High High Hopes For A Living:: Promises of A New Year

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.

The Wednesday Club

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Fireworks and Feelings: A Note on Celebrating

birthday party sponsored by Kmart

I used to believe that I wasn’t worth celebrating.

As time creeps closer to my birthday, I inevitably feel Slumpy. I’m coining this term as the 8th dwarf in my emotional repertoire. He is the illegitimate love child of Grumpy and Sleepy who is perpetually anxious and likes to sit in the corner leaking tears over his abandonment issues. As the calendar flips closer to December, you can be sure he’ll rock up to the doorstep, dump his baggage in the room and overstay his visit.

Birthdays are synonymous with celebration and nobody ever dreams of giving Slumpy an invitation to the party. But sometimes, despite the best of our abilities, he gate crashes the event. He frets over planning a party because mixing friendship groups from all different walks of life is too stressful. He sows seeds of doubts that make you wonder if anyone will show up and whether they’ll enjoy themselves. Most of all, he makes you question if you’re even worthy of a celebration. 

To his credit, I don’t think Slumpy intends to be such a killjoy. Perhaps he’s even trying to protect us. “Expectation Management,” he’ll probably moan in his defense. When I look back over the years, birthdays always felt like such a disappointment. I wrote last week that a lot of weight tends to get placed on this day. We pile on the expectations for a better year. We wait for it to change us. We set deadlines and declare that this will be the year all our fantasies come true. We hope for the people we love to rally around us.

Most often, my day would end up feeling lackluster. Events would be planned and people wouldn’t make the effort to show up. If they did, the day revolved around them. Irreparable mistakes would happen- the type that hits you when you wake up the next morning and make you feel like although you’re a year older, you’re definitely not wiser. The day would end and something would feel off.  A culmination of disappointing birthdays later,and you can’t blame Slumpy for believing that you aren’t worth showing up for and don’t deserve to be celebrated.

A year ago, he showed up again in the weeks before my 21st birthday. I was studying in England at the time and given free reign to jump from country to country. This sounds like a perfect combination for a birthday,except for the fact that my flatmates and I were slammed with last minute assignments and no one felt up to planning a party. Like a long-awaited heir to the throne,society places 21 on a pedestal and heralds it as the year of adulthood. I had hoped to usher in the year with a bang and alongside the people I loved. Yet, being isolated from my community back home and a frantic rush to finish essays meant nothing special was going to happen this year either.

This sentiment was echoed back to me later that week when my friend’s workmate from Melbourne decided to visit our flat before his travels. Incidentally, it was his birthday the day we met and we were plus ones to a party hosted by the Surf Society. Amongst the cheers and loud music in the background, and drawn together by the fact we didn’t know anyone else, I asked him how his birthday was going.

“It’s…not exactly what I thought it’d be,” he said hesitantly. “I keep waiting to feel different. Like, I know I should be happy to be here and I’m waiting for it to hit me. But it doesn’t feel like a big deal.” The crestfallen expression on his face said it all. Silence hung in the air between us and all I could say was, “I know.”

If you’re anything like me, then you’ve probably spent most of your life waiting on the big things. I used to be all over the idea of grand gestures, like surprise parties or fireworks that light up the sky or intense feelings that slam into you to let you know this person’s ‘the one.’ I’m so expectant of the big things that anything smaller makes me question whether it’s right and I wonder why it always feels like there’s something missing. 

 The problem with always looking up at the sky and waiting for the fireworks is that you miss out on what’s right in front of you. While your head is craned up towards the sky, you miss out on the people that are trying to celebrate you in their own way. You miss out on the magic of a slow burn that promises to keep flickering in the long run. Fireworks and grand gestures are an impressive spectacle, but once they fizz out you’re left with nothing but a dark sky. At the end of the day, I know I’d rather something meaningful that lasts for years to come, than something that only looks glamorous in the moment. The intimate memories created between close friends and the small, but intentional, actions are what imprints itself on your heart in the long run. That’s the golden stuff of life.

For my 21st, there was no huge party, no bar tab and no speeches that dragged on forever. Instead, my flat pulled together to rally around me at the last minute. The guys made an emergency trip to Tesco to buy a decadent cake topped with Maltesers. We laughed over the fact that cigarette lighters had to be held up instead of candles, and a single balloon found at the bottom of a show bag was inflated to celebrate me making it through the first year of my 20’s. Afterwards,we made our way into the city where I learnt how to (unsuccessfully) balance on my first mechanic bull and we danced the night away as fake snow rained down on our heads. It was the night my flatmate met his now girlfriend, and the night I got to see how time is a flimsy measure for the amount of impact we can make on others. It was a rushed, last minute affair, but it was enough. It wasn’t the big party I always imagined. But it ended up being more fulfilling than I ever thought possible.

As much as Slumpy and the rest of the dwarfs want to assert themselves and protect us, we can’t hand over the reigns to them. The story of Snow White is notable for the damsel in distress that has to rely on men and her feelings to save her from the Evil Queen. But sometimes we forget that we are the heroes of our own life and we get to choose what gets the most weight. Truth or Feelings. Fact or fiction.  

Someone once told me that I’ll be celebrated when I no longer feel that desire anymore. I don’t think that’s true. I think you should absolutely desire to be celebrated. You deserve the reminder that it’s not an accident you’re here today. You’re allowed to feel sentimental and all up in your feelings like a Drake song. There are years where it’ll feel eventful and everyone is gathered round for the glitz, glam and sparkle. And there’ll be years where you’ll have to be your own sparkle. The smaller, quieter, years allow you to be your own cheerleader and learn to celebrate yourself. You’re going to have to figure out how to love on and bust out the confetti for yourself before you can ever invite anyone else to do it for you.

Learn to celebrate the small sparks on the ground instead of worshiping the fireworks. Celebrate the grueling but golden process it took for you to get here. Celebrate the fact that despite all the hardships that came your way, you made it through. One day soon, someone’s going to love every bit of the mud that transformed you into who you are today.

All this to say that if a single shred of you has ever wondered whether you are worthy of being celebrated, hear me when I say you are, you are, you are.

Irrespective of who does or doesn’t show up for you, you’re worth celebrating.  Every inch of you is worth breaking out the confetti and silly string for.

Your birthday will undeniably be someone’s favourite day because it’s the day you showed up to the world ready to leave a mark on people’s hearts.

So if no one else has ever made you feel special, know that you are, you are, you are. 


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Need someone to show up for you?

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In just a click, you can look forward to me showing up in your inbox with a sprinkle of confetti and encouragement to make Humpday fly by so you’re closer to dancing on the weekends.  I won’t be like your flaky Tinder date. I’ll show up on time, every time, with insightful conversation, fun stories & a mission to leave you feeling inspired.

So what are you waiting for?

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