on turning 24: reflections & life lessons

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Yes people, I am officially 24 years old! I can’t believe how fast time has gone by. I can’t believe where I am in my life right now. I can’t believe I’ve graduated. I can’t believe how much things have changed and will actually continue to change in the future. Young adulthood is just so exciting yet scary at the same time.

As I sit at my desk writing out this post, I can’t help but beam at how wonderful my 24th birthday has been. On Wednesday I went out and bought myself a bag bags a a personal birthday treat, before spending a fabulous time dancing salsa at a weekly dance social at one of the dance schools I go to for salsa lessons. On Thursday, I was bombarded with lots of texts, messages and well wishes from lovely friends and family. I was surprised to see that both my dad and sister had sent me really touching birthday texts, considering that I don’t actually recall them doing so last year. Also, since my sister was at work and my dad’s in Japan now, my mum bought a chocolate hazelnut cake and sang me a birthday song after breakfast. In the afternoon, my two best friends Shu & Zee surprised me by unexpectedly turning up at my home while I was napping with a bunch of beautiful orange roses and a bag of chocolatey goodies along with lots of love (OH MY GOD GUYS I STILL CANNOT BELIEVE THAT HAPPENED). I was so touched because aside from the wonderful gesture and extravagant gifts, Zee put her fear of dogs on hold to come all the way from her home to send me love! (SOB). And then finally after dinner my best friend & I caught Tomorrowland at the cinema.

Friday was also an ex-colleague/ex-teacher’s birthday so Shu and I went back to our old school where we used to work and got together with our colleagues for WP’s “surprise” birthday dinner at a casual restaurant next to the overlooking the reservoir. I thought it was going to a day focused on WP but it turns out the team had also decided to do a mini-belated birthday celebration for me and I ended up celebrating my birthday a second time with WP! Seriously what?! There was fantastic chocolate cake (oh my god so good seriously what kind of cake have I been eating before this one?! Thank you Gaby for introducing Chocolate Origin to me.), mini burgers, fries, mocktails, cute balloons, dogs, a gorgeous sunset, fantastic company and lots of love, light & laughter.

It was just magnificent. I was, and am still so overwhelmed at how different my birthday was as compared to last year’s. When I turned 23 I was at a very low point in my life. I was still raw from heartbreak, filled with intense regret, worthlessness, pity and experiencing a loss of shame and dignity. I had a birthday treat from Shu and Zee, and had a low-key birthday celebration at home with the family, but it certainly wasn’t filled with the same amount of love as this year.

Sometimes the realization that I’m now 24, graduated and poised to enter the workforce has tends to make me briefly reflect on all the events and challenges in my life that have shaped me to become who I am right now. The year I turned 23 was a challenging time for me. I’ve lost a lot, cried a lot, gained a lot, & learned a lot. I look back and cringe at all the mistakes I made that make, laugh at all the blunders that now seem so hilarious (wow I was so back then) & smile at old memories.

I’ve learned to appreciate all the smaller things in life now. I can stop in the middle of the street and stare up at the dazzling clouds in the skies streaked with the colors of sunset for 15 minutes, just wondering in amazement at how beautiful it is. Now I try to find the smallest of blessings & joy in situations to gain appreciation & grow in happiness.

Here some things that I really got to truly understand better that helped me gain maturity & wisdom & grow as a person & understand life a little better:

You can keep going long after you think you can’t. 

I’ve had an eating disorder since I was 17. These past 7 years not only have I been coping with an eating disorder, I went through depression, self-harm, severe body image issues, suicidal tendencies & low self-esteem. For 7 years I can’t count the number of times I’ve promised myself and I’ll stop dieting the next day and eat better, only to end up crying into my eyes because I binged again. I can’t count the number of times I looked in the mirror & end up crying & cutting myself because I didn’t see someone naturally pretty, naturally tall & naturally skinny. I’ve cut myself because I hate my rolls and my flabs, because I felt overwhelmed by the amount of pressure in school driven by my then incredibly high level of perfectionism & need for control. I went through a phase where I felt stripped of my pride, my shame & my dignity. I felt devalued like second hand goods and suffered intense regret, heartache, sadness, anger & betrayal. When I lost my heart, I lost my identity. I fell, got back up, but then fell again with each new blow I received & struggled so much to stay strong and get back up. Throghout these 7 years in very single slip, every single fall and every single struggle I asked myself “I can’t get through this. Its not possible. I’m going to die. This thing is going to kill me. I can’t do this anymore. Why must I suffer like this? Does God even exist?” But with each unexpected obstacle that threw me to the ground, be it via triggers, flashbacks or actual events that took place, after each binge and slip, somehow life moved on. I found myself just fighting for my sanity everyday and lying in bed at the end of day thankful that I got through the last 24 hours. Its when I realized: it really is mind over matter. You will gain nothing but unhappiness & pure distress about agaozning about the future; about whether you will make it the next 6 months, next month, next week or even the next day. Focus on the 24 hours that you are given, and that’s where change will begin to occur.

