In her famous novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, civil rights activist and novelist Zora Neale Hurston says, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer”. Whether you’ve known this quote for years or have just read it, I’m sure it strikes a chord one way or the other. I believe it to be a constant in every passing year, this asking of questions, though the answers may not always be at our disposal. That said, this Q&A rally often comes in different forms be it an experience, a chance, a new relationship, a calculated move or a lesson learned. Some might find it debatable that all of these forms are eventually a subset of the lessons learned, but that’s not what this blog is about. And speaking of lessons, this year has had quite an extensive syllabus for me. Every single day had knowledge acquisition involved in it. While some days the learning was modest, other days it was more pedantry, and I would love to share the same with you. No, not every single 365 of them, only the more conspicuous ones that won’t take up too much of your time. Let’s start then!
There is something so relaxing yet enlightening about maintaining a diary. I’ve always had a predilection for writing diaries but this past year, I understood the true essence of it. It’s not only about writing down the day’s events. It’s about what you thought at that time when a certain something happened, or what you’re thinking while you’re writing it down or how it all made you feel. It’s the keeping of the ‘secret you’ that you wouldn’t dare display before others, till of course you embrace yourself completely and are proud of what you are.
It’s also a realization of what and who you are at that point in time. There is a lot that’s going on in our minds and we often take it for granted because it’s just there and always has been. It’s not until you write down your thoughts that it sort of hits you like a ton of bricks. You become more aware of whether you’re made up of more empathy and affection than malice or vice versa. Whether your maturity is what the world expects it to be or whether it’s a compilation and implementation of your own experiences. It’s because of this that you are constantly au fait. It becomes a day to day and eventually a minute to minute process of not only keeping a track of your thoughts and feelings, but also preventing yourself from letting them take a toll on your life as a whole.
Oh and of course, it improves your writing as well!
Earlier this month I was standing outside a supermarket, waiting for my brother when a woman as old as I, passed by. Now I had never met this woman before nor had I ever seen her, but she smiled at me. I kid you not, it made me feel like I was a welcome citizen in this world. We spend a good chunk of our lives, whether we accept it or not, wondering if people are approving of our esse. It’s like we’re at an audition for our dream role, but can’t stop thinking if we’re fit for it or not or if we’re ever enough. I assure you, that smile made all of that contemplating disappear into thin air. I’m not saying we desperately need someone to validate our existence because we should be sure enough of ourselves. I’m saying while there’s that perennial battle of us losing our esteem because thank you world, and yelling at ourselves to get up, dress up and show up; we inevitably look out for such smiles. So my sincerest gratitude to all those who have smiled at strangers. You make this world a better place, and for those of us who don’t, now might be good time to start!
Loving someone to madness isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Though I’ve been told if you do get a chance, do not back down. Loving with such intensity isn’t always the romantic kind of love. It’s just love. It is bitter sweet, more bitter than sweet in some cases. It is debilitating. Stomach clenching and elating at the same time. There will come a time when you feel your arms and legs have turned into jelly and a panic attack is on its way. There will be days when you wake up with extreme sorrow and you would just want to go back to sleep, but you can’t because who’s going to pay the bills otherwise and you can’t let the world know you’re in a completely vulnerable state. There will be sounds and whiffs that will at times uplift your spirit but majority of the time, macerate it. Anytime seeing them in trouble would be perturbing for you. You’ll be reminded of that one thing or person no matter what you do and wouldn’t be able to do anything about it, but that’s strength in a way, no? Seeing and accepting everything that isn’t in your control and learning to live with it? Learning to be happy with how things have turned out to be and genuinely be wishful for their happiness? That’s crazy, but that’s love.
Or the subway. While I was in Dubai, I got to travel a lot by the Metro. It’s a great experience! Not because it’s state of the art or because our country doesn’t have transportation like that, but because you get to see so many people. People from various nationalities and ethnicities and professional backgrounds. It’s inspiring! Of course not in a judgmental way, but you tend to wonder what their stories are. Are they getting late for some place they should’ve been at by now? Are they tourists who’ve mistakenly entered the ‘women and children only’ section? Are they doing just fine or hardly making ends meet and thinking of going back home where earning a living wouldn’t be so taxing? What made them pick that book out, or that tattoo for that matter?
It was on the Metro that a young lean Nigerian man came up to me. He was wearing a white shirt and blue jeans. Before it arrived he asked me if he was on the right train to the UAE Exchange station and he was. Later on, on the train, he walked up to me holding a couple of folded white sheets of paper in his hands. While slightly bending forward, he brought his hands forth, entrusted me with those papers and uttered one brief sentence, “please, this is my CV”. He walked away before I even had a chance to register what had just happened and why. To date, I wonder what made him think I could be of any help to him in such desperate times when he was ready to work as a security guard. I still have a copy of his CV, if anyone in Dubai can help, please shoot me an email. Cheers!
