I think I’ve said before that 20 was the best year of my life and it is, officially.
It is undeniably the best, and I use the term ‘best’ because there is no other word I could use to describe it. I’d use exciting to describe a few adrenaline rushes from some great activities. I’d describe it as heartbreaking to express some of the most tormenting emotional experiences. I’d describe it as casual to speak of the amount of time I’ve been able to read, write, think and seek my purpose without the restrictions of day to day chores, social conventions, or obsessive studying habits and I’d use spiritual to describe how much this past year has helped me grown.
More often than not, at the end of each year we make resolutions for ourselves: resolutions aimed to help us grow and be better. But concrete change is not conscious change and most often we do not change. I’ve had quite a fair share of this – I’ve been trying for 20 years.
At the closing of the previous years (not that it matters to me, it’s just another day/week/year) – particularly 2009 and 2010 where we consciously begin to make decisions of our own – I would always just sit and think of how the year that would now come to pass had been. And up to date I cannot distinctly recall a year that’s passed fruitfully.
So there were a few things that made 2011 an exceptionally great year:
Once I decided to sneak into a church out of curiosity to experience the process of a normal weekend church sermon. I was sort of trying to understand the nature of a local christian community to figure out how their strength in faith came about.
So I managed to sneak in quite easily, perhaps because everyone enjoys new faces and mine was definitely new. I sat myself at the back of the church and the first service began soon after. Then as it progressed they started to sing. I was rather intrigued by the power of the songs because the people do not mind looking silly, singing out loud. Of course there is the overall peer pressure and I found my mouth moving to the music eventually. Out of curiosity, of course.
There was this pastor, a Joseph Prince who is apparently famous in local churches. Also someone whom I find is a fanatic of some sort. I felt slightly repulsed yet at the same time, drawn to the ‘truth’ of the essence of the things he said. Churches have some very powerful speakers and the amount of power these people bestow upon the pastor/priest/father is admirable. So I left soon after the service, or at least I tried to until I ran into my friend. Obviously she was surprised. Soon I found myself in the presence of her cell group mates, and my next two~ hours were spent with them making me aware of God’s love for me, etc etc. Flattering and rather amusing experience, I’d say. Don’t really know how I escaped.
I also got chased out of a mosque.
It was a period when my head was filled with many self-destructive ideas and thoughts towards the way of a religious lifestyle that I decided to go the mosque to seek clarity in thought. It was in early 2011 when I began pursuing the faith and science thing, and I tried breathing logic into religious matters.
I went down to the mosque (with no intentions of offending anyone!) and I visited my old ustaz, or a sort of religious teacher. He invited me up to his office where I then began asking questions, apparently later labelled as the ‘sort that people shouldn’t talk about’ which then occured to me that it was a bad idea to come at all.
Soon I began talking very destructively, in an unorderly and rough manner that would come across as one that lacks enlightenment, which was correct. After a while, his colleagues stepped in to try and help me out. I began to pursue the subject in a logical way. After a while they concluded that I could not be helped that afternoon and I was asked to leave, and I left. There was this slight contentment, sadness and amusement altogether.
But of course I’m not trying to degrade the impression of religious institutes nor am I trying to test the patience and level of tolerance. The questions I had were really chaotic in nature and there was no point in further discussion. Later during the year I understood this, along with many other things.
But I swear it was hilarious. 😀
During winter, I went to Australia alone for the first time for many reasons. I felt I needed to get out, to venture forward to experience something new and different. Australia gave me that big leap and space I urgently needed which was when I realized how much life has been cheating me. You could say that trip opened my eyes.
One of the few things I did there was hand gliding. Obviously given my colorful experience in hand gliding, the hosts decided I wasn’t the least bit qualified to hand glide alone so an instructor was attached to me. The hand gliding area was atop this chilly mountain at the south part of Sydney, by the borders of the ocean. The cliff was about 300 metres above sea level and the sun was fantastic. Plus it was winter, so chilly. The instructor prepared the glider and some safety aspect were taken care of, and I got on right behind him. And we kicked off.
If I could begin to describe the amount of adrenaline rushing through my body, I would say it’s enough to make me lose control of my bladder without my prior consent. The winds were icy cold and I could not feel any part of my body except my hands, which I was struggling to keep gripped. We soared out above the sea for about 50 metres, before the instructor navigated the glider to navigate above the sandy beach and along the coastal line. That was when I thought I could live life being an adrenaline junkie.
I was hoping we could crash into the sea or beach but after 3 minutes out (which was really long when you’re up there) we landed at the lower tiers of the cliff.
It was then that I decided I could not stay idle. I refused to stay idle and to do things that made no sense or use to me. Life was too short, and the world too beautiful to stay idle.
I went through a series of states during my trip in Australia. I lost tears to a Muslim scholar who was giving a lecture about life and hardship. He inhibited my mine with truths that mirrored my then, current state of mind. I’ve loved, truly, and lost, and gained much more. I’ve staked everything I had – my polytechnic education, my mother’s love, my family and extended family, my health – all in the name of stepping up and stepping forward. I’ve used people, and I’ve played the wrong cards. I even drank and got rather drunk in the hope of experiencing and understanding what it would take for men to lose their dignity. To quote The Alchemist, it is not what goes into the mouth of a man that is evil, but what comes out. Greath truth.
2011 has seen me through my friendships with Fadhil, Leonard, Ying Xin, Sarah, Yi Ling, Carisse as well as many other people without whom the year would’ve been completely different. Especially to Yi Ling, Sarah, as well as Carisse – I’ve enjoyed their presence and evoking conversations at abnormal times of the day. (I might have had some little crush on some of them but COME ON that is only normal and human.) Solitude was my greatest companion in 2011. The way I’ve lead my life in 2011 has somewhat made me a stranger in the prevailing culture of my youth.
Growing up is painful, new year resolutions are not. And while growing up is painful, not growing up is a lot more painful. I pride myself on 2 things – 1: that I would always be alone until I decide I could make space in my heart and my mind for another, and 2: that even when I am happy I am in pain. To many a new year is a fresh start to make good of the previous year. Like death, where your entire life flashes before your eyes at the very end, new years share the same concept. Society views new years as a new life, that is infancy all over again. To avoid and deject pain is to invite more pain. To work towards a past is to go back to infancy, and since we cannot go back to infancy, we should grow up.
There is no such thing as a New Year. There is only the next year. There is no such thing as a new chapter, a new book, a new page because the truth is that all you have is the same old book you’ve been writing for the past years of your life from when you learn how to walk, except now you have an eraser. You cannot run away from the past years. They’d always be there – problems, happiness, everything – and they will continue to define some of the decisions you make.
To my dearest cousin, I do hope that you see all your problems as a way of growing up. We may try all sorts of ways to go back but we only do harm to ourselves when we get dragged forward by force. So take it in, accept it and let it break you. Let it break your ego, your pride and let your values be challenged. Because one who fears and cannot accept loss would eventually be the biggest loser, and those who lose and let go wisely would stand to gain a lot more – that is the way of life.
Happy 2012 everyone!
I react violently to peas.