It’s the lead-up to Christmas.
All around me, there is festive cheer.
Christmas carols, with people singing.
People shopping for last-minute gifts.
Friends laughing over a meal.
Yet the festive cheer doesn’t seem to sink in for me.
Each afternoon, I take my chair up to the highest floor of my apartment building.
Stand on it.
Lean over the ledge.
And wonder if… maybe if I flipped myself over, there would be any regret.
I’m still writing this. So you know the good news.
I didn’t flip over.
How did I even land in that state, where I didn’t want this life anymore?
I didn’t want this life.
Because I didn’t know how to do with this ‘life’ thing anymore.
Maybe that’s you today.
You see people posting picture of the great lives they are living.
You look at your own… and you think to yourself, surely there’s more to life than this?
Or you look at the place you are in now.
Maybe without a job. With multiple rejections streaming in day after day over email.
Or you’re back with your parents. And day after day, they are asking you about your job, your future, your next step.
As if you knew.
But you can’t walk out.
Because you don’t have money to.
You feel trapped. Desperate. Confused. Wondering what to do with this thing called ‘life’.
Did someone once call ‘life’ a gift?
Wherever you are in your journey, I can’t fully understand you. But I hope you know that you’re not alone in your journey.
Your path is unique to you. No one can understand it better than you.
But you don’t have to suffer your pain alone.
Share your pain
It’s tempting to burn your bridges. Hide in a corner. Miss meetings with friends. When people ask you, ‘How are you?’, you give a perfunctory, Oh everything is fine! How about you?
You try to switch the conversation.
With COVID, it’s even easier to hide your pain. You don’t have to meet anyone.
Let’s be honest.
You need both advice and a listening ear.
When you’re down, you might not be able to bring yourself up.
Someone else can.
Amongst the Zulu people in South Africa, they greet each other in this way:
I see you.
I am here to be seen.
Today, show up with all of you. Your pain, and your potential.
Structure your day.
I opened the fridge.
Cake – ah!
The whole cake (not the whole slice), went into my mouth.
Chocolate. The whole bar went into my mouth.
Juice. The whole carton.
There’s a gaping hole within us that is yearning for meaning.
I fed it with M&Ms.
Food. Whatever I could get my hands on.
Within a month, I ballooned by 8kg.
Without a meaningful structure to my day, I needed up structuring it around food. It’s easy, isn’t it?
Without a job, or studies, to just let your day collapse.
It’s almost as if we want it to collapse.
I’m guilty of this.
Whenever things don’t go my way.
I end up throwing a pity party for myself. Complete with tears.
Friends I find to try and tell me how bad my life is.
And junk food (lots of it).
When there aren’t official structures for your day, structure it yourself. Yes, it’s tough. It’s tough to get out to exercise in the morning.
Send applications in the afternoon.
Read at night.
But you know this.
Only you can help yourself.
Your friends can support you.
But they can’t do things for you. Only you can. And you owe it to yourself to do so.
For all the things you aren’t doing, you’re doing something.
When I returned to England, a shadow of my confident self, struggling with depression, eating anti-depressants, I met my mentor.
As I prepared to leave his home, he shook my hand, and looked me in the eye.
John, do you know who your biggest fan is?
I shook my head.
I had expected him to say, ‘Me! It’s me!’
John, you must be your greatest fan.
Yes, you might not be in the best at the moment.
You might be wondering what to do with this life thing.
You might even want to throw it away.
But today, I would like you to write a letter celebrating yourself.
Celebrate your qualities, and how you’ve shown them in the past.
I love you because you never give up! Remember the time you didn’t have a job?
Yet you never gave up, continually pushing against all odds.
Each day, write down two things you’re proud of, and one thing you can improve.
You’re worth celebrating.
I help this boy with special needs.
Once, I was teaching him to write the alphabet ‘A’ in block letters.
It was to design a Mother’s Day card for his mother.
After 10 minutes, he looks at me and says in Chinese,
我不会写这个！(I don’t know how to write this!)
Then he smiles.
Can we try again?
Sometimes, life is difficult.
You might not know how to do this ‘life’ thing.
But come along now.
Shall we try again?
John Lim loves dogs. Period. In the times when he’s not with his dog, John writes about how millennials can take care of their physical and mental fitness on liveyoungandwell.com.
Image courtesy of Polina Zimmerman.