In my last post, I shared how I’m a world-class Christmas Grinch, and how I had a hard time getting into the holiday spirit.
This next entry is an attempt to combat my New Year’s funk as well.
THE NEXT YEAR IS JUST A NUMBER
One of the most depressing things about welcoming the New Year for me is coming to terms with getting older. I’m turning 37 this year. Where the hell did the rest of my life go?
The thing is, after my mid-twenties, I kind of ran out of big “typical” milestones to look forward to and everything was just a blur. At least when I was still in college, goals were more or less set and I had a definitive age bracket to accomplish certain things. After that though, everything was just fair game and I was left to figure out what my next steps were.
Before I knew it, I was being “left behind “ by my peers in all aspects of life.
My college barkada are now all accomplished therapists, academes, lawyers, trainers, whatever. And here I am still trying to figure out how to launch my second career as a writer.
The rest of my batch are also starting their own families – the topic of conversation has now evolved from weddings to sending childr en to school. Moe and I in the meantime, after my miscarriage (Part 1 and 2 for your reference), kinda put having a baby in the backburner.
New Year’s for me is another reminder that I’m running out of time.
I was browsing through my favorite psychologist’s notes (Carl Jung) and he mentioned something about treating patients in the “twilight years” of their life. To be honest, the rest of the lecture did not have much of an impact on me because I got caught up in one tiny detail: He categorized those 35 years and above as being in their twilight years.
WTF?!!! Excuse me, but I don’t even remembering reaching my high noon, so how the hell did I skip that and go straight to twilight? Unless Carl Jung is talking about them sparkling ageless vampires, I am deeply offended.
Naturally, this sent me in another my-life-is-wasting-away panic. And as always, whenever I indulge in an all-out melodramatic anxiety attack, the universe activates a small nugget of insight that helps me calm the f*ck down. (I would like to give a shout out to God. Although He gave me a histrionic personality, He also threw in a tiny inner voice that helps me see reason. It’s like having my own mental Pandora’s box).
I realized, why does this all matter? Age, or in this case, a year, is just a number. 2016 isn’t the end of something. And neither is 2017 the beginning. Time is relative.
So what if my biological clock is ticking? So what if I’m competing with tech-savvy milennials for entry-level writing jobs?
If I had kids when my peers had kids, I would be subjecting my baby to the tumultuous adjustments that Moe and I had to go through year after year after year. Maybe we were meant to have children when things are a little bit more settled and more stable. Or maybe we were meant to take care of war-torn orphans like Brangelina. Who knows?
I may be contending with milennials who have a better grasp of SEO’s and all that techy jargon but I’d like to think I bring a certain life perspective in my writing that can only be gained through age and experience. That certainly counts for something, right?
My point is, my timing is not off. I am exactly where I need to be. Rather than focusing on the years passing by, maybe I should focus on my own personal milestones and embrace that I’m paving my own way.
Twilight years be damned.
DOING AWAY WITH RESOLUTIONS
I used to lean into this whole New Year’s resolution business when I was younger. From the mundane goals like (re) learning how to drive to more general attitude changes like becoming more patient, to more ambitious sweeping pronouncements like becoming the next Oprah at 30- I listed them all painstakingly.
I would start the year strong and stick to my list meticulously. But soon, my enthusiasm would wane off and life would get in the way.
So guess what; decades later, I still don’t drive. I still snap at people in the morning when I haven’t had coffee and yosi (quitting smoking was never a part of my resolution ever) and I am nowhere near giving out cars on a whim.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if I haven’t improved. I daresay that 21 year old Pia is much much whinier and much more annoying than mature 36-year old Pia. But the improvements I did see in myself came organically and naturally; not because of a list of resolutions, but because sometime during the year, I encountered experiences or circumstances that provided me an opportunity to improve.
So, although I was never meticulous about keeping everything on my list, I have gained so many practical and internal life skills that I hadn’t thought to put there to begin with.
I may not have learned how to drive, but I now have a hella more practical skills than I would have thought my sheltered self could actually learn. (I have also recently discovered the joys of ride sharing! See, maybe I never drove because the Universe knows there will be traffic and Uber in the future). I’m still unbelievably impatient about the smallest things, but I have learned to be forgiving and understanding of more colossal mistakes. I may not have my Oprah empire – well, I have nothing to compensate for that. But 2 out of 3 isn’t bad.
