It’s the last Wednesday of the year and only five more days till 2018 comes to a close. And if I’ve learnt anything these last 22 years, it’s that hearts tend to get heavy around this time.
Now that Christmas is over, people will soon be accepting invitations to see the fireworks and engineering plans to stand next to the person they want to kiss at midnight. There’s something about the closing of a chapter that make us reflect and reminisce on the year that’s gone by. We wave goodbye at memories that’s been made, make lofty plans for the year ahead, and set massive goals as New Year’s Resolutions.
A few years ago, I remember standing in a park with friends on New Year’s Eve and looking up expectantly at the night sky. There was excited chatter as we waited for the fireworks to signify the start of the new year and a hopeful expectation lingered in the air for the year to come. But when the balls of light exploded in the dark sky and friends around me started cheering and pairing off, I remember feeling unsettled. A heaviness sat on my chest and as the buzz from the alcohol wore off, the questions began to flood my mind: What have I accomplished? What’s going to happen next year? Who will I meet and where will I go?
In a world where we’re constantly projecting our highlights online, I hope you know that it’s normal to feel anxious when the year comes to a close. It’s normal to feel scared and uncertain about what the next year is going to bring. It’s ok if you still feel lonely and like nothing’s changed even after the clock’s struck midnight.
As we slowly wandered back into the house and continued with the festivities, I wondered if there was something wrong with me for not enjoying the night. For not feeling giddy with excitement about the new year and all the transformation I hoped it would bring me. For feeling lonely and hoping that next New Year’s Eve, things would be different somehow.
I think most of us feel more anxious around this time than we’re willing to admit. We look back at our year and see all the things we failed to achieve and all of the bucket list goals we didn’t accomplish. We mourn the death of New Year’s Resolutions that never survived past the second week of January and we ache for the fantasies that have yet to pass.
It’s the last Wednesday of the year and only 5 more days till 2018 comes to a close. And if I’ve learnt anything after 22 holiday seasons, it’s that it’s ok if your year didn’t go as planned. It’s ok if you didn’t hit the all the milestones you wanted or if you didn’t meet the person you’ve been waiting on for a long time. Maybe you didn’t get the job you wanted or maybe you’re frustrated about not being ‘there’ yet. You aren’t the only one who’s ever mourned the dreams that have failed to arrive.
My mentor recently told me that I should acknowledge myself first. That I should give myself credit for all the things I’ve accomplished and all the milestones I did reach- no matter how small. Too often, we fail to acknowledge all the hard work, bravery and effort it took to initially step forward and achieve something. We can break out the confetti all day when someone we love takes a baby step forward, but rarely do we celebrate ourselves. Instead, we shove the proverbial trophy – the one we once saw as ‘the ultimate goal’- into a drawer as soon as we get it, and we immediately make plans to achieve the next big thing.
I did that a lot this year.
It took a lot of bravery, courage and talking to people on the phone before I ever created this corner of the internet. It also took a lot of courage to pitch editors and write submissions before I ever got my work published on someone else’s page. Yet as soon as I got an acceptance email, I’d barely give myself a pat on the back before scouring the internet for more opportunities to have my work featured.
“I just want to feel legitimate,” I said to someone who had been published in dozens of reputable publications.
“No amount of bylines will ever fill up the hole inside of you that wants to be seen and heard,” she told me. “Write because it’s what you love to do. Write because there’s something you need to say. Don’t do it for the numbers. Just do it because you can.”
The lesson I learnt that day? That validation shouldn’t stem solely from numbers and accolades, and that sometimes the goal itself is not the point.
Give yourself credit for having the courage to put yourself out there – no matter how many rejections you received. Give yourself credit for daring to try something new. Congratulate yourself on taking risks and acting fearless. We’re all experts in making a list of the things we should fix about ourselves. But listing the things we should celebrate? That’s the golden lesson of this life.
I’m willing to bet that so many of us feel anxious and unsettled because we’re afraid of the year that’s ahead. A new year, a fresh start, a blank slate, is capable of crippling just about anyone. That’s 365 days of things we know nothing about or have no control over. What will happen? Who will I meet? How will it unfold?
I used to believe that my life followed a pattern where I would live out one great year followed by a devastating one. I could trace this pattern all throughout high school where one year would be filled with incredible highs, and the next would involve me picking myself up off the floor. 2017 was far more golden beyond anything I could imagine, so I was waiting for 2018 to tear me up on the inside. I was so fearful that it was going the be the year where the bottom dropped out from beneath my feet and every good thing would crumble.
I was right.
The start of 2018 did buckle my knees and make me drop onto the floor.
But it was also filled with beautiful people and incredible ‘pinch-me-I’m-dreaming’ moments. It was a year filled with redemption, new dreams and a lot of pancakes.
All this to say that this may have been the year where nothing went to plan and you had to pick up all the broken pieces. This may have been the year where you truly tasted failure and the year you mumbled a lot of ‘Get me through this” prayers. But it may also have been the year you learnt how to stand up for yourself and figure out which five people you wanted in your corner. It may be the year you accomplished tiny goals, went a layer deeper with your friendships and laughed till your stomach hurt.
What I now know for sure is that those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.
Your year can contain days that leave you weeping on the bathroom floor. But it can also be filled with moments that leave you closing your eyes and whispering under your breath that you never want to trade this life for anything else.
And after all, isn’t that what life is? A series of mountaintop and valley moments all tied up in one. I don’t think we should ever go into a year expecting it to be full of highs or expecting a bad omen around every corner.
In 5 days, the clock will count down, fireworks will shoot into the sky and it will be a whole new year. I don’t know what 2019 will hold for you. I don’t have any authority to tell you whether it’ll be the year the things you’ve been praying for comes true or if it’ll be another year of hard times and waiting.
What I will say is that each year has its own four seasons. Just like how we cycle through Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring, our year will have seasons filled with warmth from our closest friends, icy stings from rejection that may come our way, and a promise that things always grow back in the Spring.
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