We’ve said and heard it all our lives, but I think this year it hit me hard. Time does fly by. Like a breeze, taking with it most of the sand from your hand, leaving behind only a few grains. I still remember the earlier months of this year like they were yesterday and yet it feels like there’s so much time that has gone by. Quite the dilemma. There were times when, just like at school, I would sulkily stare at the clock and wait for the time to rid itself, but mostly I would just wish I had more time. More time to spend with my loved ones. More time to talk to people whose company I enjoyed. More time to listen to songs whilst in the car. More time to procrastinate before I left the house to do something substantial with my life, because we all crave the void, the nothingness of that extra short spell to just sit and think about… noting at all! And just like that, Shakespeare proved himself right, “the swiftest hours, as they flew”. Flew to a faraway land of no return. As cliched as it may sound, time I now understand, is indeed an asset along with everything it has bequeathed us with.
Travel. Alone if possible. Even if it’s just to small close-by places. Even if they’re one-day trips. Travel! Prior to this year I had no idea what an antidote travelling could be. It was somewhere in February that I took one of those tours to Hingol National Park. That feeling of getting away from the usual melodrama of daily life for just a few hours was so exhilarating and addictive that I wanted to do it again right then, and that feeling hasn’t died down a bit! I had traveled before but this time was different. I’m not sure if a child in a candy shop would be the right description for it or not, but trust me when I say it’s on the same lines.
Travelling alone teaches you tremendously. Especially if you get lost in that process. I did. I lost my way from Dubai to Sharjah. It may sound silly and it sure was, but though I had technically made it to Sharjah, I had no clue where I was. The signs didn’t seem to help. My phone died on me like talk about great timing! I didn’t know the name of the street I had to get to except that there was a supermarket on it and to my luck, that supermarket has branches in several other places. I didn’t invite a lot of help given the little I knew. By the end of it, the tension in the back of my neck was agonizing. I thought I wasn’t going to make it but I did. Always do. So what did I learn from that formidable experience? Charge your phone and carry a power bank for starters! Know your surroundings. People help, if you let them and most importantly, being calm when lost is nothing short of a crusade, but is absolutely attainable.
When I resigned from my previous workplace, a lot of people showed their dejection. Said how they would miss me and how things wouldn’t be the same with me not being around. It was all very overwhelming but I knew they were only going to miss a part of me. The part they had gotten used to. They clearly don’t know every bit of me. Maybe all they saw was the good in me and that’s because they’re good human beings themselves. And that’s troubling at times. It sort of made me feel guilty. Guilty because they don’t know the tenebrous side of me, and whatever I left behind seemed nothing but a blur to me because people don’t have that kind of time to dwell on something for so long. It could totally be the other way around. People could be leaving behind a gloomy picture only to be quite the sunshine in verity and the best part is, they’re completely indifferent to it because these effects that they leave behind don’t define them and that is precisely how it should be. You are not what people think of you and it’s up to you how you perceive and live by it. That said, even though it’s just a blur you’re leaving behind, it’s best to make the most of every opportunity you get to be nice to others.
This is more of a reinforcement than a lesson as a whole. I know a few people on my friends list who put up posts they wouldn’t deem as true in a million years. The only reason most people post certain things is because they tend to get more likes on it and it’s something you and I would share without putting too much thought into it. This point may seem slightly petty but it changes our perspective on a lot of things and people of course. (un)Fortunately, the social media gives away a lot and the irony of it all is that I’m using the same to get this blog to you. LOL! Such is life I guess.
I had a hard time forgiving myself after certain instances had taken place in life. But that was one of the worst things I could have done to myself. It’s like you’re the captain of a ship that won’t budge because it’s been anchored and that shouldn’t be so because you’re set to sail into the horizon. It’s unnecessary baggage and it’s best gone. Yes, it is easier said than done, but the more you live with it each day, the more you would wish for it to have never existed because it’s vanquishing! It hurts us and those in our influence. Yes, for some forgiving ourselves is not even taken into consideration because we hold ourselves unworthy of it. Forgiving yourself doesn’t necessarily mean you forget what you’ve done or justify it in any way. It certainly doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you’re letting go and giving yourself an opportunity to overcome all that has happened instead of leading yourself as prey to your own derision. It means you’re living your life the way you’re meant to.
Well there were many more lessons, but I’d rather end it here. Even though some of us may consciously or subconsciously believe time to be a man-made construct, we all understand what a roller coaster a span of 365 days can be. I hope the ones gone by were noteworthy in every positive sense of the word for you. I also hope the 365 days yet to come bring you not only prosperity, but also joy and steadfastness.
I wish you luck, lessons and a very Happy New Year!