The 2nd decade of my life started out very well, looking full of the promise of great opportunities to come and an exciting destiny to fulfill. A few years ago when I turned 20, I was about to finish my first degree. I was neck deep in applications to graduate school and I was about to embark on a big adventure with a move to a new country. A lot was happening at the same time but it all seemed to be pointing towards a wonderful destination and at first, I thought I was on my way to getting there. I graduated from my first program with an honours, one of about only 10 people in my year to do so, and I felt like the world was my oyster. I must have chosen wrong since then (or at least it feels that way now) because that achievement was the highest peak I have experienced so far. After I started my post-grad program, things seemed to take a downward turn.
Don’t get me wrong. I have had lots of high moments since. In fact, I have had to go out of my way to ensure that these moments happened if only to combat the cloud of negativity that threatened to overwhelm me many times. So I have taken trips to destinations that have been on my list for a long time. I have searched for adventure and found it in the most unlikely places. I have explored music, art and other cultural offerings wherever I’ve been. I’ve restaurant hopped and partied with friends. I’ve also managed to complete graduate school with a great academic record. I have great memories of fun times. But all these experiences were but temporary escapes from the reality of my life which has been more confused than ever. King Solomon was right when he said, ‘vanity of vanities. All is vanity’.
If I remember my early 20s for anything, it’ll be for the feeling of working very hard with seemingly little reward or something tangible to show for it. This has been a very frustrating time for me. I’ve done everything I was supposed to and maybe even more but I just seemed to catch the unlucky tail of things recently. The end result is that I’m afraid to plan, afraid to hope and clueless about how all the pieces of the puzzle called my life will fit together. Where will I work? What kind of work will I do? Where will I live? Can I have my family with me? Will my friends stick around? Will I even have friends? What kind of person will I be? Will I change the world, even in a small way? These questions frequently occupy my mind, popping up at the most random of times and casting a shadow of anxiety over my mood.
Through this time, I’ve lived with mood swings and an uncharacteristic vulnerability to tearing up and, sometimes weeping, unexpectedly. I’ve acquired a sliver of understanding about the perception of hopelessness that can leave one feeling helpless because even where others see prospects, the individual concerned only sees a jungle of obstacles with no apparent way out. Sometimes, I wish I could skip this part of my story and jump straight to the chapter where everything has fallen into place nicely. Where I am absolutely comfortable in my own skin, doing some fulfilling and meaningful work, appreciated by the people on whose behalves I make great effort instead of feeling used or foolish for pouring my heart in 100%. Where I am constantly surrounded by people that love and accept me as weird as I can be on occasion. Where I have control of my finances. Where I get paid for the work that I do and I no longer have to wonder how I’m going to be able to afford simple things like filling my fuel tank. Where I have found my place in this world. But I read a quote yesterday that I’ve been reflecting on and I find appropriate to include: ‘sometimes, you have to go through to get to’.
It seems like I am now in the season of going through and as much as I wish it would pass me by, I need to engage and be fully present in my life. So I determine to see the joy in every situation, not to let the negatives dominate and to be happy regardless of the circumstances. Maybe this time and experience is character building. I wouldn’t want to miss out on that because I preferred to be absent and sleepwalk through it. I pray for the faith and courage to go through because I need to believe that things will get better at some point. As the popular saying goes, ‘when you’re at rock bottom, the only way is up’. I just hope there’s not more rock to hit. I’ve already come through more than I imagined possible. In many ways, I am stronger and tougher than I was a few years ago. I am also more jaded and cynical and my exterior is even harder than it ever was. I count it all joy though. As an old friend used to say, ‘it’s a blessing and not a curse’.
I pray often that everything I’ve lived these past few years will be a blessing to me and others. That one day, I’ll look back and be able to see how it was necessary for me to have all these experiences. And maybe, even be grateful for having had them.