Saying goodbye is a process; typically, long-drawn and characterized by the search for closure with the passing of time. In the refreshing start of a new year, we bid farewell to the year that has past and the time for resolutions (or revolutions) have arrived. There is, though, continuity that persists regardless of how we try to convince ourselves of episodic progression – we’d like to say 2016 I was like this but 2017 I am going to be like that, or 2016 was about this but no more in 2017. Ambitious ventures, each one of these claims no less than a tall order. As a history student, I am more inclined to recognise the thread of consistency that stretches through time regardless of the arbitrary measure of time that humankind has imposed upon ourselves. This piece, on my resolution for 2017, builds itself on the foundations from lessons of 2016 and dig deep into the principle that I would like to hold close in the year to come.
‘Courage’ is derived from the Latin word ‘cor’ that means heart. A fair share of Brene Brown reads in the past year has lead me to believe that what this truly entails is to be wholehearted in living. From earlier days, to have courage has always been associated with devoting one’s whole heart. This requires a whole lot of vulnerability and the willingness to show up where challenges are plentiful. In reflection of the most fulfilling moments I’ve had – the brave moments speaking before an audience, the times I stood up for something I believe in, the community projects executed in spite of fear of judgment and the difficult conversations confronted – I notice the importance of being in a space where I engage only with convictions I am aligned with, where I am being real.
Courage in being myself: I would like to respond to the learning from discovery and exploration with self-compassion. The road ahead is once more filled with uncertainty with unprecedented turns and U-turns, only few amber lights to slow down at. The decisions we make along the way and the stories we tell ourselves, with extra thought, allow us to investigate elements of our truer self. The ‘discovery and exploration’ of our circumstances and environment can transform into that about ourselves. Too often, we respond to lessons about ourselves with blame or shame for being a certain way; for just being the way we are. Our ‘I have done something bad’ too quickly transforms into ‘I am bad’ and the mold of ‘how we ought to be’ perpetuated by media and social shaming does little to assure us that we are okay (when in fact, we are). I would like to strive for the courage, not necessarily confidence or certainty, just the willingness to engage from a place where I believe that I am enough, however I am.
Courage in being vulnerable: I believe the relationships we hold dear significantly deepen with a conscious willingness to be vulnerable. When we are ready to say I am not okay and I am thankful for you, we are also ready to interact on a whole new (deeper) level of authenticity and courage. Painfully learning the down sides of a society that doesn’t know how to cry in front each other or admit unhappiness even, I am even more convinced of the importance of connecting with others on an emotional level. From our earliest days, we have experienced emotions without learning – we wail at discomfort and laugh heartily when tickled. Now, let’s unlearn the years of ‘masks’ and ‘shields’ that we have mastered with proficiency. The choice does not lie in whether or not we experience emotion, but in whether or not we engage with our emotion.
The Choice Theory states that the only person whose behavior we can control is our own and no one else’s. We can only give others information and allow him/her to act upon that information based on his/her own choices. You might not realise it but at all points, we have a choice. I am ready and excited to exercise personal choice consciously this year. It is in subscribing to choice theory that we avoid the external control psychology that lies on the other end of the spectrum, where we each manipulate feelings and thwart facts to achieve what we hope for at the expense of trust and connection. On a more spiritual level, choice liberates us when we choose to take ownership of circumstances. Every circumstance, just as a story, has equal chances of swaying toward infinite possibilities – it can pan out in different ways and mean different things to us, all within our control. If we own our stories, all of it (those that make us afraid, brave, betrayed, refreshed, all of it), then in exercising personal choice, we write the ending. I’d like for the courage to make choices where I own each of my stories.
In all honesty, there is fear for the year ahead: What would the preceding 4 years away from home look like? What happens to the support circles that I have become deeply connected with in the nation I call home? What lies ahead in the foreign university? But just as darkness is necessary for us to recognise light, I believe we are most cognizant of courage in the presence of fear.
For 2017, I choose Courage. This isn’t about winning or losing, it’s about showing up and being real.