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Not only is today Thanksgiving, but it also so happens to be my birthday. I’ve been overseeing this WordPress blog for nearly five years now. That’s five years of memories, five years of storytelling.

When I look back at the things that I’ve written about, I’m always surprised at how quickly it takes me back to that moment. I think that’s why I love writing so much. It’s one of the closest things you can get to an actual time machine. Photographs and videos may serve the same purpose, but with writing, it’s your own words; your own version of a story that you are telling to yourself and to other people.

This year, and this month in particular, in addition to my five years of WordPress writing, I also celebrate five years of living in New York City. It’s especially meaningful to me because I’ve found this past year to be the most transformative.

When I was in college, I remember watching a documentary in a Psychology class about a study where these Psychologists chose a select group of children and followed up with them every seven years until adulthood in order to examine how much they have changed over time. In science, and in psychology, it’s theorized that we as humans drastically develop every seven years. If that’s true, then I sure am interested to see who I become in my next wave of development.

As I celebrate this five-year milestone, this half decade of living in this city, I also acknowledge how far I’ve come and how much I have changed (and not changed). As of now, there are two things that have drastically changed, but also somehow stayed the same. These things are my job and my boyfriend.

I recently started a new job at the first company that I ever worked for upon graduating college and moving into the city. Similarly, about a year ago, I got back together with the first person that I ever fell in love with.

It’s a curious thing to go back to something of which you are already familiar, yet have a completely different experience.

There’s a quote that I really admire. It goes,

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

In five years, I’ve experienced many things, I’ve met many people, lived in different apartments, had many jobs, encountered great joy and great sadness. And through all this, I have still come back to where I started.

It’s amazing that despite everything that has happened, through so much change, I am inherently the same. Going back to that study that I watched in college, maybe it’s not necessarily the person I am that has changed, but instead, the way I look at life. Maybe, it’s less about the actual changes and more about the maturity through all of it.

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What Matters Most

I write a lot about growing up. That’s because ever since I was little, I’ve always been in such a rush to be older. I remember following my sister and her friends around when I was a kid and I just couldn’t wait to be old enough to hang out with them. Now that I’m older, it’s funny how it works in reverse. As you get older, you want to gain all those years back that you wanted to skip ahead to.

I spend a lot of my time around people of different age groups and it always fascinates me to talk to them about their experiences and hear their opinions on life. And regardless of age, everyone always experiences things at different stages of their lives. Some of us are wise beyond our years and some of us continue to resist maturity.

Now that I am where I am, I’d finally like to slow down and take advantage of the time that I have while I have it.

When you’re younger, it seems like things take so much longer to happen – Getting your license, being able to legally drink, graduating college, finding a job, etc. But once you’ve crossed all of those things off your list, there’s a realization that you start running out of things that you have to wait for in order to happen.

What I’ve learned throughout my twenties so far is that I’m much more capable of distinguishing between the things are a big deal and the things that are not. I’m able to recognize what really matters in life and what I shouldn’t get so worked up about.

After I turned 25, I can’t emphasize enough how much of a significant shift there was in my mindset. After losing love, losing jobs, losing friends, I’m less upset about the losses and more grateful for the gains and the people who are still sticking by my side. I’m realizing that my family is one of the most important of things in my life. I’m realizing that you shouldn’t fight so hard for people who won’t fight for you. I’m realizing that the time you are given is precious and it shouldn’t be wasted on people or things that do not fill you up with joy.

Recently, I keep thinking back to the time when I was in the hospital at the age of 20 and diagnosed with Chrohn’s Disease due to my own self-induced stress. I look back and wonder how and why I allowed myself to get stressed over things that I can hardly even remember to this day.

There’s a certain peace that comes with age and maturity that I’ve truly come to appreciate – And that peace lies within knowing yourself and what you want out of your life. I can now say with full honesty that I’m discovering the kind of person I want to be and the kind of life I want to lead. I thank God for that and I thank the people who are closest to me for supporting all of the decisions I have made leading up to this day.

Stronger than that

So, we’ve all flipped the page on another year and now it’s 2016. Many of us like to completely dismiss the events of the previous year and start anew in hopes that Day 1 out of 365 of the new year will be a fresh start for us – A new beginning. Yes, it’s a new year, but it’s not a completely fresh start. I used to look at New Year’s as an opportunity to put the past behind me and move forward. And of course, that’s what we should all aspire to do. We should move forward and constantly keep moving forward. But I don’t think  that we should dismiss the events of the past.

I haven’t had the smoothest or easiest of years in 2015 and I know that I’m not the only one. I know that, compared to others, I didn’t even have it all that bad. Compared to others, I still have heaps more to be grateful for. I’m not bitter or resentful about the unfortunate things that have happened to me last year or any of the past years. And maybe I am writing this with hindsight bias because at the time, it was much harder during the actual heat of the moment, but looking back now, I know that I could never get to where I am without those moments of defeat. F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” Well, I’m so glad that I never stayed down after all of those moments of defeat.

In 2015, I thought that every obstacle was going to be the one that was going to send me over the edge. In 2014, I thought the same thing. And the same goes for 2013 and 2012. Ever since I graduated college, each year seemed to be getting harder than the last. The thing is, I realize more and more with each passing year that life will just never get easier. I’ll only get stronger. I’ll only get better at handling difficult situations. I’ll learn from the past.

We shouldn’t neglect the events from the past because they have made us who we are today. No matter how tragic or difficult our hardships from the previous years have been, they shouldn’t be in vain. They are milestones and they are a part of us. We shouldn’t dwell on the past, but we should use them as a reminder that we are a lot stronger than we think.