This year, I turn 27. I’ve learnt so many lessons I’m thankful for, and will never trade them for anything. I know a lesson or two awaits us all at every different phase of our lives, these are mine. What’s yours?
1. NO MATTER HOW BROKEN YOU ARE, YOU WILL HEAL There were two relationships in my life, at two very different phases of my life that caused me to doubt any possibility of getting better. But I’m glad I’m standing. Bruised, but standing. No matter how broken you can be, if healing and getting better is what you want for yourself, it will happen.
2. PEOPLE SHOULD CHANGE, BUT SOME DON’T People should change, and they almost always do, for better or worse. But then there are those who’d rather live in the past ways, never intending to move forward – those are the people you have got to leave behind as you progress in life, whether you like it or not. They’ll drown you out at sea, you know.
3. EVERY FAMILY HAS ITS STRUGGLES Mine, included. And I will never take for granted the strength behind families who put aside their differences to hold each other together, to make forgiveness felt within their household, and above all, to love one another all the same regardless of their shortcomings.
4. WORK-LIFE BALANCE SHOULD BE EVERYTHING Having worked for close to six years now, I have realised that the one thing I don’t want to do without is a work-life balance. It is easy to overlook that balance when you’ve got a fat paycheque coming your way every month, but paying your bills is really just as far as your job would go to sustain you. You only start living when your bills are paid, and you have a life beside work to love.
5. IT’S OKAY TO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU WANT IN LIFE Sometimes, we look far and wide trying to figure out what we want in life, failing to see that occasionally it is good enough for us to know what we do not want in life, and take life in all its possibilities, from there.
6. IT MATTERS WHO YOU ARE WITH Friends or partners alike, it matters. They inevitably contribute to who you become, adding and subtracting along the way. The good ones, they build you. The bad ones, they tear you down. I’m not saying you should size up anyone, but it’s good to take a look at the people you spend a lot of your time with and decide if letting go some would do you more good than harm.
7. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE A SPACE TO CALL YOUR OWN Whether it’s a home, or just a room, having a space you can, in my very own words ‘crawl into and die’ makes a difference to a crappy week. Paint it in your favourite colours, and decorate it any way you like it, like I did. It’s where you will go and find sanity in the midst of insanity.
8. PEOPLE CAN LEARN TO BE KIND They can, but more often that not, only because someone showed them what kindness is. I’ve learnt to pay it forward, in the things I do and say.
9. LIVING, IS THE BEST REVENGE I have realised that sometimes, living is perhaps the best revenge to anyone who has ever hurt you. Just living for yourself and knowing that you’re doing great, not just OK but great, without them and all the shit they’ve been giving you feels like everything you need and more, from a revenge.
10. THERE WILL NEVER BE TOO MANY TATTOOS Never let anyone or anything determine if you should start or stop having tattoos – and in my opinion, not even your faith or the people associated with it.
11. QUITING ISN’T NECESSARILY ALWAYS BAD People always associate quitting with the negative, but in fact, it could just save your life. If it keeps you from burning out, quit. If it keeps your health from deteriorating, quit. If it brings you down, quit. Calling it quits from the right things might save you your sanity.
12. FEAR IS INEVITABLE EVEN WHEN YOU’RE GOOD I had a crazy week that just passed – meetings, shoots and lots of planning. Despite having done all that for the past six years and believing I’m reasonably good at them, I still know what it is like to fear being under-prepared nonetheless.
13. WHEN ONE DOOR CLOSES, ANOTHER OPENS This rings truer than ever for me. I think when one door closes, it actually pushes you out into this open space of everything-ness, or vulnerability that forces you to meet new people and accept new possibilities, and more often than not, it is good.
14. ACCEPTANCE COMES TO YOU WHEN YOU LEARN TO ACCEPT YOURSELF It’s absolutely noble to believe that acceptance will come to you when you learn to accept others, but what about accepting yourself first? I realise I tend to push people away because of the way I see the flaws in myself, and while it isn’t fair to them, it is definitely not fair to myself either. Self-acceptance isn’t preached enough, if I must say.
15. NO AMOUNT OF PREPARATION WILL PREPARE YOU FOR LIFE To the parents or parents-to-be out there, believe this. No amount of teaching and telling will beat allowing your kids to go out there, live their lives and learn from their mistakes. Don’t spare the rod, but don’t keep them in a bubble either.
16. CHURCH IS GOOD FOR YOU, BUT NOT ALWAYS I grew up going to church every Sunday and sometimes, I inevitably feel like it becomes a little society that we enrol ourselves in at. Instead of going out there and being real, we relinquish our fate to a higher being and sit on our laurels praying and hoping for change to happen. There are so many rules and regulations within just four walls, and a whole bunch of judgemental Christian people that sometimes, it just gets too much. Take a breather, and know that it’s okay to walk away from church once in a while.
17. GIVE AS MUCH, AND TAKE AS LITTLE The world is accustomed to giving little and taking a lot. But as cliché as it probably sounds like, it really does feel good to give, more than take. Looking back, my life has its richness it has today, all because I gave. There’s no doubt you’d get taken advantage of, but trust me, it still is much more fulfilling being a giver than a taker.
18. EATING MAKES A LOT OF THINGS BETTER Feast like there is no tomorrow. Eating makes people happier. And I believe that is precisely why they serve food at almost every occasion imaginable – funerals, weddings, parties, and gatherings…you name it. So eat, and eat hearty.
19. BE CRAZY, EVERY ONCE IN AWHILE I was told once before that I took myself too seriously, and I believed it. But I found out the hard way that craziness really sets in with being around the right people – those who allow you to be crazy, and in fact, even encourage it without judging you based on your level of lameness. Everyone needs to let loose.
20. SEE THE WORLD, EVERY CHANCE YOU GET Travel. Every chance you get, travel. Whether you have a lot, or a little, travel. It throws you out into somebody else’s world and culture, and leaves you experiencing a lot more than your world would have offered on its own.
21. FALL IN LOVE AGAIN, NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES YOU GET HURT We all say we’ll never love again when a heartbreak strikes, but I’ve come to learn that love can happen when you allow it to. I’ve learn to not stop falling in love, and above all, to not stop trusting people.
22. MAKE YOUR PARENTS YOUR PRIORITY Every time I sit down with my parents, I’ll notice that they’ve aged a little here and there. It scares me to think I’d lose them some day and so, I try hard to put them before everything else, and to spend as much time with them as I possibly can. They deserve to be a priority.
23. FALL IN LOVE WITH BOOKS “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R. R. Martin. Enough said.
24. WAKE EARLY ON THE WEEKENDS My weekends are scarce. There are weeks that I feel like I’ve gone through without a weekend and it sucks big time, frankly. It’s a simple gesture – waking early, but it really makes a difference when you feel like your weekend’s been maximised and not the slightest bit wasted.
25. WRITE Whether it’s a book, or a journal, a blog or a Question-A-Day rant, write. Writing gives you a certain freedom that nothing else can give – the freedom to confide, to think, to deliberate and to reflect.
26. LEARN TO SAY NO Because this will help you not get burnt out, wear thin or get walked all over. Learning to say ‘no’ has helped me keep a healthy balance between time, effort, people and the matters that truly matter.
27. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN HAPPINESS No one else will truly be interested in your happiness but yourself. There’s only just so much that people can do for you, and I’ve learnt that you’ve really got to go out there and build your happiness. That’s really just how it works.