Happy birthday to me! That’s one more revolution around the sun, one more year earth side, and wading deeper into the 40s zone. Back in my 20s, I had this notion that the best age to die would be 40 because, silly me, I thought I would have accomplished everything that life has to offer by then.
(Twenty-somethings can be so silly sometimes.)
If I were to have one word that encapsulates my hope for this year, it would be “Bloom”. I used to hate being a January baby because nobody knows or remembers your birthday, after the hullabaloo of Christmas and the holidays and being in a new class at school. When you are a lonely kid whose family doesn’t celebrate your birthday, it can make you feel even lonelier.
As an adult, I see its beauty. At this time of the year, we are at the tail end of winter – the cold is thawing and spring is approaching. In our Chinese culture, there is a sense of hope and optimism for the lunar new year. It’s cold but we are slowly getting warm.
And so, bloom. Like the gorgeous flowers just waiting for the right time to burst forth into their own, so am I.
To be perfectly honest, the past four or five years have been rather un-pretty in many aspects. My career stalled, bosses who added little value to my professional journey came and went, and the work culture was toxic. I was miserable and wanted to resign so, so many times. Somehow, I held on. I can probably thank my students for this – without them making me laugh, cry and roll my eyes, work would have been absolutely dreary.
The pandemic came and stayed. It was also when it suddenly hit me how awful and dysfunctional my childhood had been. I started reclaiming boundaries and parts of my life for myself.
My trajectory started changing rapidly late last year – so fast that I barely had time to breathe. Change after change happened and suddenly, I found myself with a new boss whom I actually respect and trust. More importantly, I was given the opportunity to work on projects that I enjoyed and was good at.
And just like that, I am at where I should be.
For the first time in a long, long while, I feel…complete. Like I know exactly where to go. Like I am doing what I know I am good at, and people recognise my effort.
I have been suffering from imposter syndrome all my life, and I know that this is a result of my childhood trauma. When there is nobody to offer you words of affirmation, to encourage you to try new things despite your fears, to believe you…it can be hard to believe that you actually are good at something.
Here, now, today. I am where I am meant to be.
Does life end at 40? Absolutely not! I am still seeking growth, fulfilling dreams and notching personal achievements. I may not have many friends but the people whom I have surrounded myself with are good for me. They encourage me, tell me hard truths and help me to be a better person – and I know how lucky and blessed I am.
Some days, I muse that my sons are suffering from FOMO. But now, I see where they get it from. It’s me – it’s me and my fear that I will regret not trying something that I have always wanted to try, on my deathbed. It’s my fear – that I have lived a life that did not explore fully what living should be – that keeps me going.
And so, here we are. Completely at ease with who I am and where I am. Work is exciting again and hey, not everyone can boast of having a billboard of their face welcoming all visitors to the campus. (I was embarrassed at first – hi, imposter syndrome – but screw it, I ought to be proud of it and myself).
What is in store for the next year? I don’t know but I am going in with the best version of myself that I have ever been.