Before you moan and grumble about something, ask yourself: Didn’t you actually ask for it in the first place? By Amal Awad.
There are times when I feel an urge to write, though I have no idea what about. I just know I’m feeling stuff; I’m super excited, or swollen with grief, and the only thing that will make me feel like I’ve purged is writing something – anything – that will give me ease or help me make sense of life, events and relationships. You can run it out, swim, start a fight, or you can lock yourself up in a quiet space and gently empty it all out. It’s the catharsis and hubris of the storyteller.
Still, sometimes I envy the artist who can sit down to an easel or a sketch pad or a pottery wheel and start from scratch. You can tell just about any story with the right tools, but words and sentences have to come together in a more obvious way. There may be subtext aplenty, but to be of substance and use, it ought to have purpose and structure; otherwise the writer has done little more than write a diary entry.
Perhaps I’m making a gross assumption, but writers have to be more goal-oriented, broadly speaking, so there’s a limit to the self-indulgence. Nevertheless, it doesn’t stop me from adopting this form of absolution, and often I’ll find that, a few false starts later, I know what story I’m attempting to tell.
This is exactly how I felt as I began to write this week’s column. While last week I talked about ushering in a new year with enthusiasm and gratitude, I find myself still trying to catalogue, and in some ways make sense of, the year that has passed.
I feel, not for the first time, that I’m trying to catch up on life, and that I’m beginning to experience and appreciate things I once ignored or was afraid to consider
Previously I focused on what lies ahead, without a true appreciation of what’s gotten me here. But rather than toss aside 2012, I think it deserves some acknowledgement – for everyone I know will tell you that in some ways it was a good year, with rubbish moments; or a rubbish year, with some good moments. Either way, it has lifted you higher and brought you closer, in essence, to who you are.
In my case, at least, the past year has been one of immense change. I feel, not for the first time, that I’m trying to catch up on life, and that I’m beginning to experience and appreciate things I once ignored or was afraid to consider. I’m like a silly teenager, drunk on all the possibilities life can offer.
Still, part of what comes with being a silly teenager are confusion, angst and solitude. I have long yearned to be challenged, not only through the people I meet, but the goals to which I aspire – when it finally happens, I may well wonder why things are so ‘difficult’, and how people can suck so much of your energy.
Why am I sweating the things in my life that make me step outside my comfort zone, when all of these experiences are exactly what I’ve sought during the banal moments?
It came up in a story I was reading recently. Why, this person wrote, are you stressing about the challenges in your life, when this is what you asked for?
It slowly dawned on me that it was the truest thing I’d read in a while. Why am I sweating the things in my life that make me step outside my comfort zone, when all of these experiences are exactly what I’ve sought during the banal moments?
I’ve wanted to meet people and make new friends; I attach myself to intellectual types and crush on them; I appreciate seeing how different men can be as I’m single and want to understand more about connection and how relationships work; I try to understand the complexities of friendships; I try to step into my personal sense of power and reach for greater things.
In the last year or so, I have also, so importantly, learnt to enjoy things in the moment, rather than project a million moments ahead. I don’t want to lose sight of what I’m doing, constantly worried about what is to come. And this has helped me to take greater chances – when in doubt, I’ll ask myself how I’ll feel about not doing something 10 years from now. It makes all the difference.
And in many ways, so much of the above happened in 2012 (and before that, too).
And so I’ll acknowledge and honour these developments and lessons as I sign off on the year and dive into fresh experiences and opportunities.
For starters, last week I finished up at a full-time job I’d occupied for two years. As much as I’m looking forward to the next challenge, it was a bittersweet event. Saying ‘bye for now’ to colleagues, who have in equal parts inspired and challenged me, was a whole lot harder than I’d anticipated. I’m sure we’ll keep in touch, but it will, of course, be markedly different to a five-day weekly interaction.
I can’t help but reflect on what my personal relationships look like compared to 12 months ago
And then there are the personal relationships – new friends and mentors – people I have heard about, learnt from and been inspired by, so much so that I cannot ‘go back’ to who I was before I met them. I can’t help but reflect on what my personal relationships look like compared to 12 months ago. In some respects, they look quite different. There have been unexpected surprises – the entrance of people with whom I’d never imagine a close friendship, and yet I can’t imagine my life without now.
As profound are the absences – people who have been formative and relevant to me for years, who are suddenly missing from my life for whatever reason. No more shared secret hopes and dreams, furtive flirtations, coffee/chocolate runs or expressions of comfort. So much experience, and now it’s an empty box.
And yet, they are never gone from my mind, not completely. Because the experience of friendship is implanted, and while the memories fade, their meaning remains. These people, in some way, gave shape to who I am and who I am becoming. In the same way, new friends and potential partners show me something of myself.
Because isn’t that what it’s all about at the end of the day? Experience and growth and lots of meaty coming of age stuff? Isn’t it about tapping into that higher vibration, being surrounded by love, and immersing yourself in experiences that make you something greater and which fulfill you?
It doesn’t matter how something begins or ends; it really only matters that you live it and grow from it.
After all, that is what I asked for.