As I sat down at my computer this morning, with a steaming cup of coffee and a couple of granola bars, trying to determine if I felt well enough to attend Dharma service, I realised that in approximately one and a half months 2019 shall be coming to an end, and with it an entire decade. I felt incredibly stunned by this notion. Where the bleeding hell did these last ten years go?
Over the past couple of days, I have seen this meme thing going around on Twitter where people have been sharing all of their accomplishments between 2010 and 2019, yet the full force of the fast approaching 2020s still didn’t process fully through my grey matter. I brushed it off as people getting ahead of the New Year’s celebrations. But after this morning, I feel like I’ve been bitch-slapped into processing how fucking fast time has flew on by for me. I finished my coffee and even tried to write down a list of my own accomplishments in the last decade, only to realise that I haven’t really done much with my life. Then I just felt immeasurably depressed. Yet, the more that I thought about it, the more I pondered: who gets to decide what I have and have not accomplished? How can you really weigh the worth of things you have done or haven’t done in life in such a manner as to ascertain value? How the hell do you even begin to place value on that kind of stuff?
The simple answer is that you can’t, no matter how much we’d like to try, and when we find that things aren’t shaping out to be the way that we had fantasised, it becomes outrageously easy to fall into a dark, uninspired pit that shall haunt us as we embark into the new year and the new decade. So, far today’s self-care post I wanted to chat about expectations that we place on ourselves, and possibly even others around us, and how our achievements don’t have to be these miserable streamers to decorate our futures in sadness and melancholy. Rather let’s look beyond the traditional scope of success and quantify our lives in the moments that brought us the most amount of joy.
When I tried to write up my list this morning, I felt miserable, like I couldn’t stack up against my friends. There were so many people who had finished a long and exhaustive Uni programme, bachelor’s, master’s, and everything in between or beyond. Some folks had gotten married and started families or started travelling. Others had climbed quite a few rungs of the professional ladder, and a few had done almost all of these things. There are even a couple of friends who made their fantastic dreams of becoming published authors come true and have produced multiple books to boot.
How could I compare to any of that? I haven’t finished my degree. I haven’t published shite. I’m not married or interested in having children. I do have a partner whom I love dearly, but we haven’t created any substantial long-term, permanent plans quite yet. I can’t get a job in the traditional sense, so as such, I haven’t been able to climb any steps in that department. The most travelling I’ve ever done is to Seattle. When I take a step back and focus on each individual year of the past decade, my achievements are so nil that I want to sit down in a corner and cry. It feels like an excruciating waste of life. But these aren’t really achievements that would mean much to me in the grand scheme of things anyway (except maybe for the travelling bit), so why am I getting so emotionally decapitated over it?
While there aren’t things that I can show to the world as moments of success on a fancy piece of paper or five, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t accomplished anything in 3,650 days, give or take a few to account for leap years. My battles have been invisible ones. Ghosts that only I can see and acknowledge. Whispers of some of the most exhaustive and challenging eras of my existence. We as a society can place so much stock in the value of what we can see and touch and feel and taste that we forget life is about all of the shite that we can’t do that stuff with, and those aspects shouldn’t be deemed as less valuable or vital as the rest because of it.
Asking the W Questions
I wanted to stop feeling worthless this morning. I wanted to be able to look in the mirror and smile at myself as a person who didn’t merely survive the past decade, but as someone who bloody conquered it. So, in order to do that I had to get a little analytical with myself.
I stared at my messy bed-hair with a legal pad and fountain pen in hand and started to write down questions that popped into my mind.
- Why do I feel so blue?
- Where do I feel lacking in my life?
- What has led me to this precise moment and/or place?
I know that these questions sound deep and philosophical, but they really aren’t. For example, when I asked why I feel so blue, what I’m truly inquiring about is, “Do I feel sad because I didn’t accomplish Goal A or because I don’t have a desire to accomplish Goal A anymore?” One of the things that I tend to do is to confuse my wants and desires in the present time for wants and desires that I may have wanted in the previous decade. We as humans are constantly evolving with each new experience that we undertake, so it’s one hundred percent (100%) natural for our interests, passions, goals, and ambitions to change with us. If we abandon the old ambitions for new ones, does that make us a failure or less worthy as an intelligent blob of the world?
