Quarter Century Lessons

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.

 

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If not, it can’t be helped

I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.
(Fritz Perls, “Gestalt Therapy Verbatim”, 1969)

I first came across the Gestalt Prayer while I was in high school. The moment I did, it completely resonated with me. I couldn’t forget it if I tried, it truly stuck with me and became my mantra. It’s the first tattoo I had gotten and it’s the one thing that continues to hold me together everyday.

The definition of a gestalt is “an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts”. It’s when something that is made of many parts is sort of more than just its pieces. It’s what I believe about soulmates, that when two people are so deeply and utterly in love, they become two halves of one being. In a way they are people who are more significant together than as individuals. This goes back to what I believe about the universe, that everything that happens in our lives is meant to happen for a reason. We are meant to suffer, we are meant to lose, we are meant to cry and meant to die. It’s what makes us human. We should be celebrating our individuality, but at the same time, we should also take every relationship and cherish it.

To live is to meet new people and have their influences in our lives. Not every person who you come across in your life is meant to stay in your life, and that’s the way it is. What matters is what you take from that interaction, whether its a relationship or friendship or a random encounter with a stranger, and how you learn and grow from it. Maturity comes from age, and wisdom comes from experiences. If by chance you meet someone who has completely changed your perspective or loves you for your unique weirdness, then that is a beautiful thing. Your mind has expanded and you are all the more wiser for it. Some people are meant to come and go, and if they go, then so be it.

What I have come to realize is that we are all in this world to be ourselves. We are constantly changing. Humankind is both independent and interdependent. We rely on others as creatures of habit, but we also value our autonomy. The prayer taught me to live in harmony with my whole self and to be okay with attending to my own needs before others’. It means that once we are self-fulfilled, then we will be able to help others in the same way, thus creating beautiful relationships. Once you are able to truly be at peace with yourself and who you are as a person, then maybe you will be ready to be completely selfless and help others achieve the same.

If I were to write about all the lessons that I’ve learned from the universe, then I would be writing forever, for we never stop learning.

My Story

I grew up hating myself. I always thought that I would be the quiet awkward kid for the rest of my life. I thought that I would be alone, and that no one would love me because I didn’t love myself. I’m ashamed of the destructive thoughts that used to fill my mind, they were not pleasant. I felt ugly, fat, dumb, and like I wasn’t good enough to reach the standards of the people around me. Sometimes I think back to my childhood and wonder why I felt these things. I wasn’t bullied, I had plenty of great friends, but I realize that what I was missing was confidence and reassurance that I was okay the way I was.

My parents aren’t the sentimental type. I get it, they didn’t grow up in a self-obsessed generation like ours, so they didn’t really teach me how to love myself. When I was a kid I never really gave too much thought to how I looked or what I was doing, it was more until I hit puberty and became a teenager that I became more self-conscious, just like every other kid at that age. It’s normal to doubt yourself and to wonder why you look a certain way or why you don’t look a certain way. Maybe for some it’s worse than others.

If you knew me in high school, then you’d know that I had a ton of acne on my face. It was disgusting, to say the least. I cringe every time I think back to those days. There is nothing anyone can say to me now that will make me feel better about my face from that part of my life, and I’ve come to terms with it. It made me feel incredibly self conscious about myself, and I started to find other things about myself that I didn’t like. I hated how my front teeth were slightly larger than normal, it made me stop smiling wide. I hated my big thighs, they rub against each other and made holes in the thigh areas of my favorite jeans. I hated my small eyes, I always got huge framed glasses to make them seem bigger. I hated my hair, it used to be puffy and flat. There were many, many things that I wished I could change about myself. Like any other girl my age I wanted to be skinnier, to be smarter, to be cool, interesting, funny, social. I wanted to be happy, and I wasn’t happy with the way that I was.

Sometimes I would stand in front of my mirror and just stare at myself. Years ago, all I saw were imperfections. All the curves that I wanted to flatten out, all the scars that I wanted to hide. It was at some point in my post secondary career that I finally committed to clearing the acne off my face, I refused to be discouraged by things that I can’t control. Someone taught me that my odd teeth are endearing. Someone showed me how to dress to my body type. Someone showed me how to use makeup to my advantage. Someone helped me realize I didn’t even need makeup to feel pretty. Someone tells me I’m beautiful every single day. These people in my life have taught me to love myself, all of my curves and imperfections included. When I look in the mirror now, I see a young woman who’s on the way to loving herself in all her glory. I adore my love handles, I love my smiles, my wild curly hair, my slender fingers. I love my body, the way my tattoo wraps me in a hug and my curves that make me feel fantastic in a dress.

It’s important for people to start being confident in themselves. By loving yourself, you gain control over your life. Sometimes I still feel like I’m a bore, a bland wallflower in the background. That’s something I’m working on, it’s not shameful to admit your insecurities. I think that I’m a creative, beautiful person. I think that I’m a smart and caring person. I think I’m pretty awesome, and I’m proud of myself for coming such a long way from an insecure teenager to a confident young woman. I’m so grateful for the people in my life who’ve gifted me with pieces of confidence that have built up my self-esteem, and I hope that I can do the same for my friends who need a little extra boost. Just keep doing you, and along the way you’ll love who you are.