This year is my quarter century birthday, which means this is the year that I turn 25 years old. As a young, educated, woman of minority, I’ve learned a lot in my short 25 years of life on our planet. I want to start by talking about one of the most important things that I was taught in my young life. You live for yourself, your happiness, your struggles, your fears, and your accomplishments. Everything in your life is your own. Our lives are precious, and it shouldn’t be wasted on making other people satisfied with the choices that we make. I understand that this can be hard for our community sometimes, where familial relationships are often seen as more important than the relationship you have with yourself. It is true that we should be balancing the various aspects of our lives, but we tend to forget to take care of our own selves in the process of caring for others. Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of having the time to go through their self-care process. We need to make the time when we can to ensure that we take care of our own mind, body, and soul.
Something else that is also important to me is that marriage is not the end goal in my life. I do want to get married one day, as a girl I’ve always thought about what my wedding will be like and I dream of having my own children. Before I reach this stage of my life, there are other things I know I want to finish first. I’ve always had the dream of living independently before I move in with my significant other. This is important to me because I highly value my independence and I thrive on having a space that’s not governed by anyone else’s rules. Marriage is a time where we put another person’s needs before our own, so before we get married we should be selfish while we still can. This means travelling with your friends, getting drinks with coworkers on a Friday night, creating relationships with the various groups of people in your life, and generally just enjoying what life has to offer.
One of the things that I want to accomplish before I get married is to establish a career for myself. In a first world country such as the one we live in, there are very few things that matter more than money. The cost of living here is expensive, and before you can learn to support other people in your life, you have to learn how to support yourself both financially and emotionally. Finding financial support is something that everyone knows how to do, you find a job to make enough money for food, shelter, and other necessities. The hard part is understanding how to support yourself emotionally, and then learning how to transfer this to another person.
There’s a Japanese saying about how we all have three faces. The first face we show to the world, the second face we show to our friends and family, and the third face we never show anyone and it is the truest reflection of who you are. These different faces are what make up the layers of our character. I believe that once we learn about each of our faces, then we can wholly understand who we are. For example, I never trust anyone who is rude to their waiter or waitress, or someone who uses inappropriate slurs in public. These actions reflect that person’s first face which is shown to the public. If they act this way in public, then imagine how they act with their closest friends and family, or what they think about when they’re alone.
There’s another saying that I heard a few years ago that still resonates with me today. The saying is that the blood of the covenant is thicker than water of the womb. This is a phrase which has been twisted and misunderstood throughout history and shortened overtime to the more commonly heard saying that blood is thicker than water. The short version means that the relationships we have with our blood relatives, such as your siblings and parents, is stronger than those relationships outside of your immediate family. The full idiom has the exact opposite meaning. The relationships that you form overtime with your friends are just as important as the relationship with your family.
Oftentimes your friends are the ones who you turn to for advice and support for situations that your family can’t always help you with. In my personal life, my friends became my family and I hold them in the highest regard. I’ve learned to keep my network of friends small and tight, because the quality of the people I keep around me matters more than the quantity. It’s perfectly acceptable to have a wide circle of friends, just as it’s acceptable to only have a few. What matters is that you surround yourself with people who you trust and who encourage you mentally and spiritually. The best types of friends are the ones who are honest to you and help you become the best version of yourself.
Another lesson I learned is that different perspectives do matter. Everyone has a different way that they see the world, and there isn’t one right or wrong way to perceive things. There are millions of people who live in just our city alone, and each person has their own unique set of ideologies and memories that shape the way they see the world. There’s an old saying that most of us learned from a young age, “before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes”. This idiom essentially means that we learn empathy by learning to understand the experiences of another person and how those experiences shaped their life. By developing empathy, we enable our own emotional intelligence as we are able to identify and project into another person’s state of mind.
Our emotional intelligence is one of the things that makes us human and separates us from non-sentient creatures. Humans have the capability of developing an emotional awareness, we should be cultivating this awareness and using it to understand and empathize with others. This also means that we should be more open-minded. Unfortunately, this is not always easy for the people who have been raised with strict beliefs or within an oppressive system. You can’t blame the way that people were raised by their parents, what counts is how those people recognize that there is something wrong and strive to change it.
Not everyone will be inspired to change their life in the way that I was. I firmly believe that your life is a series of choices that you make for yourself, but with the influence of various factors surrounding you. These factors could be your friends, your family, or the culture that you grew up in. I know that Sri Lankan culture sometimes contradicts Canadian culture, but sometimes there is a happy medium. The biggest lesson of all is that the meaning of life is to simply be happy, from the day you are born to the day you die.