I’m turning 23 next week. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I really want to do with my life, where I should go next and who I’m as an individual. Not that I didn’t before but this year I’ve become so much more focused than ever. One thing I know for sure is that I’ve never been and will never be one of those people who wake up everyday to the same 9 to 5 job they only feel lukewarm about, spend evening after evening watching TV and talking celebrity gossips, meet the same friends every weekend and have no desire to change whatsoever. Gosh. I can’t. I really can’t. I can’t live a life without some sense of meaning and purpose. If I start to see no sign of myself growing and feel no heat of my passion in anything I do, I will immediately suffer, I will die inside and for that, I cannot sit still.
There’s probably nothing scarier to me than realising I’m making no progress with my life, that I’m trapped in one place where my passion isn’t fuelled but suppressed, but moulded rather systematically into mediocrity. I can’t live with mediocrity. Mediocrity, to me, is a disease. It’s contagious if not careful. Especially at my young age, it’s inevitable that I will be influenced and shaped by my surroundings, by the people I spend the majority of my time with. I don’t want to make the wrong choices or have no choice but to be stuck where I don’t belong to, with the people who don’t share the same energy and vision, the people who don’t grow or inspire me to grow. I know I’m burning inside. I have so much to give and I need an environment where I could radiate my heat most progressively and effectively.
I’m sure many of you feel the same as I do, or at least used to. But then you tell me, life happens. You blend in. You tone yourself down. You settle at one place. You have excuses. It’s comfortable. I understand. Your life is for you to decide. But frankly, sorry, I don’t want to be you. I sympathise but I don’t empathise. I don’t want to tell myself that story. I refuse to believe it’s ever late to be who you want to be, to live a life you feel genuinely excited about every day you wake up, one in which you’re not a hypocrite but completely true to yourself. And I’m not naive. I know it won’t happen over night. It will take steps, hard steps, sometimes many roundabouts, steps backward even. There’ll be failure, missed opportunities, regrets, self-doubt, self-blaming, rejections, and ultimately that deeply painful possibility that you would always have to live in the shadow of your own dreams simply because you aren’t good enough. Tough, yes. But you just have to keep your head up and believe such a life is possible, that you will have it one day, and give it your best shot. Because what’s the alternative?
I write this to remind myself that I have time. I’m only at the very beginning. I don’t have to stay at one place but I’m in control of where I’m heading next, of my future. I’m not trapped. One failure is nothing. The story is nowhere near the end yet. Life is changing and I’m evolving. This year, I’ve made so much progress more than I could ever imagine and learned many valuable lessons that I MUST give myself the credits for. It’s not the time to doubt myself or be pessimistic. It’s never the time, in fact. People like me, people who are constantly finding ways to improve themselves and achieve their goals (to make meaningful impact), are people who will move ahead one way or the other — this I believe and I’m not worried about. The one thing I need to be conscious of is letting go of the past, especially things that might seem like a pattern (it’s not), overwriting the narrative of losing and failing, and telling myself the story of a winner who eventually gets what she wants by believing in herself and never giving up.
The reality is, I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know if I will ever get what I want. I’m pretty certain I will lose and fail many, many times again. I will spiral into the pit of my depression and wish I could disappear because trying endlessly and not knowing my effort will ever amount to anything is exhausting and agonising. I have been there. I know I will get caught up in there again when life gets heavy. But — and this is a big BUT — I also know for every step backward is two steps forward even when I don’t see that straight away. I will get stronger, more resourceful, more prepared, more experienced, more me. So if I fail, I will accept it, learn from it and try again. I will not make a big deal out of it and let it hold me back — because that’s when I would really fail. I’m turning 23 next week. I don’t have much at the moment but what I do have, I believe, is what’s crucial the most: I have the right attitude and mindset. I will always get somewhere. For this, I don’t have to be scared anymore.
My friends, my fellow young people, the confused and lost souls, I know you’re hurt and unsure and tired but don’t be stupid, you have your whole life ahead of you. Don’t give up.