Today as I walked out of uni after shorthand at 5PM, tears came to my eyes as I looked up at the sky and saw that the sun was just beginning to set.
It's been a few months of winter now - of long, dark, tearful, lonely nights. Months of having the weather mirror my emotional state, with the sun making an appearance (when it's not blocked by thick, dreary clouds) only after 7.30AM and quickly disappearing completely by 4PM.
Today, it sank in that the days were getting longer - spring, although it may still be more than a month away, is slowly but surely on its way. It sank in, with the completion of my final piece of assessment for this semester - that I have made it past the halfway mark, and I have just slightly under four months to go now.
I choked back tears as these realizations brought with them the feeling of coming full circle. At the end of 2009 and the start of 2010, I'd faced what I thought was the toughest year of my life to date. Then 2010 broke my heart and gave me a new definition for tough. But 2009 and 2010 put together can't even top what these past four months have been.
This feeling of going through a seemingly unending dark night and seeing hints of dawn starting to break, of realizing you've made it through alive... it still takes my breath away every single time. It's the most amazing feeling knowing that the countless tears cried, insomniac nights, feeling *this* close to the brink of insanity, feeling everything you've prided yourself on crumble to nothing, feeling completely alone and like no one could possibly understand... knowing that they weren't wasted. Knowing that you're starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel after long, cold nights that never seem to end... it's the best feeling in the world.
These 'dark nights of the soul', described by almost all major religions and spiritual mystics, have a sort of purifying, awakening effect - not just on the soul but also on the senses. After night upon night spent swimming in helpless, miserable, hateful, resentful thoughts, and struggling to stay afloat... and catching sight of land and knowing you have not drowned yet... it does something to a person.
Beautiful things become even more beautiful, sweet music sounds even sweeter, things I was thankful for become even more precious and treasured, and my experience of and appreciation for all things good and beautiful in life is amplified by x100.
It's not that I won't have crappy days, resentful thoughts, lonely nights, or tear-soaked pillows anymore. I'll probably have tons more between now and the time I go home (home!). But it's not the same with the knowledge that I can face them, I can overcome them, and I am bigger and stronger than my situations, no matter how intimidating they may seem.
I love symbolism and analogies, and I am particularly enraptured by the idea of something having to die before it can fully come alive. A seed has to be buried before it can blossom into a flower, a caterpillar has to be entombed before it can metamorphose into a butterfly... and nights of crying are necessary to come out a stronger and braver person. Beauty can blossom from pain.
While talking to a friend recently, he mentioned that I provide a lot of comic relief, slapstick comedy, and laughter lately. I thought about it for a second and I replied, "Yeah that's cos I take myself less seriously these days, that's why I can make fun of myself." I used to be so insecure about every little thing that made me me. A few years ago, I wouldn't be caught dead on video. I obsessed over every single calorie I put into my body. My studies and looks became identities I hid the real me behind, and I lived for someone to be jealous that I got straight A's, to call me 'hot', or to make me feel better about myself.
Coming here took away all of that. Aside from a butt-slapping incident by some ill-mannered dude on the street, my status on male attention from local guys still remains at a level of... nil. I find it is actually a challenge to satisfy my lecturers and score high marks, and after having breezed through college back home, I've actually been struggling a lot with wondering if I'm really that lousy at what I do. People tell me, 'Oh but you're doing so well.' And I don't know how to say it without sounding obnoxious but the thing is, I'm not used to 'doing well'. I'm used to aceing. So all these external things I hid behind were gone, and in their place is just... me.
A me that says, well, even if people don't think I'm awesome I'm going to give my awesomest anyway. Even if no one notices what I'm wearing, I'm dressing up because it makes me feel good about myself. Even if it won't show under three layers of clothing, I'm going to the gym not just for my physical health but because it also does wonders for my mental health. A me that's not afraid to be honest about her feelings and admit that she actually doesn't have it all figured out.
A me that's learnt that life's too short to be anything but yourself.
Do whatever it takes to be yourself, to find yourself. Go through those dark nights. Cry your eyes out. Allow your heart to hurt, so it can start to heal. Let go of the things you define yourself by. Don't let anything or anyone else define you.
A long time ago, Elselyn, a dear friend once said something like, "This life is difficult. But it's also beautiful. But life is what you make it." After all these years, I still think back to these words, and I think, she's so right.
I was taught that, not only by my dark nights, but also the lives of the amazing and beautiful friends I have around me who have gone through their own dark nights.
So this post is dedicated to all the strong, funny, imperfect, beautiful people whom I've had the privilege of sharing life with. You guys make this ride worthwhile. :)