise my love for writing. I took up a few writing projects on the side that I would work on over the weekends. As the months passed, my work at the start-up became less enjoyable; in fact, I began to hate it. It had to do with several things, but let’s put it this way – I would strike the days off my calendar to celebrate that I had survived another day at the job. When I spoke to the CEO about my wanting to quit, she asked me what my plans were. I responded saying that I wanted to take up some form of writing as a career. To this she said something that kind of shattered my sense of self – I don’t think you can succeed at it; do you think you have what it takes? You may think you like it, but you won’t. It’s not a field for you. This really made me question my passion and my ability, and left my self-confidence immensely wounded. So continued a few more trudging months at the same job, until one day I couldn’t take it anymore. I simply put down my papers, walked out, signed up with a few clients who were looking for content writers and soon, there was no looking back! I learnt, the hard way, that no one is allowed to shake your belief in yourself, including yourself. Your ability and ardour for something is the voice to be listened to. You are a force to reckon with; don’t let anyone make you feel any differently.
- Fall in love with yourself, hard
At 25, I learnt that there in nothing wrong in loving yourself. After years of taking the blame for broken relationships and fall-outs, I slowly started to realise that there are two sides to a coin. I began going easy on myself and easing the burden of guilt – the guilt that stems from owning or taking sole responsibility for anything that may have resulted in a broken heart, a bruised ego or the end of a relationship. I learnt that the responsibility or the burden is not just mine to bear; I began letting go and forgiving myself. Soon, I fell in love with a wonderful, caring and confident person – I fell in love with me. I kid you not; I sometimes walk past a mirror and mentally go ‘Dang, who be dat?’ at my reflection. Loving yourself doesn’t mean being a narcissist; it means accepting yourself for who and what you are, who and what you could be. It means thinking and knowing you are beautiful, even if others may not share your enthusiasm. It means nurturing yourself and your passions, giving flight to your dreams and believing in yourself, even if no one else does; especially if no one else does. You must become your own lover, to let yourself be loved by others. You are a fiery spirit; do not forget to fan the flames.
- Spoil yourself. You’re a queen. And a king.
Indulge yourself once in a while – buy that really expensive clutch or those outrageously priced pumps you’ve been eyeing for months. For a long time, I was against spending too much on myself; I would give that magnificent gown a skip because it cost ‘too much’, or would give myself these really miserable massages because I did not want to ‘waste money’ at a spa. One day on a whim, against all my beliefs, I went and bought myself a ridiculously priced but drop-dead gorgeous tangerine silk dress; when I wore it, I felt beautiful, and I felt pampered. The feeling never quite left me. From then on every month, I save a small amount of my salary and spoil myself with something luxurious. Try it – buy yourself something ultra-glamorous, indulge your taste buds with something decadent and pamper yourself with a breath-taking experience. You will feel glorious and realise that you are worth this and so much more.
- Learn to enjoy your own company
You are the one who knows yourself best. Why is it then that we consider being alone to be a sort of abnormal phenomenon? When someone chooses to stay at home and spend a Friday night reading The Shining, why do people coerce you to come out saying ‘Oh come now, don’t be alone, it’s not nice!’? Or if someone wants to enjoy a nice glass of vino or a couple of drinks of whiskey all by themselves, why do they get the typical ‘Drinking alone is so sad!’? You are spending time with one of the best and most complex people in the world – your best friend, your worst enemy, your confidante, your challenger, your mentor, your strength, your kryptonite, yourself. There is never a dull moment when you are in the company of yourself. You can laugh at things that only you find funny, eat foods that only you love, read books that others just don’t get, binge on that whale documentary that irks some people and dine with the best date ever – you. No reservations, no judgements, no small talks, no fuss. Just you.
