Something to Lose

Everyone likes to reset. A changeover, a makeover, an overhaul or anything else we choose to call it. We really don’t have to look far – notice how romanticised the idea of ‘new year-new me’ is. But this perspective is completely understandable. Being able to strip away the weight and worries that hang over us and move forward as a clean slate is an admirable positive outlook. And particularly after 2020, the ‘pandemic year’ where we can safely say majority of us were weighed down by personal and professional baggages, most exceeding any airline luggage allowance, let alone our limited brain and emotional capacity.

For me, I stepped into 2021 in pretty precarious shoes because for the first time, I felt like I had something to lose. Now, don’t get me wrong – I have always had things I cherished closed to my heart. My mom & sister, my cousins, my friends and acquaintances, memories, etc. But these gems and treasures were safe, solid and grounded, always by my side, they were never elusive nor treacherous. But this year, it feels like I’m playing symphonies for bigger avenues, some completely alien to me and frankly, places I’ve never seen myself at and thus, thoughts I’ve never bothered to entertain. How do I appease the audience with the message I so dearly want to get across but at the same time, stay true to myself? I’ve already seen harsh criticism break out when I let my guard down and let pieces of my true self leak through the cracks. How much do I really care for this?

This first month of 2021 has not been a walk in the park. I’m not one to moan and groan, to bare my worries out in the open but it really feels like I’ve been handed the One Ring. For starters, my professional plans which I’ve so carefully laid out has been severely disrupted by the pandemic. First, with my final exams delayed, I’m feeling more and more helpless and incompetent, wondering if I’m truly fit for the healthcare workforce. The constant expectations and silent expressions of disappointment from the educators which rain down like shards of glass do not help. Will I be able to reach the deceptive finish line that I’ve worked so hard almost half a decade for?

With that uncertainty looming, I had some communication with my scholarship body, discussing the possibilities of not being able to matriculate this year, which surprisingly left a sweet note at the end. The exchange really reminded me that as much as professional timelines are important, it’s equally crucial to manage expectations for myself, especially at the face of a pandemic. Leave shame, guilt and fear at the doorstep, don’t let anyone deter you from doing what’s best for you, even if it means pausing career progression for something you believe is best for you. Disrupted timelines, uncertain opportunities, delayed earning potential – just do you and what feels right, especially when we’re gifted the privilege to make those choices for ourselves, which not everyone affords.

That brings me to my next realisation – that I’ve always had something to lose. The only difference is I’ve only sung on stages where the audience were carefully-selected empathetic bunch. The beauty of life is taking calculated risks and playing your cards to ensure you end up on the right side. Now I have the opportunity to broaden my audience, let in close groups of people whom had not the opportunity previously to affect me emotionally but at the same time, be authentic to myself and unfettered about fleeting opinions. There’s a fine line to thread between being unapologetic and apathetic.

So here goes, better late than never, cheers to 2021!

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