Fuck 2016! I hear this phrase a lot as the year came to an end. I would nod along when I hear this from friends and strangers. The year has been brutal, I would agree, remembering the pre-and post–election devastated feelings, as well as the deaths of famous people and icons I’ve grown up with, and listened to. At the back of my mind though, I kept asking if 2016 was really any different than any other year.
We are not the waves but the ocean.
I wanted so much to write a story of 2016: of hope and despair, trial and tribulations, defeat and triumph, wrapped in the pretentious cloak of wisdom and bullet-point how-tos. Instead, what I have is the strange revelation that I am home again.
You are here! That was what my 91-year-old aunt said when I visited her in Yangon a few weeks back. There are not a lot of places on this earth someone will see me arrive and scramble to greet me. The people who have watched me arrive in this world, watched me play, run, speak, sing, dance, grow, leave for decades, and come back as a stranger are the only ones who will say, you are here! When did you get here? How long are you staying? I am so happy to see you.
I’ve taken detours and gone on adventures. I’ve put distance between me and my childhood, only to circle back and arrive again. The ones who were left behind have always been here waiting for my return, without waiting for my return. What I have in my hand is what have been given to me: a persimmon a nun has peeled with her patient hands, the tenderness of my childhood, the need to belong (now, with the slight know-how). Instead of looking back in 2016, where I did not gain much wisdom, and commit the same ego-centric errors and fear-based reactionary living over and over again, I want to say, Hey, 2017. Where shall I begin?
It is true that travel yields much insight. Day One of this year has started with my recent travel to my past, and then arrive back again in my present, surrounded by my family and equipped with the knowledge that I have been blessed with the love of many good people on this earth. What better way to begin a year? What better way to begin a journey? 2017 will be the year where I will be guided by love, self-love, world-love, the best kind of love.
Best discoveries of 2016:
Tara Brach, Tara Brach, Tara Brach. I can’t say enough how she has changed my life. If you’re like me, and have been feeling the missing part in you although your life seems to be on track, go listen to her podcasts and guided meditations. They have continued to change my life. I’ve been a frightened child all of my life but now I’ve never felt fuller, and more ready to live life wholly. Go ahead, don’t feel shy, put your hand over your heart and say, “It’s okay, sweet heart.” Make a “U-turn” and pay attention to the part of you that needs the most love.
Tim Ferriss: He made me want to always give the best version of me in all circumstances. Some of his podcasts are a little over the top for me but the essence of his experiments and his steely determination to always find the tactics and “Tools of the Titans” as he named his new book are absolutely inspiring. I listen to him while cooking, folding laundry, driving to/from work and always find at least one suggestion that I can apply to my daily life.
Generosity: Being surrounded by friends and family who are always giving without a thought of getting back is a wonderful feeling. As I travel back home, I find myself observing each person and how he/she gives his/her time, effort, money, heart to others without holding back. Give something to anyone and you are a rich man/woman.
Most of all:
Mantra that saves me every day: “You cannot control other people’s actions, but you can control your reaction.” I’ve been practicing for about two weeks now and this concept is absolutely revolutionary to me. It’s not like I didn’t know this before but I haven’t truly practiced it to the level of mindfulness until now.
I say this mantra in my head when I feel insecure. I say it in my head when I am in the midst of fear-based reactionary posturing. I say it in my head when someone cuts me off on the road, when someone sends a nasty (to my eyes) email to me, when someone puts me down, when someone lifts me up, when someone wants more things out of me when I cannot give, when I cower in shame, when I get anxious for goodbyes and unfinished tasks, when I look at my life and feel unworthiness.
I cannot control all aspects of nature, life, people, weather, coworkers,news, bosses, family, friends, strangers, lovers, haters, cat, houseplants, but I can control my mind’s reaction to the uncontrollable circumstances. Someone once said that if you boil the essence of emotions down, there are only two emotions in existence: fear and love. Which one would I choose? I ask myself when I start to react to whatever the undesirable stimulus that makes my mind and body recoil. Would I choose to react out of fear or would I embrace love (especially self-love)? Those questions will stop whatever battles going on inside my head.
2017, I am eager to meet you.