- Travel far, travel smart
Travel is as underrated as it is overrated. Of course it is ridiculous to suggest that one should drop all responsibilities and take off to cruise the world simply because travel will broaden one’s horizon. With no resources and possibly a foundation to get back to, what is the point of all the mind-broadening? Add to this the silly notion that money is secondary; how am I going to travel if I have no money? On the other hand, traveling to new places opens up your mind to new possibilities, of a realm beyond the one you’ve grown in and have become familiar with. It is thrilling to explore and imbibe unfamiliar experiences. Therefore, I travel within my means. It may be to the small town at the outskirt, or to another country. 25 has taught me to plan, budget and make the most prudent use of my resources because, while I love to travel, I also love getting home to a soft bed and cotton sheets.
- Hard work has a substitute – smart work
First impressions are a thing of the past; your work is your brand. I have been blessed with the innate need to please myself through working hard – in fact, I’m a tad bit competitive and have this unquenchable need to be the smartest or the best in the room (yes, it is a problem). But it has made me slog my butt off and create a brand for myself. It is perfectly alright to be called a nerd if your academic performance is stellar and your involvement in activities is phenomenal – this is something that you should be proud of and wear on your sleeve. It is more than alright if you work hard and efficiently such that you reach office on time and leave work on time – hard work doesn’t mean clocking in thirteen hours, it means working smartly. At 25, I am grateful to my parents who spent hours nagging me about schoolwork and the importance of good grades and loads of extracurricular activities; without their experienced yet annoying words of wisdom to guide me, I would have probably taken my education for granted and would have ended living off their retirement funds. I am grateful to my first boss who, through his quirks and a rather unique, nonconformist attitude, taught me to challenge myself every day. I am grateful to my brother, who teaches me every day that the true fruits of labour are through touching the lives of those who are less fortunate. I am grateful to the internet for leading me to this quote – Work until you no longer need to introduce yourself.
- Calm the eff down!
As a Type A personality, I am always on the edge. I am constantly stressed, easily irritated and sometimes come across as if on the verge of a psychotic breakdown. I constantly think that there is just too much to be done – too many deadlines to meet, too many projects to deliver, too many casseroles to make, too many books to be read – the list never ends. You know what? The list will never end. This is what year 25 taught me. The list is a long, endless scroll or a voluminous tome filled with things to do, people to please, dreams to fulfil and news to be made. I have also learnt that the list is not going anywhere. It is mine, and it is here to stay. So why the drama? Why the constant battle to keep myself awake when all I want to do is toss my laptop away, curl into a ball and sleep for two days straight? While it has been one of the most challenging things to do, I have learnt or rather, I am learning to take it easy. I am trying to imbibe a bit of Type B into my life by doing things that I enjoy, at my pace – stretching that lunch break an extra fifteen minutes just so I can savour my cup of green tea (yes, I am an antioxidant junkie), sleeping early so I can pack in that quick swim, leaving work a bit early so that I can finish the next season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and giving myself some well-deserved me-time.
- Time heals. It really does
Broken hearts – ah yes, the things that a broken heart can do to you! Want to explore the chilling depth of your emotions, the idiosyncrasies of your mind or get in touch with the dark side of your soul? Get your heart broken. A broken heart will make you feel things that you never thought you could, that you never knew you were capable of feeling. When you get your heart broken, the world fades away. The only thing left if you and the raw pain. Everything freezes and yet, moves on. Simple tasks become gargantuan burdens, and you feel like nothing in the world can fix you. When I went through my more than fair share of broken hearts, the clichéd ‘Time heals all wounds’ seemed like a cruel mockery of my situation. I would cry till I couldn’t breathe and would close myself to any hope that life would get back to normal. Guess what? It does get back to normal. Not today, not tomorrow, and certainly not a month from now; but it does. Time is funny that way, but it is also kind. While pain lets you get in touch with a side of you that you didn’t know you had, Time teaches you things that you never thought you’d learn. It makes you stronger, more immune, more you. You were carbon; Time makes you the diamond you were meant to be. And the broken heart? It heals, leaving behind fleeting memories of days gone by; memories that can sometimes leave you gasping for air. But your heart is ready for a new day, a new journey and a new you. I guess this is the most valuable lesson year 25 has taught me.
Year 25 taught me to laugh like crazy – at myself, with myself, with others, without others. It taught me to love and be loved, to accept, to be accomodating and most importantly, to hope. I wonder what year 26 has in store!