Year end has traditionally being a time of much turmoil as I raced against time to see through commitments made earlier, while yearning to drop everything and be still, to find a quiet corner for reflection and to journal my thoughts. What happened very often would be incomplete posts, started when I had a moment which was never quite long enough for me to complete the process. And in my digital journal, you would find many entries reflecting my thoughts on whatever dimension that preoccupied me at that point. Always work-in-progress.
And here I am again, starting on yet another entry, instead of trying to finish one of the earlier ones. And this is because the earlier pieces somehow no longer resonate with me. Something shifted within me, from the time I started the piece of writing till now… This might have been brought on my external events or it could simply be that I changed my mind. In some sense, this struggle to reflect, to coherently express my thoughts and emotions was a key challenge for me in 2017.
Many moments of frustrations I experienced this year stemmed from not being able to get my point across. Yet, it took me a terribly long time (approximately 2-3 months) to realise the problem and to do something about it. Because I have been told so often that I was a good communicator, it honestly did not occur to me that I too could fail at communicating. This was a humbling experience, enabling a breakthrough in my understanding of who I am, and allowed me to work towards being a more effective communicator and to a wider range of audiences. It is a reminder that learning should never stop, even when we think we have become rather good at doing something. And for that, I am embarrassed but thankful.
2017 has also been a year of disappointment as I experienced failures and rejections at work. Learning to accept that work could affect me emotionally, more than I would care to admit, and learning to cope with disappointments and what these disappointments meant were rich learning experiences. While the outcomes were not favourable to my circumstances, they helped to clarify what was truly important to me, what kind of a person I am and would like to be, and how I would like to respond to these outcomes. While the experience wasn’t the most pleasant, I remained thankful for the support I have been given, for God using these occasions to teach me valuable life lessons and reminding me of my true goal in life.
So yes, 2017 has been stressful and this in turn led to many meltdowns and occasions that I felt helpless, out-of-control and somewhat depressed. I began to wonder if there was a point in all that I was striving for, and in the things I was doing. There were times when self-doubt crept in and wreaked havoc with my mind. Thankfully, amidst all these, my family, particularly my four siblings, has been great pillars of strength and encouragement, supporting me as I wrestled to make sense of my inner turmoil. Beyond that, I am equally thankful for these moments, because each ‘battle’ brings greater clarity as to why I do what I do, for work or beyond e.g. in church.
Many of you know that I have been serving (or volunteering, for my non-Christian friends) actively in church for 5 years now. Even having gotten over the fact that churches are less perfect than anyone imagined, it is still hard to work with, accept and genuinely care for people who are rather different from me. Particularly when we clash ideologically. Over the years, I have learnt that there are truly many different ways to Rome and I don’t have to insist on my way, so long as we are indeed going to Rome. The challenge comes when I think we should head to Rome and you think going to Egypt would be better. Fundamental differences that sometimes feel so impossible to work through. And I m still learning, how to manage, how to overcome these challenges.
2017 was also a year of multiple overseas trips for reasons of work, family and church. I counted a total of 8 such trips, including some short getaways with friends. To the point that I dreaded going up a plane and have since consciously avoided going to places that necessitated long-haul flying. While these trips were satisfying each in their own way, they were also exhausting and sometimes frustrating, trying to make sure things go well and that my travel companions’ needs are taken care of. These experiences made me want to travel alone again. It stands as a reminder of the importance of balancing time alone and time in community.
Overall, 2017 has not been too great a year in very many different ways. Yet, it is also an amazing year of receiving help and feeling loved. I have learnt much through the various trials. And while I recognise that my problems are not life-and-death issues, and pale in comparison to what some others might be going through, they remain dark clouds that weighed me down until I learnt how to manage and overcome them. I am also of the view that no problem is too insignificant to be shared. We all need support.
Looking back, I see 2017 as a year of self-discovery and I am thankful for the many lessons learnt, by stepping out and stepping up, through sharing and being vulnerable.
May 2018 be an even better year and see a better me. May I never lose sight of who I am and who I would like to be. 勿忘初心。Stay true, stay real.
P.S. So what is the point of this rambling post? It is my tiny attempt at owning my imperfections and failures, small or big. It is my way too of opening up the space for conversation about our troubles, to start an alternative discourse to the ‘happily ever after’ posts that we see so often on social media.