Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

This post is seemingly several months late, as I turned 24 last May. Birthdays are significant to me, not for the cakes and presents, but rather a reminder of who I am today and how far I have come. Self-reflection is a powerful tool; it keeps your character in check and prevents you from losing your way.

Someone recently asks: “Are you always this happy?” A simple question yet it triggers a train of thought that was impossible to ignore. It is fascinating how the brain works; the ability to generate and retain quadrillion pieces of information, the capability to suppress less pleasant memories, and how a simple action or incident can trigger a ripple effect – connecting unrelated scenarios like a puzzle with all the wrong pieces.

For too long, I am haunted by the ghosts of yesterdays, plagued by the mistakes I have made and so consumed with fears and doubt that I shut myself from the world. It is a combination of all unfortunate circumstances: my feeling of inadequacy coupled with snide remarks and subtle stabs. I make myself so small until one day, the world felt like it was swallowing me whole.

I realised I am no longer that person anymore. I am by no means perfect, but I am now happy, content, comfortable and confident. I have acknowledged my strengths and flaws; something that comes so naturally to others but took me years to achieve. I learn to forgive myself for the mistakes and missed opportunities. People now view me as a high-spirited bubbly person who is never short of a smile and  I no longer feel like I am displaying a public façade.

And for a brief moment, that realisation scares me.

This feeling of knowing my individuality, knowing what makes me me, is so foreign that it takes a while to get accustomed to it. To be able to see the reflection of person that I used to be staring back in the mirror and be okay that she was once there – for all these less pleasant experiences that once crippled me allow me to see the world in a different light.

I am no longer afraid of human connections. Smiling is a great starting point; it breaks down barriers that we unconsciously put up between each other. Much to my surprise, I enjoy talking to people; I am interested to know their life stories and to understand what makes them interesting. Small talks that I used to dread have now become my second nature.

Friendship is a two way street; you give and you take. I still feel the vulnerability when I share something personal, like I am losing a piece of myself. It is scary to trust people again when you had that privilege robbed from you not once, but twice. I am still looking for the perfect balance between privacy and security, but I doubt that it exists. All that is left is a platform of trust.

As absurd as it sounds, I can’t remember the last time I was mad. After receiving countless insult-laced remarks thrown in a jokingly manner over the years, I might have built up a tolerance to it. I accepted the people who do that, and no longer try to find a logical explanation for why people do mean things.  Like all others, I have bad days too, when everything seems to fall out of place,  though they don’t come quite as often anymore. When that happens, I learn a way to cope with it – through music and meditation.

Nobody could imagine the person I was. Perhaps my larger than life attitude is making up for lost time. Perhaps, I just want to make my mark in the world and in the heart of people who I truly care about. Have you ever wondered what would the world be if we no longer existed? Thinking about death put things into perspective though there should be a statute of limitation on grief. A rule book that say it is all right to wake up crying, but only for a month, that it is okay to measure the time they have gone, the way we once measured their birthdays. My heartstrings tug every time I hear about death, not the morbidity of it but rather for the people that were left behind.

In some ways, I am still the same. Being an introvert by nature, I still prefer a little time alone to myself. I still enjoy listening more than talking and I do not mind staying in the shadows, as long as I could feel my presence in the world. I am still afraid of the same things I was when I was young.

Change is neither easy nor immediate; especially if the journey that a person takes is the only one she knows about. Circumstances never change, but I can change the way you react to it. If you believe something hard enough, it becomes the truth, and your perception of the world will change. Because once you figure who you are and what you love about yourself, it all kind of falls into place.

There was a great Native American Indian wisdom about the battle of two wolves inside us all; the good and the bad. One is evil – anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego, while the other is good – joy peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. Everyone is fighting the same battle, and the wolf that wins is the one we feed.

Perhaps I am lucky in a way, for the experiences that mould my character; I didn’t leave my old self behind; I just become a better version of myself and I hope that I could be the change that I want to see in the world. Like the ocean waves, I will appreciate the high and lows that life brings.

4 thoughts on “24

  1. Mabel Kwong says:

    This is such a poetic post, Jill. I love how you acknowledge at the end that you have flaws but at the end of the day, you are a better person because of it. None of us are perfect and have all the answers in the world. In fact, there are probably things in this world and maybe things about ourselves that we may never figure out… Individuality is certainly unique to each and every one of us – we have our own strengths, talents and perceptions, and often we are afraid of being judged by others. Then again, words can only hurt us so much and that is when we let them. When we are positive, there is so much more hope to be felt 🙂

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