The thing is, I realized that when you let self-improvements happen slowly, instead of forcing them on yourself by making some list, the effect is more lasting and more long-term. And if you open yourself up to changing with your circumstances, you give the Universe the opportunity to give you something better than what you have imagined for yourself.
Lesson learned: No more beating myself up over foiled resolutions. No more making resolutions to begin with. Instead, I will just open myself up to whatever changes life requires of me.
BEING THANKFUL FOR THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
Every year, I would make a point to round up all the wonderful things that happened in my life – sometimes I’d write about them, sometimes I would just go to our little makeshift altar and say a short thank you prayer. It helps me realize that I am, to borrow a term from the milennials, #blessed.
I had my fair share of things to be grateful for this year. I got my first writing job, I reconnected with old friends and met new ones, we’re making plans for our first legit house, I’m finally accumulating a reader-base that includes a handful of strangers (Strangers guys! Strangers who message me and take the time to email me! How cool is that?)
I’m part Chinese. And we were always taught to believe that New Year is a time to clear the the bad juju to make way for the good ones. In my Facebook feed, I saw a lot of good- riddance- to- everything -bad –in-2016 posts from friends. Time for a fresh start, right?
What I realized a few years back though, is that every year brings in more bad juju. Sometimes, it’s from past issues that were not properly resolved the year before. Or sometimes, you’re totally blindsided by a fresh set of problems.
The thing is, these sucky circumstances serve a purpose. In as much as good events encourage and motivate me to appreciate life, I begrudgingly have to admit that these major and minor tragedies have taught me the best lessons. (I swear to God, the motivation not to run into the situations I found myself in the past few years have pushed me to improve more than my resolution list ever could.)
Strangely, apart from the good and the bad, I’m also grateful for all the in-between, mundane events. I do my best thinking when I get a chance to lie in bed for 5 hours doing nothing. I love boring days because they allow to re-group and to figure crap out.
Bad experiences give me white hair and wrinkles. Good ones make me smug and fat. So I’m grateful for the steady days because it gives me the time to soak everything in.
This year, I choose to be grateful for everything. Because each circumstance has brought about a certain purpose in my life. Everyday, I was given a challenge to help me improve, a blessing to be thankful for or a peaceful time to allow me to make sense of it all.
BEING THANKFUL FOR ME
This is one of those ideas that seemed pretty sensible when it was all just in my head. But, I realized it sounds incredibly narcissistic when written down. I do have a point though.
I’ve said this over, and over. I’m grateful for every person in my life. My family, my friends, my husband- they all keep me sane, (or close to sane) and grounded. They all mean the world to me and I can’t thank them enough. (I’ve thanked them so much that I actually sound like one of those smug, look-at-me-I-have-people-who-love me types.)
But, one of the hard lessons I learned- when my parents passed away and when Moe and I ran into some problems (this happened simultaneously by the way. With both parents. See what I mean about having bad years?)- is that inevitably, you are the only constant in your life. (Disclaimer: I’m not being cynical or angsty. I just can’t find an emoticon that depicts calm and matter-of-fact. They should make one. This entire sentence sounds petulant without one).
The thing is, I’ve always said that I wouldn’t be who I am without my “constants” and that still holds true. But I’ve also come to realize that I’ve never really given myself a pat on the back for all the things I’ve become.
My peeps may have helped me out more than I deserve, but at the end of the day, the best that they can do is to make sure I have the support that I need. I still ultimately call the shots and make my own decisions.
So I gotta start giving credit to myself as well – because despite my bumbling mistakes and my neurotic tendencies – I have managed to make the most of another year.
I am truly, sincerely grateful for all that life has brought me so far. And this includes being grateful for who I was, who I am and who I will turn out to be.
To everyone I’ve encountered this past year – Cheers! Cheers to aging, growing older and setting our own pace. Cheers to all the changes we’ve encountered and all our attempts at self-improvement. Cheers to our alternately, happy, sucky and boring lives . Cheers to all the relationships that we’ve formed, maintained, mended and even broken. And most of all, cheers to us! We all deserve a pat on the back for 2016! Happy New Year!