What Energises You? (a tale of insecurities and chasing old dreams)

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Ever since I took that little evening jog to the docks (which I wrote about in my previous post), I kept thinking about this question: what energises me? 

I’m not talking about things that make you feel good for a moment then bad later (like bingeing on ice cream or chocolate while falling down the Facebook videos rabbit hole), I’m talking about things that make you jump out of bed at 5am. Things that contribute to your sense of self. Things that drive you to keep being better. I’m talking about hobbies and passions. Reading books, going for a run, taking an art class, learning to cook, having a collection…things that make you you and make you tick. In other words, things you completely forget to keep doing when you have kids (due to their uncanny ability to suck the will to live out of their parents)!

It was actually a really hard question for me to answer. I have definitely not thought about hobbies and passions for many years. So I went back to what I would’ve said in the past if asked that question in my early twenties, and reflected on what still held true. Back then, I probably would’ve said things that energised me were: dancing, biking, writing, animals, hollistic health, and being environmentally conscious.

Reflecting on who I was in the past helped give me a starting point in this journey. How much of this person was I still? What did I not achieve in my younger years that is still bothering me now and making me feel guilt and self doubt…and that I could now work on accomplishing? Not only do I want to do things that give me energy, but I want to examine things that drain my energy. Things that make me feel bad, guilty, or remorseful. I no longer want to say “I should have done that” or “that time has passed” or “I’m too old to do that now”.

About a week ago after a particularly rough night, Miss 2 fell asleep in the pram after dropping Miss 5 off at school in the morning, and I decided to walk through my old university grounds. I had not been there for many many years, and for good reason. It brings up guilty feelings of wasting my parents’ money getting a law degree I never used. It brings up the dread I felt in me, sitting in the lecture halls trying to understand all these topics that I had absolutely no interest in. It brings up feelings of insecurity that everyone around me knew more and was so much smarter than me. It brings up nostalgic feelings related to the friends I used to hang out with but don’t anymore.

Growing up in Malaysia, there was an expectation to go to university and became one of the standard professions: doctor, dentist, lawyer, pharmacist, accountant etc. In my head, there was no other way. No gap years. No travelling. No going out to work after high school. No finding out who you really are before committing to 3-6 extremely expensive years of tertiary education.

If I had to do life all over again with the gift of hindsight, I honestly would not have gone to university. My parents now ask “What if you had done something else?” but I feel I just do not fit into that academic mould at all. No matter what course I took, it probably would’ve all been wrong for me. I feel like I used to be quite artistic with writing and even drawing, but that creative energy was slowly destroyed over the years of formal education at university.

When I was a child, my first ambition was to be a journalist/writer. While a part of me feels I should’ve just trusted myself and stuck to it, another feels that putting that passion through the academic route might have actually killed it altogether. So maybe it’s best that here I am, having done so many different jobs and sticking to none for very long, but having learned so much about myself…that I finally once again find myself going full circle and arriving back in the beginning to realise…I am a writer.

What was your first ambition?

I feel that first one always sheds so much light into who you are as it comes from a place of childhood innocence. What was your passion and dream before you learned the harsh realities of the world? Before a voice shouting out all your insecurities popped up in your head? Before criticism gnawed away at that lovely brash self-confidence every kid has? Even if your childhood ambition was to be something unrealistic like a mermaid, that sheds some light into your personality. You were a dreamer and believed in the impossible!

I used to write so much when I was a teenager. I wrote stories for fun. On the computer. On paper. My best friend was a writer too and we would constantly read and review each other’s stories. It’s a creative part of me that I’m not sure I can get back to, at least not yet. But the minimum I can do now is commit to growing this blog. This blog has followed me for many years and I’ve never really given it the love and dedication it deserves. I glanced through some old and forgotten unpublished drafts today and was amazed at what I read. I thought, hey this is actually not bad, I’m not that bad. My thoughts and experiences are valid. I don’t need a degree to tell these stories. There is always going to be someone else better than me in everything I do, but I’m doing a pretty good job just doing me. I should just post my thoughts and not worry so much about what people think.

The one thing I’m trying to do now is actually be unafraid to tell people I meet in life that I write/blog, and to actually engage with my social audience. I am naturally introverted and I feel self-conscious when attention is turned on me. I have been writing on this blog all these years as a creative outlet, but I’ve never really drawn attention to it because in a way, I rather not know who is reading it! I guess it can be difficult to tell people about this blog because I just don’t want to open up to anyone. I feel silly and egotistical saying “Hey I blog about my life”. In my head it seems a lifestyle blog is not as worthy as something like a tech blog or financial blog. But as I get older, I’m learning to just be proud of being me. Yes I write about my life and my kids. Lifestyle is what I do!

