As I lay in bed last night listening to the pop of fireworks I thought back to the year that was 2018. Of course, no New Year’s Eve is complete without a reflection back to the events of that year, and usually I write an entry in my diary, processing all that happened and looking forward to the new year with new perspectives and goals.
I didn’t do that this year. In fact, I don’t think I’ve done it for the past few years because… kids (a most convenient excuse for everything I “can’t” do anymore). Instead, my yearly reflection was spurred by watching other people’s IG stories sharing their “best moments” or achievements throughout the year. Welcome to the new age right?
What watching these stories did for me though was ponder on what I myself had achieved through the year. What were my “best moments”? I didn’t travel extensively as others did, I didn’t start a new job, I didn’t complete my degree. We started homeschooling but I struggled to establish a routine or any consistency due to my efforts of juggling three young children, one of whom was breastfeeding for most of the year.
This year, I felt like I was constantly on the cusp of something happening, but I couldn’t quite get there. It was endless days spent overwhelmingly alone at home navigating the world of motherhood and raising my young children. It was me, constantly grappling with myself, my frustrations of not being able to do all the things I wanted to do in the way I envisioned myself doing them and trying to come to terms with my sense of disappointment and ultimately, a sense of failure. It was the year of some hurts settling and easing and making their way out of my heart, to experiencing new griefs and losses. I turned 30 this year, entering a new decade of my life and wondering if I was the person I had envisioned myself to be at this age. It was the year that my children pushed me to question my perceptions of who I was, of what my character was made up of and what my values truly were. Was I a worthy example for my children to imitate? Were my actions reflective of the values I proclaimed I ascribed to? It was a year of constant mistakes… every single day was as full of mistakes as an egg is filled with yolk. I made mistakes up until the very last day of the year…
This year could be described with one word: slow. It was slow, but it dawned on me that it was not stagnant. I may have not taken great strides in a worldly (shareable) sense, but all the struggles I just described have set me on the path of progress. Progress in the form of self actualisation, of inward growth and for the first time in my life, a deep understanding of who I am.
Because staying at home with my three young children grounded me to one physical place which became our battleground, our haven, our fertile plain for growth. Sometimes it may have seemed like we were stagnating in the four walls of our home, unable to step out into the wider world, becoming too comfortable in our safe space, but on the contrary we were breaking comfort zones. Being forced to spend every single minute of every single day together ultimately resulted in a deeper understanding of each other, of our characters, of our weaknesses, of our faults, of our strengths and therefore, of how to love and nurture one another in a way that was sensitive of the other’s unique personality. It forced us (parents AND children) to learn how to put our self aside and prioritise the other.
When day by day I found the reality of life reshaping my former dreams of what life would look like, of what homeschooling would look like, of what I would look like as a parent, even as a person, I felt keenly the paradox of choice and destiny. Of not being the One who has ultimate control. I learnt to recognise signs, to respond to them and allow them to shift my perspectives. And that doing things differently to what I had envisioned was not failure, but a sign of growth, of being flexible and responsive to my reality.
I learnt that navigating loss and grief and hurt demands to be talked about. With the right people. With people who will listen without judgement and offer the right advice at the right time. I learnt that hurt is a prerequisite for growth. It takes time for the lessons after loss, anger and betrayal to be learnt, and therefore, we should afford ourselves that time. Sometimes though, some hurts are so great that we, in our limited capacity as human beings simply cannot understand the wisdom behind that hurt. Such as having a miscarriage, or witnessing practically your entire race be thrown into concentration camps, ahem “re-education camps”. And sometimes we are not supposed to know the wisdom behind such things. They are beyond our capacity as humans to fathom. We leave it to God, and our faith in Him and His Wisdom carries us through the hurt. I was reminded that hurt is universal. That suffering a miscarriage for example is not unique to one person. Even witnessing the genocide of your people is not unique. And it helps in those times to remember that you are not alone in your suffering. It may not take the hurt away, but not feeling alone in your hurt helps.
And finally, I felt that this was the year that I learnt to stop falling back on excuses and to simply act. If I felt lonely and unable to find a community that I felt comfortable in, then instead of waiting for one to fall in my lap, I should go out and make my own community. Instead of railing at the lack of a village, I should form a village of people around me by making the effort to be in contact and be a support for them. Instead of constantly thinking “I can’t do this or that because of kids etc.” I should do what I can within my confines for my health, for my spirituality, and that ultimately, working on bettering myself as a person will naturally make me a better parent and result in healthy, happy children.
It’s impossible of course to fully explore all that I have learnt this year. And no doubt every year will serve to teach me more with new experiences, losses, hardships and hurts. Before I used to fear future challenges, uncertain of whether I could face them with strength. Now I am comfortable with the idea of meeting challenges, knowing that challenges and mistakes and failures are inevitable, that the lessons to come from them take time, but that ultimately, this is what growth looks like, that having the freedom to experience mistakes and lessons is a treasure in and of itself and that this is living…
If you are scrolling through Instagram watching other people’s highlights of their year and feeling inadequate because you have nothing to share, know that you are not alone. If you have had a great and successful year, hats off to you. I am truly happy for your success and achievements. But know that some years are slow, some years you feel stuck in the same place, seemingly unable to move forward. And that’s ok. It’s a long life (insha Allah) and there will be many many years ahead of you, all different to one another. And sometimes, those “slow” years (that actually whipped right on past and left you behind) are sometimes the years that sow the seeds of true growth and progress.
So that’s the recap of my year. Not exactly something I can share on an IG Stories Highlights Reel, but necessary for me to put on digital paper, so to speak. After all, we do live in the new age right?