Thank you 2021 for many things. A calling, a finished manuscript, a postgrad path, mentors and friendships, family and love, good health amid a seemingly never-ending pandemic.
Four years ago, a fortune teller in Hong Kong told me that 23 would be an important year. A year when I’d accomplish things that will set the rest of my twenties into clarity.
He might be wrong about some things but I think he was right about 23. I always used to think that this would be the year I graduate; instead, many things were left unfinished, though I did complete my first-ever novel manuscript. For much of the gap year, I believed I’d be embroiled in a prolonged existential crisis about what career to pursue after graduation; instead, I’ve miraculously found a calling that enlivens my days, at a place with growth, dynamism, and possibility. Some things remained constant: I mulled over happiness and inner peace and what that meant within the four walls of home and a confined geography; worried about failure as much as I grappled with the extent of my own ambition; discovered that there’s nothing more self-revealing than the process of writing a novel—we think we’re interrogating other imagined lives and characters on the page, but at the end of the day we’re actually asking questions about ourselves. What kind of life have I led that can imbue the page? Are there a thousand little traumas that can actually carry the arc of emotion? Why do I write—when on most days it seems as though the world won’t ever need this story? Writing a novel was a reckoning with procrastination, the heart, timing, self-doubt, and the unbearable lightness of being. Some things, like emotional depth, can’t be rushed. Novel writing taught me patience.
Most of all I’m grateful for God and family, for standing by me through restless days, moments of self-inflicted anxiety, and a rather ridiculous phase of neuroticism; for standing back and letting me teeter on the edge of the abyss—because I could only find my wings in the whoosh and vertigo of free fall. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 2021 would’ve been a nightmare, a disaster, were it not for you. There are still days when I sit up in the darkness and think of a million things that could’ve gone wrong, my mind numbed by the adrenaline of conjuring parallel worlds, overwhelmed by relief, gratitude, and some unknown emotion occupying the space between fear and wonder. Only in retrospect do we see the invisible turning points in the tides of our lives; only in retrospect can we now connect the dots.
After years of every animal of the zodiac, it’s somewhat crazy that I’ve again come full circle. 2022 is the year of the tiger—my zodiac year (本命年). The last time that happened I was still 12, a primary school girl with wild pyramid-shaped hair clad in Hongzi, sitting for the PSLE. How fast the wheel of life turns. By the next rotation, I’d be 36. What kind of 24-year-old did I once yearn to be? What kind of 36-year-old do I want to become? We get only one shot at each turn, the years an endless shedding, metamorphosis, and unrelenting growth—prickling at first, often painful yet hopeful, then astonishing. Are you proud of who you’ve become, dear 12-year-old me?
In the final minutes before the clock’s hand hits midnight, thank you 2021 for all that you’ve gifted me. I’ll hold your constellations and turning points close, shoulder both your lessons and unfulfilled wishes, keep marching and keep dreaming. The world ahead rolls on in its vast obscurity and the night is dark, but there’s wind under my wings and moonlight on my hands. So we fly on.
Hello 2022 🍀