Music cue: What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger.

Not everyone you lose is a lose. 

I was 23 years old was when I started to understand what it means to let go of people. I’ve learned that the ones who never drop by to ask how you are despite you asking them for years are ones that will eventually make you question: why do I keep doing this? Why do I keep asking about them when they don’t even make the same effort as me. If they wanted to be in your lives, they’ll ask. The ones that don’t make the same amount of effort as you to keep in touch with most likely won’t ever want to do so. I’ve also learned that burning bridges helps you move on to become a better & stronger person. It will hurt, but if that person at the other end of the bridge isn’t appreciating you, not giving you what you deserve, giving you pain &/or reminding you of unhappiness, then a goodbye is worth it because you will no longer be held back.

Closure doesn’t exist. You will simply move on. 

Psychology has taught me that humans have a need for closure, to seek answers to ambiguous situations & questions in their lives that makes them feel empty and anxious on the inside because without it, they feel a loss of control. Shit happens many times and as much as we’re driven to get answers to figure out why it happened, the answer will never be enough. You become overwhelmed by the emotions of it, but slowly we come to let it pass.

Friends who have seen you fall & stayed to help you get back on your feet are friends you should keep and appreciate.

These are people who are rare and are people whom you need. They’ve seen you at your best and your best. They’ve watched you fall down and become a mess and they help you get back on your feet without want of a reward. Not just once. But all throughout the years. They entertain your rants & put up with your bullshit, but they still gave you the unconditional love and support you needed. There are only a few people in life who truly know our past and how it has shaped us and who have continued to be in our lives despite whatever obstacles there are; people who make the effort to stay next to you & support you. You’re an idiot if you don’t appreciate them.

You are how you choose to define yourself. 

You are either a victim of your circumstances or a survivor of your struggles. Change how you define yourself, and your attitude towards yourself will change.

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Now as I enter a new phase of adulthood, I’m struck by how much more I still have to learn about life. The challenges of adulthood make some of the problems & worries I experienced in the past few to be laughable now. In all honesty, I do have some anxiety about the working world. I still have yet to fully recovery from my eating disorder. I know little about life savings or financial stability or the complexities of marriage, but I will take those one day at a time as I go on with life. Graduating from college is the easiest part of life. Now I’ve to make my mark in the world and make a living. Make a living. Wow. No more skipping school when I have a “feel-fat” day or because the lecture is a boring one. This is the real deal. I pray that I have the knowledge & courage to be able to take risks and go through life, learn from my mistakes & gain wisdom and experience to help my journey as an adult. I also pray that I can continue showing strength & resilience in fighting my eating disorder and body image issues, avoid as many slips as I can & prevent a full relapse in the future.

I’m both anxious yet excited to see what else I can accomplish, what awaits me in the future & how much more in strength & wisdom I can grow as and in a person because when you’re not growing, you’re not living.

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Some of the birthday messages that began coming in…

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My aunt sent this to me. I was so touched by her message <3

My aunt sent this to me. I was so touched by her message that I teared up ❤

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My very conservative Chinese dad who doesn’t hug people nor express affection much must have been cringing when he read my reply.

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Chocolate cake with hazelnut cream filling!

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True friendship = when your best friend calls you to wish you a happy birthday then casually asks where you are, then appearing at your door 5 minutes later with your other best friend holding flowers and a bag of goodies while you were taking a nap

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The second birthday cake was a scrumptious smooth chocolate cake oozing with the best chocolate filling ever. LOOK AT THAT PERFECT CHOCOLATE SURFACE?!

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I was presented with my very own life-sized surprise Bambi birthday balloon! Okay fine it really wasn’t that big its just an optical illusion but its still so cute! It even comes with its own legs!

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Birthday boy WP got a penguin!

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The 2 ladies (along with Art who left early) who went all out to get this balloon! THANK YOU ❤

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Some of my favorite people

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Just taking a deer & a penguin for a walk 😀

My photographer deserves the highest honorable mention <3

My photographer deserves the highest honorable mention ❤

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