The start of a new chapter in life, of a transition from what was to what is - always takes me a period of reflection before I finally feel I am ready to embrace the new opportunities of the present.
And this period of reflection often brings with it the ironically familiar surprise that somewhere along the way, I've lost sight. Of who I am, why I'm here, of where I'm going, of what I want.
This new chapter of transitioning from academic life to the working world has been no different. Yesterday I learnt a new term that up till hearing it, I had no knowledge of: "quarter life crisis". I might be going through one of those now.
I'm not supposed to be so jaded at 21, or at least that's the vibe I get from most people I talk to, but since when do life experiences move in a linear pattern anyway? We live, we make mistakes, we get tired, we give up, we pick ourselves up, we learn, we move on... and the process repeats itself over and over again.
I've been in this place many times before. Different chapters, different friendships, different loves, different questions, different struggles - they were all documented somwhere, on some blog, out there in the great vast web. Because of this I've been able to look back and see how I've grown, made mistakes, learned from them, repeated a few more times than I should have, but picked myself up again.
It gets harder each time, it's true. I find myself becoming more guarded and wary of not making any mistakes so I don't go through the painful process of trying to pick myself up from another one the older I get. It happens to all of us as we grow up. Maybe it's not such a bad thing, as long as we don't wall ourselves up so completely we stop growing altogether.
So I guess this is just another one of those parts of the story where I get to start from zero all over again and redefine what's important to me in life and what I want out of it. Notice I said, "I get to". Not I don't have any choice because I don't have any cooler, more kick-ass plan figured out for my life than working a corporate 9-5 job or because there seems to be an hopeless dearth of good, single, passionate men left in the world, let alone my city.
Because I still believe that life is what we make it, and how we choose to see it. I could spend the next three years telling myself that all I have to live for is getting by with just enough, working off my bond and otherwise bumming my life away, waiting for the-powers- that-be to hand me my life's purpose or my perfect soul mate on a silver platter, since I have neither the freedom, opportunity or finances to do anything more exciting, like backpack solo around the world or open a coffeehouse.
Or I could see these three years as a gift. Time given to an intense, unpredictable, impatient, emotionally-voilatile go-getter and overachiever to slow down and let life catch up with her dreams for a bit, to enjoy her youth before it slips out of her grasp, to figure out what she really wants - what 21-year-old her wants, not what precocious 15-year-old or idealistic 18-year-old her wanted. To have her faith in humanity and hope in God restored again before she goes rushing about with the notion that she can make the world or someone else's life better.
To find the courage to face the demons she's been running from and the truth that all this while, her noble ambitions and aspirations have been nothing but attempts to prove that she was better than everyone else, and that those attempts stemmed from a deep insecurity. The truth that all her 'fearless' efforts at loving people she knew were not good for her stemmed from never really believing she could be good for anybody. The truth that the reason she secretly hated authority and the church and men was because she had been hurt by people who represented all of the above and refused to believe that maybe those people didn't represent those groups accurately. The truth that the reason she didn't have good things in her life to celebrate was not because she didn't believe they existed, but that she didn't believe she deserved them.
There's so many things I need to work on. So many things I want to work on. But if I had to pick somewhere to start, I would pick fear. I watched Green Lantern last night and although yes, it was hardly anything to shout about, what struck me was the overwhelming, total destructiveness of fear. I think mankind's greatest threat is not World War III or global warming or tangible things like that - I think our greatest enemy is fear, and the greatest battlefield is in the mind.
The most deadly, totally-consuming things are not bullets or guns or radiation or toxic waste - they are fears.
The fear that I don't matter.
The fear that nothing matters.
The fear that my life will always be this way.
The fear that nothing will change.
The fear that I will be just like my parents.
The fear that my children will be just like me.
The fear that nobody cares.
The fear that I can never bring myself to care again.
The fear that things will get worse.
The fear that I can never pick myself up from something like this.
The fear that life is a mistake.
The fear that I am a mistake.
Fear creeps in silently. But it is potent and will-crippling and mind-numbing and soul-searing. Even anger and hate, in all their explosive fieriness, stem from fear at its very core.
And only courage can overcome it.
As Carol tells Green Lantern Hal, it's not "that you are fearless. It saw that you have the ability to overcome fear. It saw that you are courageous."
Living takes courage, because living is dangerous. It's easier to survive.
It's dangerous to keep trying, again and again, for what you want. when you risk looking a fool. It's easier to settle.
It's dangerous to care because there will come times when caring will hurt. It's easier to not give a damn.
It's dangerous to change because it will be uncomfortable, difficult, and you might slip back into the same old rut, reinforcing your fear that nothing will ever change. It's easier to resign yourself to the status quo.
It's dangerous to hope because you risk disappointment. It's easier to accept the way things are.
It's dangerous to believe your life has meaning, because you will have to chase down that meaning, and when you find it, defend it at all costs, because there are those who would like nothing better to steal it from you, so they can continue surviving safely, conveniently, and comfortably, but fearfully, through life. It's easier to give in to your fears.
I'm getting tired of letting my fears dictate my life. I know I've been in this spot before and said things along this line before, but I'm not going to let the fear of making the same old mistakes and the fear of nothing ever changing stop me from deciding, again, that I'm going to let go of things that hold me back, I'm going to live my life, I'm going to find out who I am and what I want, and I'm going to colour and paint in life's meaning for myself.