I have had a lot of experiences this year, both old and new, and I went through them by chance. Maybe if I had it my way, I wouldn’t want to experience them the way I did. Sure enough, they taught me a lot of things, but they were harsh and tough and uncalled for that suddenly I became exhausted.
If I get to choose the one important thing that 2022 taught me, it is resilience.
Two years into the pandemic and I’d think the majority have gotten over it. Businesses have opened. Restrictions have been lifted. The world is slowly bringing us back to the familiar normalcy I know so well. I get to experience the old things in uncharacteristically exciting ways.
A trip to a new local coffee shop is such a major adventure. Discovering a new place to eat xiao long bao is an event to behold. The arrival of a new Kpop merch in the mail is pure bliss. Somehow, I feel like it has become easier to please myself. The long months of physical isolation must have taught me how to find happiness in the littlest of things.
One wise man said that isolation is dangerous, and I guess he is both right and wrong. Isolation kept me from contracting the virus. If there is one thing I can flex during this whole period, it’s the fact that I never tested positive for Covid-19. Vaccines must have been working. My physical resilience to all these things, despite my autoimmune condition, is beyond remarkable.
Likewise, my stay at home meant sitting at my work table for long periods of time. It meant lying in bed until late in the morning so that there is no more time to exercise. It meant scrolling through my phone for hours, amusing myself with those short videos that may or may not add value to my life. It meant social media overuse, in a major attempt to connect to the outside world.
Isolation gave me back pains, some killer ones at that. I acquired muscle tension that only a good 2-hour massage and ibuprofen can fix. My comfy gaming chair didn’t serve its purpose, and the option to do work on my bed made it even worse.
Limited mobility can also mean limited resources, and my ability to come up with solutions and be creative was put to test. See, when you are itching to leave your job, you come up with multiple ways to freedom. You force yourself to do more than what you are capable of. You’d quit being lazy and endure the daunting paperwork just to get certified for a skill or two. You create solutions for the problems you created yourself and the only choice you have is to make the most out of your skills.
Having to submit your resignation just because everyone has left is a different story. You have nothing but a shaky plan, and all of a sudden your portfolio has to be updated. You might land a freelance job or two, but your main source of income would sometimes pay late. You may or may not run out of ideas on how to sustain your lifestyle, the bills, your fangirling expenses, and your sudden Chinese hotpot cravings.
In the end, everything will work out. I’ll have more time on my hands to spend an afternoon in a cafe under the pretense of remote working. I’ll have the privilege to do grocery shopping on a Tuesday morning when there aren’t long queues at the register and the supermarket isn’t too crowded. I’ll experience the joy of treating my parents to good food on Sundays.
But then a friend would ask, are you happy? Genuinely happy?
To which I answered, yes.
Because finally, I allowed myself to feel sad and lonely, angry and questioning. The negative feelings I worked so hard to ignore the past year when I believed many people would be glad to trade places with me so I should not feel sad and aching. I allowed myself to cry and weep over broken friendships caused by different principles, morals, and values. I let myself mourn over the loss of opportunity for this country to be better.
My separation anxiety used to be too palpable. I hated myself when a friend gets angry with me. I’d feel bad when someone gets offended by something I said or did. I’d worry too much when people decide to leave me.
It was no surprise that when I learned to acknowledge my feelings, I also learned to let go. I understood that it was time to leave when respect is no longer served. I recognized my capacity not to enter a place where I am not needed. I realized that “the joke” is never really on me because I can just walk away without a word and without even saying goodbye. I discovered that it is better to say nothing at all when I am confronted with shallow opinions and unfounded “truths”.
This made me more grateful for the ones that stayed. I appreciate these people more – those who were true to themselves and to me. I love my friends – those who constantly ask me if everything’s okay whenever I let out a cryptic Twitter post. I extremely value those people whom I can speak with in confidence and without the fear of being judged. Those who took the time to understand that fangirling isn’t just something that you decide upon, but something that comes naturally.
I was way too focused on my own character development that I ignored the other things that make the female lead more interesting – her hobbies, her goals, and her dreams.
2022 challenged me in brand new ways that required more of my wisdom and energy, of what little is left of me. It tested my resilience in all life aspects that I finally understood that despite being an important virtue, resilience is not something that I should always be proud of. Resilience comes with a tiny bit of a curse. Because when people notice that you’re strong and resolute, they easily forget that you, too, are human. You too, need help.
So in 2023, we’ll truly experience things. Live the moment. Romanticize life. Act like a movie character. Because, why not?
I’ll never get tired of being the main character in my own story. This is once again the time when I would make sense of my life, the way it did years ago. This is the time when I’d somehow reclaim the time and opportunities that the pandemic has robbed me of. This year is another chance to prove that I am capable of anything.
Because 2022 made me resilient.