On Self-Awareness and Reflecting (2017)

Since we live in a world encapsulated by deadlines, timelines and expiration dates:
2017 has been an interesting year. It has been quite balanced, and therefore less dramatic as my years usually are. Minus the fact I may have had a few misjudgements regarding specific people and situations, it was a year of spiritual, mental and personal growth. 2017 has been the year I learned there’s no shame in being and ‘feeling’ alone. I have learned to embrace time spent on my own, and have recognized it as a gift. I travelled alone for the first time earlier this year, on my first trip to Berlin. I definitely had an ‘Eat Pray Love’ sort of unrealistic expectation in my mind, but once I got there, all anxiety and expectation had been reduced to nothing but a calm and peaceful disposition – similar to Greta Gerwig’s “aha” moment in Frances Ha, I realized you can’t escape your problems just because you’re physically elsewhere.

Furthermore, as someone who took pride in being social and having many ‘friends’, I now genuinely appreciate the quality of my friendships over the quantity, and have also learned I need time to recharge and refuel after long hours at a social gathering. Sometimes people just don’t understand you, and that’s alright — there will always be people who do.

2017 has been the year I learned that it’s not about the end goal — the end goal doesn’t exist. We live in a world that is highly unpredictable and ever-changing, how is it fair to impose an ‘end goal’ on people who have no control over the external factors that influence their lives (e.g. socio-economic factors, media, government, etc). At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how your life has turned out in the eyes of others. I’ve learned this the hard way, after years of self-victimization and resentment towards my life situation — It’s about you feel at the end of it all, and it’s the simplest things that bring us genuine joy, as long as we allow it to flow freely to us. I urge you to close your eyes and take a deep breath the next time you’re sitting in a beautiful garden, by a body of water or even something man-made. Listen to the birds chirp, the waves ripple, and even the noise of man and society in the background. Learn to separate society from nature, because they’re not the same thing — society has not grown and developed organically, rather, it has been manipulated and distorted beyond original form.

2017 has been the year I learned to let go — of everything dragging me down. Occasionally (frequently) I go through periods of chronic depression (i.e. dysthymia), existential episodes where nothing adds up for me anymore. I begin to catch myself in the middle of my ‘routine’, and I immediately switch auto-pilot off, but it’s a habit that seems to be too hard to break; it’s as if we’re ingrained to mindlessly follow suit. Yet all this while, I realize I have so much to be grateful for — and of course, there will always be things we wish we could change, eradicate or completely disregard: but the sad reality of the situation is that we can’t always have what we want, and a lot is out of our control — but that’s also the beauty of the situation. If I received everything I ever wanted, or if I was perfectly content majority of the time — I’d never feel challenged enough to grow my ambition, to make lists of fresh, new goals. I personally feel a lot of the human experience is allowing yourself to accept every opportunity that may come your way, and being able to experience as much as you possibly can. While I understand the appeal of following societal roles, I no longer believe in reliability, at least in the world we’re currently in; nothing is guaranteed in this life. I understand having the ‘career job’ may get you far, but if you’re not contributing to the quality of human lives who require it the most — is it really worth it, in the end?

Before I left Pakistan permanently in the summer of 2010, the last thing my grandfather said to me will always be imprinted in my memory: “never have expectations from others, because you should never allow yourself to feel disappointment”. My grandfather and I no longer speak, and even though his words to me may be compared to cliché quotes of a similar vein — it was the the only time the logic behind those words had made sense to me. Yet I refused to listen, and seven years later I’ve been shot multiple times in a battlefield of my own creation. I have a tendency of maintaining high expectations, because I believe the feeling you get once those expectations are surpassed is unbeatable, undefinable. I may be basing my happiness off of the actions of others, but isn’t that what life is all about: human relationships and interaction? Yes, I feel happy and content when I’m reading my favourite book, listening to my favourite music, writing, travelling alone or hiking by myself — but the thought of people is always at the back of my head, no matter how hard I try to push it out.

After finishing my book, I’ll think of all the people I could recommend it to, while listening to my favourite genre of music, I’d want to sing/dance with someone else or listen to it live with others who’d be able to appreciate the experience similarly; a big part of writing is targeting your audience, experiences travelling alone are heightened by people who make the trip worthwhile, hiking is more fun when you can make jokes and appreciate the view from up-top with someone you love. Maybe this is just me, and perhaps not everyone requires human connection to thrive and/or survive, but I know I do. And when I refer to human connection, I don’t necessarily mean in a romantic context, connection for me can be with anyone – as long as they’re willing and able to understand and empathize with both myself and others.

However, it has come to a point where our generation no longer values human feeling and connection — instead, we remain on the other side of our screens which are used as shields, escaping from the uncomfortable feeling of vulnerability and openness. Texting is the bane of my existence, and while social media and technological advances have made the world a better place in an array of ways,  for those of us who use social media as means of disguising how much pain we’re truly feeling, how empty we feel because we (think) can’t seem to come across individuals who enhance our lives, unless we portray ourselves in a certain light; we’re allowing a disconnect, a detachment from our own self-awareness. 

Life is too short and also extremely long, I’ve realized, and if we continue moving forward with a Schlage lock around our feelings and vulnerabilities, things may never get better. All I want is honesty, and I truly believe you do too. So please, I urge you to pick up your phones and make proper use of them. Tell the people you love how much you do. Tell them how much you miss them. And if they’re reluctant to reciprocate — if the past year has taught me anything of value, it’s probably the realization that it is them projecting their fears and/or insecurities onto you, most of the time. 

However:

Put yourself in their shoes more often, and simply try to understand.