IT is the month of my birthday. This year is a huge numerical milestone for me and as soon as that sunk in, I had an immediate panic attack.
Already? Where have the years gone? Why don’t I feel wise? Should I smile less to make sure I don’t have wrinkles? And most importantly, what have I learnt?
Well, we could go on all day on the subject of lessons, but this time I am compelled to specifically discuss the lessons of love and relationships, a summary of what the past decade has taught me.
I was from an all-girls boarding school and so college was a culture shock – look at those boys!
I had no idea what I was doing, what I wanted or what it was all for. All I knew was that dates got me free food, free movie tickets (chivalry was not dead yet) and free adoration.
When you have a minimal sense of who you are as a person and what you want in life, be sure to expect your relationships to be doomed into oblivion as well.
TEN YEARS’ WORTH OF LESSONS
Over the years, life occurred in a way that completely shifted and changed me from an unsure, indecisive and hormonal 20-year-old into someone else.
Recently, I was talking to a friend about life and relationships. Suddenly, she turned to me and said, “You know, you sound so different from how you used to think five years ago.”
But life inflicts gradual changes in you through experiences, and there is no denying that the past 10 years have been nothing short of a great series of lessons for me.
That boring date I had with the most boring guy on earth taught me a thing or two about chemistry. That night I went for a swim in the sea with friends at 3am, ending in the hospital emergency room two hours later, taught me the difference between fun and stupidity (surprise! Sorry Mum). That time I was in love, and then out of love, taught me the truth about men – that like me, they too are flawed but trying their best. Forgiveness is imperative in love.
But through loving and being around others, perhaps the biggest lesson I have learnt is about loving myself.
This may sound like some hokey pokey Hallmark greeting card but it’s true. Is it worth changing yourself for others? If so, to what extent? I have realised that there are things I could never do or a version I could never become, just for the sake of not wanting to be alone.
I understand when it’s time to let go, or when it’s time to be brave so that someday I will never have any regrets. I learnt that in the end, people will always judge you on how you conduct your life, so it is pointless to make decisions driven by the anxiety of worrying over what others will think.
Ten years ago, I was also doing it wrong in so many ways. I believed that physical beauty was the key to consistent affection, so I concentrated more on that and less on other types of personal development.
I certainly don’t think so any more. Granted, looks can attract people, but it certainly won’t keep them around for the right reasons. If beauty is all you have to offer to make people love you, then you should be really, really concerned.
BLESSING IN DISGUISE
There is always this association of fear when it comes to ageing. There is the fear of losing youth, of having less time to take that Euro trip you’ve always wanted and of never quite achieving the dreamy milestones we had for ourselves when we first reached adulthood.
But the truth is, growing up is a beautiful, beautiful thing. There is a massive difference between the wisdom you know now and what little you knew then.
Most of us are much happier in our bodies today than we were 10 years ago. We now know what works and what doesn’t (exhibit A: my denim overalls from 2007).
We’re not naive anymore, which allows us to make better choices in friends, decisions and partners. Our self-worth is better. The need to live a fulfilling life based on our terms more important than, say, worrying about what others think.
And finally, growing up teaches us the most important thing about love – that wherever we are, whoever we are and at whatever point in our lives, we need to take care of ourselves first instead of relying on others.
No one in this world can do a better job of loving us than ourselves.
A GEOSCIENTIST BY DAY AND ASPIRING WRITER BY NIGHT, AMAL GHAZALI
PONDERS ON EVERYTHING, FROM PERPLEXING, MODERN-DAY RELATIONSHIP DILEMMAS TO THE FASCINATING WORLD OF WOMEN’S HEALTH AND WELLBEING. ALL DONE OF COURSE , WHILE HAVING A GOOD LAUGH. READ MORE OF HER STORIES AT BOOTSOVERBOOKS.COM