The second question was one I had been wanting to ask myself for a while, but I avoided it like a germ-infested gym sock because I knew it would be too real of an inquiry. Yet, I slapped myself with it this fine (and very crisp) morning. Where do I feel like I’m lacking? Is it with regard to Uni? Work? Relationships? All of the above? None of the above? And why the hell do I feel lacking in those spaces?
School is one that I have been struggling with for a long fucking time. When I was younger, I had this marvellously grand master plan for my education. I was going to graduate from high school early, get into my first-choice Uni, get my degree, get out and get an excellent job. Every Asian kid’s parent’s dream. Aside from graduating early, none of the other things happened. Life sort of exploded out of the ground beneath my feet and took me on a whirlwind for ten years. Most of it was bad, as I was young and very socially inexperienced, which led to many unwise choices. But there were also a few good things too. Because of that detour, however, I have never been able to stop kicking myself for “ruining” my dreams and ambitions. It’s always made me feel like I’m lacking in my existence. When you have loved ones who also like to remind you of these shortcomings and push you to make-up for them before “you’re too old,” or before they die, it can be massively stressful and dehumanising. So, when I saw so many people celebrating their educational and professional milestones, I wanted to become an ostrich as soon as possible.
As far as what has led me to this precise spot and moment in life… Well, I can be a smartarse and say my legs carried me to this chair from my bed after I felt inspired to write this post. Or I can be less of a dick and just say an eccentric accumulation of life experiences. Everything we do has a cause-and-effect chain reaction. As a believer of multiple dimensions, I’m sure there are strands of our lives out there in an array of planes where we are sitting (or standing or dancing or swimming away from a megalodon) in another place and moment. But since I’m not frantically swimming away from a prehistoric, human-chomping sharky, and am instead sitting in my old computer chair in oversized plaid pyjamas with knee-high socks that have dinosaurs in space suits on them, what will I do with my moment and my space?
Tangible versus Intangible
I pointed all of that nonsense about my life out to make this point: the tangible things that I don’t have, like a framed college degree with a coffee stain in the corner, the big, fancy house with the 3.14 kids and the spouse with flowing long-hair (I’ve a thing for long-hair, regardless of gender… sexy), or the best-selling ten-book series about cats chasing government conspiracies (work in progress, seriously)—I have a mountain of intangible things that help me realise how much I have accomplished in the last ten years for myself regardless of what I don’t have.
Ten years ago, I was extremely suicidal. I had no will to live and no faith in a future for myself. I also had many untreated mental health illnesses that contributed to my desires of self-harm. Then one day, thanks to a couple of very caring friends, I contacted a psychologist and decided to try and see what it was all about. Through patience and diligence and a surprising willingness to stop hating myself so damn much, I started to get better. Then one day, quite a few years later, I woke up one morning and realised that I was no longer feeling suicidal. Yes, I still had my bad days on occasion where I wanted to burrow into the ground like a groundhog and ignore life, the universe, and everything in it. But I didn’t want to die or hurt myself. This was my first achievement.
I met my partner a few years ago. She annoyed the hell out of me when we first met because she was the quiet type (which I have no right to bitch about because I’m also rather quiet) and I could never tell if she was enjoying a conversation due to her not using more than four words in a sentence at any given point. Nevertheless, with each day we spent together, sharing our interests and differences, watching films and playing video games, having long and convoluted chats about everything from books to black holes to the plausibility of Resident Evil scenarios to Dragon Ball Z to the fallacies of fundamentalist faiths and much, much more… I became so unbelievably smitten. We have had a bit of an on-off gig for a while because of my terrifying phobia of commitment. But she’s been so understanding and patient with me that this year I took the plunge and made things very serious and quite semi-permanent. I’d be lying if I said my heart didn’t pound with panic at fucking it up all the live-long day, but hey, it’s a start, right? Finding genuine love and a healthy relationship based on equity is another of my achievements of the decade.
