Category Archives: Seriously

Full circle

Full circle

I may be 32 now, but I will never outgrow pretty cakes

Today I had lunch with Yiu Lin, whom I met in the early days of my career in publishing, and who over the years has become as good a friend as anyone has ever been to me. Even though this lunch was more for my birthday, I saw it as just another chance to catch up because we’re both always so busy that we only end up seeing each other at social events, and even then it’s difficult to have any kind of real conversation at all.

It was during lunch today, when we were talking about how social media has pretty much obliterated any kind of human appeal left in humans, that Yiu Lin burst out, “I mean, we’re in our thirties now; isn’t it time we grow out of that and let it all go?”

It was that statement, among many many others, that resonated with me because it was exactly what I had been turning around in my own mind leading up to my birthday. Every year, on the 13th, I take a bit of time to really think about everything that has transpired since my previous birthday, and I try to evaluate how much has changed in that one year. And this year, I came to the startling, but quite satisfying, conclusion that turning 32 has brought me full circle.

On this day four years ago, I celebrated my 28th birthday by making the decision to remove everything that was toxic and unnecessary in my life (read: my ex-boyfriend), and in a way, it felt as though I had bought my freedom from the guilt that had kept me chained to a fruitless relationship for so long. I spent the next four years on a roller-coaster of lessons and self-discovery. When I turned 29, I had a fun group of friends, some of whom I have remained very close to, and I had put one mistake aside for another mistake which turned out to be the greatest adventure — and now the best decision — of my life. I welcomed 30 feeling on top of the world as I truly believed that I could be happy, at least for a while, despite the gnawing resentment at having to always come in second to someone else. By the time I hit 31, I had also hit rock-bottom and struggling to lift myself out of the emotional sinkhole I had dug myself into, but also determined not to spend another year allowing my self-worth to be questioned and tested at every turn.

Then last week, I turned 32 and got off that ride to begin a new one. It may be purely coincidental that as soon as I entered my thirties I began to see things in a different light, but if the last two birthdays have taught me anything, it’s to remove all the negative aspects of one’s life, and to recognize, acknowledge and retain the positive. So with this birthday, I’ve not only cast off permanently whatever I’ve had to live without in this past year, but also come out with a profound sense of who I am and what I’m capable of.

If this is what coming full circle entails, then I’ll consider it the buttercream floral wreath on top of a 32-year-old cake.

Eight years later: A decision

Eight years later: A decision
Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia

Those who know me best are aware of what an indecisive person I am. Those who don’t know me well mistake that indecisiveness for flexibility, because my response to most questions and suggestions about what to do, where to go and what to eat will be: “Anything.” The truth is, while I am actually flexible most of the time, I’d really rather not impose my own desires upon other people who may not want to eat the same things or go to the same places as I do.

Those who know me best also know that even after I make a decision to do something or go somewhere, it takes me a long time to actually get around to doing it, because I spend ages after that deliberating the pros and cons. This can be a good or bad thing: by the time I decide to get that $850 pair of Gianvito Rossi shoes, chances are they’re already sold out in my size, but that only drives me to search even harder for another website that still stocks them.

So it took a good hard dose of reality last weekend to make me finally decide to regain control of my life, something I had been slipping in since the dawn of the new year. I had been hemming and hawing on it ever since I knew that door could open if I wanted it to, and then even more so when my friends started giving their wedding heads-up and I knew it would be very bad form to decline. But it was when I realized last weekend that I had been putting my plans — and almost my life — on hold for something that had only ever been a fantasy, however short-lived it may be, that I knew it was time to put myself first.

Because today makes it exactly eight years that I’ve been back in Malaysia — eight years during which I have struggled to find myself, my purpose in life, and some sort of reason for coming back here that would ease the pain of being trapped in a life that was being controlled by others. That struggle ceased somewhat after I found someone who could meet me on my own level and make our lives fit seamlessly together. And when I think of how, two years ago, we made plans to leave this place and build a new life together, away from all our mistakes and regrets, I find it inconceivable that those plans and dreams should die just because we were forced to detour into CrazyTown.

But I believe now, more than ever, that everything happens for a reason, and time is merely an excuse to stall because we’re too cowardly to allow them to happen or to ride the wave when it hits. We were brought together for a reason, and we were torn apart for another reason, and only we know what those reasons are. But if living a life that is not dictated by that most childish and most selfish of phrases, “If you don’t want to be with me, fine, but you can’t be with anyone else”, means having to leave this place and start over somewhere else, then I am prepared to journey as far as reason can take me.

Ripping off the band-aid

Ripping off the band-aid

tattooThis year was the first time in all the years that I’ve been back that I spent Christmas entirely alone. It wasn’t something that I had been looking forward to; indeed, I was downright dreading it, but now that it’s over I realize it was not such a bad thing. In fact, it was probably for the best that I was on my own for Christmas, because it gave me time — a lot of it — to think about my current lot in life and what to do with it in the immediate future.

When someone asked me earlier today how my year had been, my immediate response had been: “Horrifying.” In many ways, it was like getting my latest tattoo: the pain was excruciating throughout all 15 hours, but at some point I let the pain wash over me and just waited for it to be over. So now, especially when I think about everything that has transpired this year, particularly in the last eight and a half months, I realize that my response should have been: “Numbing.”

This was the year I lost the love of my life, the year I learned the price of loving someone too much, and the year I learned to never give so much of myself away again. This was the year that I truly understood what it means to do what makes you happy, because it takes real unhappiness to make you appreciate what makes you happy, and to make you reach out and take that happiness for your own. This was the year that I watched myself morph into something so heinous, so unrecognizable, that there were times when I wanted to give up and walk away just so I could salvage the last of my self-worth.

But no more. If there is one thing these last 10 days have made me realize, it’s that I have to be better than this. I have to be better than someone who allows herself to be put aside time and time again. I will not put myself through these 10 days again, not for another two weeks, not even for another day. I will not enter yet another new year with the curse of the last eight months hanging over my head, and I will not allow the selfish and childish whims of a 47-year-old stalker woman 4,744 miles away to control my life any longer.

As a friend told me, some months ago during the height of my emotional turmoil, “You can either slowly wean it off, or rip off the band-aid. It may seem easier to wean it off, but you’ll be prolonging the inevitable pain. You may not know what will happen once you rip off the band-aid, but whatever does come after that, it’s not this. This pain will be over.”

So come the new year, I will lose something that has been a part of my life, my being, my very soul, for the last two years. But from the ashes of that loss, I will also — hopefully — gain something else that has eluded me for so many years: peace.