2014: A Year of Surprises, Chances, Growth

2014, where do I begin?

This year has been… one helluva roller coaster.

2014 has been a year of many firsts, many surprises, many ups & downs for me. Just like the year before, the year before that, and all the other years previously, this year I was catapulted to my highest of highs, and in this very same year too, I was unexpectedly dragged to the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s been quite a ride, & I’m still reeling from everything that has happened. The events that led up to this point, have served me invaluable lessons I was never taught in textbooks, and trained me to look at every single thing as a blessing, making this the start of my Years of Living Optimistically (YOLO).

I was thinking about the many metaphors used for life. How life is like a roller coaster, or a see saw, to illustrate its ups and downs. Or a bicycle, to show that in order to live we have to keep moving. Or even a box of chocolates, because we’ll never really know what we’ll get from it. And I thought to myself, perhaps, life is like a heart monitor too – a constant series of waves, shooting up to the peak, before going down to a stagnant line, and repeat. We keep in close check on the highs and lows. Both important to keep the balance and the beat, and both important to tell us this: we are alive.

When times get tough, I remind myself to internalize what Sister Yasmin Mogahed had said about living in this world as a true believer. Each one of us will be tested by Him. Our battlefields may not look the same, but undoubtedly, we are all silently fighting battles in our lives. However, these trials and tribulations, these ups and downs, should not faze us. Because the manners of the believers are strange. No matter what happens in our lives, know that it is good for us. We need to train ourselves in the way we react – if it’s something that makes us happy, be grateful, but if it’s something that brings despair, be patient. And always believe that whatever that comes our way in life is essentially good for us. True believers never suffer. We might get hurt, and we might fall, but we have a choice to not remain that way, like the famous adage that says, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” True suffering only occurs when we are far away from Him. If we are close to Him, whatever tragedies or calamities that come our way will not affect us completely, because we’re protected by Him. Even if there is a terrible storm passing, we will always be sheltered. And the only way to get shelter, is to get closer, and live a life of remembrance of Him.

I’ve had my fair share of downsides this year that I’m still struggling to cope with. But in the grand scheme of things, these hardships that have happened along the way seem all but insignificant. It always helps to remove ourselves from where we are in life, and see how monumentally reduced our problems can be when placed beside the problems of the world. It’s certainly been a difficult year, with a series of unfortunate events headlining the news, and the calamity we hear from every corner of the world – the Israeli-Gaza conflict at its height, Malaysia’s disappearing flights, the Syrian civil war, West African Ebola outbreak, the Sydney hostage crisis. But at the same time, it is heartwarming to know and see the rest of the world uniting, coming together to pray, and give aid to those in need. 

Sure, 2014 may have thrown some curveballs at me, there’s unnecessary drama which I never intended to even happen, there are mistakes made that can’t be undone, and sometimes it seems as though life has not been kind. I had wanted this year to end nicely, with a good closure, but sometimes expectations doesn’t always align with reality (need to emphasize this to myself: never have too high an expectation – never. I guess it spills from my expectations for my studies, myself, that I brought it over to expectations for other people too. I need to stop doing that.) Despite all of that, it is this very year that I got to live my dreams, checked a few things off my bucketlist, and accomplish things I never once thought I’d ever get the chance to. I have people who still love and care for me. I have a home. I am in a good place in life. I am alive. I’d be a fool to ask for more.

Counting our infinite blessings always helps to put things into perspective. As life goes on, I will continue to learn to have patience & be grateful for all the pain, the love, the frustration, the joy, the disappointment – all of this. Because all of this is necessary to make us grow. All of this is necessary to make us appreciate what we have before it’s too late. All of this is necessary for us to take a step back, focus on the good, and keep counting our blessings.

I’m not one to do resolutions, as Anais Nin puts it beautifully –

“I made no plans for the new year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.”

So let me just step out of myself for awhile to write a letter to me, to look at the year in review, to chart my growth, and to tell myself this: I’m doing just fine.

Dear Humairah,

This year, you’ve lived your dreams & checked plenty of things off your bucketlist. You finally visited the cities you’ve only ever dreamt of going. You saw the places you’ve only ever been in love with from films and books, for the first time. You finally went to London. You got to attend summer school. You finally met Paris. You explored Spain. You finally caught Arctic Monkeys live. You saw Amsterdam’s gorgeous canals at night. You finally went to stadiums you only saw on TV. You finally visited Shakespeare & Co and spent hours in it. You finally went for that awesome Euro trip you’ve always been waiting for.

This year, you went out of your comfort zone. “A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” You finally had a taste of living independently, being away parentless, for more than a month. You went through insane things you never imagined you’d experience. In poetry classes, you learnt to step out of your familiar space and tried writing something genuine, something that hurts you deeply. It was tough, but you tried. These things you go through, grows you. 

This year, you realize that your family & the handful of friends are the only ones worth keeping. People come & go. You got closer to some of your old friends, and now they’ve become one of your closest friends. You also lost some, but that’s okay. You know who sticks by, and who don’t. You also realize what a happenstance it was, to have 3 of your close friends going to Europe consecutively after you, all of which was unplanned. And you realize no matter what, your family will always be there. They’re the true constant. You’ve always believed that the people who are there to see you leave at the airport, are the same people you’d expect to turn up during your funeral (hur hur, it’s true). You know that if people really want you to be in their life, they’ll make the effort to get you to stay.

This year, you’ve learnt to forgive those who have hurt you. Unintentionally or not. You became a victim of circumstance. You found yourself in the middle of a mess you were unknowingly pulled in. You learnt to forgive, no matter how hard it is. No matter how much people have wronged you, be kind anyway. No matter how much people hate you for some reason, or no reason at all, be nice anyway. Don’t stoop as low, don’t be as childish. Always be the bigger person. Be better, not bitter.

This year, you let your heart open & let people in. After years of building a wall around it, after years of letting it numb, you had no clue it was capable of showing so much emotions. You felt your heart stretching, jumping, expanding, bursting with so much joy, spilling love for people, spilling all it’s got, and then sinking, hurting silently, weeping, bleeding, slowly rebuilding the walls that’s been broken so well, silently covering the cracks made by careless, selfish hands that violently tore it apart. It’s the hardest, rarest thing for you to open up to people, and let them in. You’ve always been afraid of wearing your heart on your sleeve. You’ve always feared vulnerability. But this year you’ve displayed your weaknesses and worries. You took a risk, although you knew you’ll be hurt in the end. You were brave. Brave enough to let it all out. Brave enough to break.

This year, you notice how fleeting this life is. How absolutely temporary. How quick moments pass. How transient. How you should shift your focus on things that are permanent; the afterlife.

But most of all, this year, you have a lot to thank for. You’re blessed with so many beautiful things in life, and beautiful people who want to stay by your side, you’d be a fool to let all the negativity that has affected you this year, bring you down. So for everything that has happened – good and bad – Alhamdulillah, always.

In 2015, you’ll enter a year of change. A year of possibilities. A year of transition. A year of leaving. It’s an end, but it’s the beginning of an end. It’ll be exciting, frightening, and overwhelming, all at once. You pray that everything that’s about to happen, will only be the best for you. Take comfort in the fact that your life has already been planned by the best of planners.

& remember this: bring only the good things forward, and let everything else be a memory.

Adieu, 2014 –

What a year, you’ve been.

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