Within this decade I also started my blog, which after a few name changes, finally became BiblioNyan. Through a handful of years of awkwardly ranting about books, and then anime, and then Asian cinema, and now mental health, I have somehow amassed over 1,100 followers. My blog even helped me get an invite from a bitching amazing university. Through this blog space I also discovered my love of writing and the feasibility of making a living via becoming a published author one day. While I haven’t published anything yet, all of the other things are extraordinary achievements I never dreamt possible.
I also came out as a Trans Nonbinary human this year who is gay and asexual. That was the most frightening thing I have ever done. The fear of rejection and hatred and bigotry of all sorts was nearly incapacitating, but I owed it to myself to be me in all of its Queer glory. While I’m not great at dealing with confrontation and hatred that is directed at my identity, I also don’t apologise for it or tolerate being treated like trash because of it either. This is a humongously fabulous achievement of the decade!
All of the things I’ve mentioned above have helped to nurture me in a surfeit of ways. These experiences and successes have given me strength of character and spirit, a workaholic work ethic that I cherish dearly, and emotional fortitude. It’s taught me how to be more mature (when I need to be), open-minded of others and the differences between everyone, how to be accepting, empathetic, and respectful of the differences between people, ambitious within a healthy spectrum, how to love myself and all the imperfections that formulate the round little human that is me, and much more.
Value of a Moment
As you can see, my ten years didn’t have traditional successes, and I’m sure there are people out there who feel that what I’ve said are just excuses for not being able to do the other stuff that I wanted at the start of the decade. I kindly disagree with those folx, but it’s their prerogative to hold faith to their ideals. I’m not here to change that. I’m only here to say that if you’re in a similar situation like me, where seeing all the people celebrating grandiose triumphs, to the point that it’s making you doubt your self-worth, please know that those tangible victories aren’t the only ones that can make life fulfilling and vibrantly well-lived. Life experiences and conquering individual challenges are just as, if not more, important for moving forward and for holding on to hope for the best future we can give ourselves.
In these few years, I have also had the pleasure of re-uniting with my parents after being estranged for a long time. Through a lot of tears and laughter and yelling and more tears, we are closer now than we have been since I was a kid. Just last night I visited my mum and she cooked me up one of my favourite meals (dhal, which is an Indian lentil soup¸ with white rice and spicy fried chicken strips). I also sang really old Hindi songs with my Abbu (dad) while he did chores around the house. We picked on my mum and just filled our evening with kind joviality. That entire night is a framed portrait of success in my head and heart because it made me feel so appreciative to be alive with them and to have the chance to experience it.
In 2016, after we adopted Shinobi, I woke up one morning to find her sleeping in the crook of my arm. There was spittle all over her bottom lip and it was kind of gross, but that was the first time I woke up to a cat laying in my arms. She looked so peaceful and that moment made me so proud that we were able to give her a home and save her life.
This year I visited the Uni I wanted to go to. My partner and I walked around the gorgeous campus and took in the scenery, along with the buildings where my classes would have been. While I can’t attend because of my heart conditions, just knowing that I got accepted to this Uni and that my dreams of wanting to go here were not unattainable, brought me to tears. This was a success that I obtained after being rejected by them twice! It’s something I can look back on and find comfort and joy in, particularly during moments of great self-doubt or apprehension.
Sometimes being triumphant in life is simply about the act of living it. Giant, whopping accomplishments are fantastic and magical, but they aren’t the only way to measure your self-worth and they shouldn’t be the only means of building self-confidence or planning a future. Life is jam-packed with all kinds of things that can be drastically changing or revolutionary for us and more often than not, they arrive in the smallest of packages or are found in the tiniest of corners. So, if you’re feeling the End-of-Decade Blues like I was, I want you to take a deep breath, close your eyes, and merely imagine some of the moments in your life in the past ten years that made you smile. A memory, or event, or even an item that made you feel warm and excited and filled with wonder. Guess what? You just thought of a success. Doesn’t matter if it’s getting a promotion, getting a figurine, or experiencing one day where you weren’t depressed, even if only for a short while. They’re all victories. Embrace them, love them, and use them to look to the next decade with hope for many, many more moments, such as those, to come.
Thank you so much for visiting me today! I appreciate your support. I wish you a lovely day ahead.