Today I turn 25. To say I expected to be where I am today at 25 would not be where I expected myself to be ten years ago, or five years ago, or even two years ago. 25. I’m 25. I’ve lived out a quarter of my life already (and yes, a quarter because I hope to live to at 100) and that’s both weird and comforting to say.
I’m not who I’d thought I’d be at 25. I had ideas of who and where I would be at this age. I’d have a stable career doing something I enjoyed, be in a relationship, and enjoying time with my family and friends. In reality, I’ve gone back to school to hopefully start a career in publishing, I’m perpetually single (which I’m okay with), and dealing with various familial and personal health issues but still enjoying all the time that I can with my family and friends.
I’ve changed a lot in the past few years. I’ve definitely grown up more, learned a hell of a lot more, and am surely, but slowly, starting to understand myself more and what I truly want out of life for me. A lot of my life I’ve tried to live up to expectations, my family’s expectations, society’s expectations, and my own expectations. Many times I’ve met and exceeded those expectations, other times I’ve felt stifled by them, and at times I’ve utterly failed to meet them. And that’s not easy to say for me because I don’t like failing.
I have never liked failing.
I fear failure.
But I also understand that failure can give you something that nothing else is able to, and that is the fuel to light the fire under you, to drive you to be better, to create, to reach for something more. It’s not easy though. At times I’ve felt completely engulfed by that fire. I felt like I was suffocating from it, that there was no way for me to harness it and that eventually, it would burn me to a crisp. I still feel that at times but I’ve also learnt that as powerful as fire can be I am more powerful than it. That I am water. I can be fluid, that I can change state, that I can be the most powerful wave if I want to be or the calmest, quiet stream if so I choose. That I am in control. That it is my choice. Sometimes I will struggle in that choice, that I will feel like I am not in control, or that I would be clouded by confusion, that I will question the decisions that I have made, before and after, and that at the end of the day they will help define who I am.
The question of who I am is one that I’ve struggled to answer most of my life. Defining who I am, what I am, and what I want to be are undertakings that I’ve spent most of my life trying to answer and I think I will be trying to answer the rest of my life. Over the course of the past 24 years of my life, I’ve found pieces to help me put together that puzzle, that puzzle of me. I am the daughter of immigrants. That the life that I have would not be possible without my parent, my family, and the sacrifices that they’ve made to give me the start to life that I had. That I am also my own person. That I have agency. That I am complex, resilient, powerful, determined, and resourceful, even when I don’t feel like I am. I am me and it’s been a 24-year process so far to reach that stage and it will likely take many more to fully understand me.
The fundamental basis of who I am may have expanded and grown in the past 24 years but the core of who I am has always been present, even if I couldn’t see it. My Kindergarten teacher, Mr. Young, wrote this comment on my first report card. (Sometimes I’m thankful for my father’s hoarding abilities because without him I wouldn’t have found this report.)
I am still very much the person that I was when this report was written, which is weird to say but it’s true. I may have gotten older, become a bit wiser, learnt a lot more, but five-year-old Cindy and 25-year-old Cindy are still very much the same person. (Also the Slytherin in me was very much present in five-year-old Cindy.)
Reflecting on the past 24 years of life brought up this mixed bag of emotions for me. There are times that I remember being some of the happiest in my life, some that have made me question everything I know, and periods of time where I wondered if this is the worst that it’s going to get. Hell, a lot of those thoughts and emotions are things that I have felt this year. But I am thankful for them, for the most part. I’m looking forward to my 25th year on this. I’ve got plans, I’ve got ideas, and I’ve got places that I want to go and goals that I want to reach. And I do hope that I reach them. To the next 25!
This is the recipe of life
Said my mother
As she held me in her arms as I wept
Think of those flowers you plant
In the garden each year
They will teach you
That people too
In order to bloom
– Rupi Kaur (the sun and her flowers)