It’s funny because just as I was thinking these things- about what energises me, and getting back to writing- I actually ended up chatting with someone I didn’t really know about exactly these things. She actually asked me “What are your hobbies?” (which nobody has asked me for a long time) and I actually had an answer which was “reading and writing” because I had only been thinking long and hard about it for the last few days. It seems like when I made that decision to think about energy, my passions, and being socially bolder, I actually started talking about them with people around me and having far better conversations than I have in years. You attract what you put out, I suppose?

I used to think that as an introvert, I didn’t need people. But a couple weeks ago, I started chatting to an old friend and I ended up telling her some really personal things that I hadn’t told a single soul before…and I realised I was comfortable with that because she didn’t know my current life in Melbourne or the people around me, and she also wasn’t religious. That conversation was definitely extremely energising and liberating, and made me realise I do need people. I need to meet people who have the same interests, I need to have conversations with people who don’t actually know me and therefore I don’t feel judge me…I need to see life through other people’s perspectives because we all live in the same world but view it so differently, and I need to do that to grow my own perspective.

Another way to see life through another’s eyes is to read, so my resolution for the new year is to always have a book on hand to read! When I was younger, I used to read only fiction. In particular, medical fiction was my genre…oh, and the odd tragic romance of course. However, now in my 30s I am reading books which I never thought I would, and that is those that probably fall into the more autobiographical/inspirational/self-help category…I don’t even know what it’s called exactly. Basically real people’s lives and the lessons they have learned about happiness, success, and life in general. What I used to love about fiction was just getting lost in this fantasy world which didn’t exist. I suppose it was a form of escapism. However, I think I’m finally ready to live in real life now and open up my mind by learning how others see the world.

Sitting in my old university grounds and confronting feelings about my past was quite liberating. It’s funny to think that a conversation that happens in your head can literally be a life changing moment when nothing around you in the physical world has actually shifted…but it can. Because I know the one thing holding me back from more in life is…myself. I am my greatest doubter. I am my greatest critic. So I had to just make that choice to let go of the guilt and regret of everything that has happened…and move forward. To accept that I have made mistakes. To let go of all the negative feelings associated with my education life and to choose to see only the positives. To be able to revisit places of my past and only feel good things. But at the same time, give myself credit for wanting to be happy and not caving into doing a 9-5 job to be rich and have social status, and for being better than I think I am.

In the past, I would keep pushing opportunities away because I couldn’t handle the social intensity, and I also didn’t believe I was good enough. What am I going to write about? Who is going to read this junk? Who is going to be interested in my opinion? Does this all seem too self-centred? Are my hardships not “hard enough” to be valid and make good writing? But I haven’t had any formal training in writing. Oh no I really don’t want to talk to people. I don’t know how to build a social network. I don’t want to sell myself. I’m not good enough.

Many years ago, there was a major story in the newspapers about a man who had an accident and was clinically dead but then “came back to life”. I found the story fascinating and wrote about it on my blog. Then something happened- the family actually came across it and read it and reached out to me. Even though the media swarmed the family for their side of the story, they chose me to meet with me and let my little humble blog tell their story. That is something that makes me emotional just thinking about it today. What an honour. I wasn’t a journalist. I wasn’t a media student. Heck, this blog wasn’t even anything big. But someone believed in me. I told their story, and lots of people read it…but I didn’t ride on that wave because I just couldn’t handle…people. I know that sounds ridiculous to say but it’s true. There is a part of me that is such a hermit crab and secretly admire people who choose to live off the grid. But I guess it’s time to stop holding myself back now.

With two young kids, I have such limited spare time and leftover energy at the end of the day. My 2-year-old is possibly on the autistic spectrum and has a language delay, so the year to come is going to be filled with heaps of doctor appointments, therapy sessions, and social activities to try to get her up to speed. In a nutshell, my days ahead are going to be long, exhausting, and very very expensive. We are a single income family so things are going to be tough for a while. But at the same time, I know I cannot afford to run on empty. These challenging times looming ahead make it even more imperative that I do things for myself to ensure I’m still standing on my feet at the end of the day.

The new year is beckoning and I choose to read and write and push myself to socialise more than I ever thought I could…because when all is said and done, that’s what makes me tick. Looking forward to sharing this journey with you.

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