REFLECTIONS ON 26
BY MARIA THATTIL
An actual excerpt from my journal. I was clearly a planner - right down to the ideal timing for an engagement, I was always a an over-ambitious dreamer. At 19, I wrote the above: a vision for my life at 25. As I fast approach 26, it is safe to say my life has not gone to ‘plan’. At 19, I experienced significant heartbreak and it caused me to stop and re-evaluate my life.
How did I get where I was? Where was I going? What did I want? Who did I want? Who was I?
I’ve said it before, but when you experience heartbreak before you have learned who you are outside of your young relationship, you feel lost and alone in your own company. It forced me to PLAN, because I felt trapped in unfamiliar territory - an abyss of uncertainty and loneliness. So I began writing in 2013 and began to dream. But like a kite, my dreams flew high and I got carried away into the sky with them. I started living in my idea of the future, living for the future, blind to anything but the future. I started focusing and ruminating on that one day. That ONE DAY where I finally was who I wanted to be, married to Mr. Right and in my dream job. With no life experience behind me and no idea of how to convert vision into reality, I lived in my dreams. Coupled with my ambitious spirit, I channelled any negative feelings or hardships I experienced into hard work. My solid work-ethic is the result of two loving parents who spoke inspiration and confidence into my soul from before I could speak. I worked incredibly hard in the final year of my Psychology degree. I worked hard in my job to save for a holiday. I worked hard in the things that it made sense to work hard in, but I didn’t know how to work hard to discover myself. I wasn’t living in the present. Because in retrospect, I recognise that my ambition and incessant dreaming was a coping mechanism to avoid the reality of my life.
This is not to say that limitless ambition is a negative thing. But when you are constantly ‘aspiring’ without a constructive, substantial plan, darling, you are day-dreaming. I was going through the motions and simultaneously living in a fantasy land. It wasn’t until years later, when my heart healed, that I started to realise the key to achieving my vision for a happy life lay not in setting rigid plans or fantasising aimlessly, but it was to live my life and to do it for me. Only when I started to focus less on the ideas I had about who I and what my life should be, did I start slowly connecting the pieces of the puzzle. And I don’t think I will ever have all the pieces. I think that as I grow and get older, I will continue to find new pieces, and somehow, they will fit in with my work-in-progress puzzle.
The woman I am today is different to that frightened 19 year old who was too afraid to recognise that the “abyss” she was in, was in fact unchartered horizons for her to build whatever she wanted. I started to study different things, mix with different people, see different parts of the world, indulge new passions and interests. In the past five years, I discovered a love for creating art and sharing my soul. I discovered I was beauty and fashion savvy. I discovered an incredible resilience that carried me through hard family times and two challenging degrees. I discovered an ability to trust my intuition and ‘feel’ my way through life. I no longer listen to the voices of other people above my own. I trust my voice. I trust my gut. I have learned to say ‘No’. I discovered that I was able to forge a unique pathway into my dream corporate job 4 months after quitting a job that was not for me, despite being told that reaching this level in my career was years down the line. I discovered that I have an incredible ability to see the bigger picture and use my empathy to heal myself and others. I learned that my family are human, changed the lens with which I viewed them and forgave them for things that had hurt me in the past. I discovered that the path already trodden does not appeal to me because I am the kind of person who wants to do things her way. I discovered my intolerance for being told what I can and cannot have in this life. I no longer accept being told who I am by others.
I’ve realised the power in backing myself, loving myself and believing in myself. I’ve discovered that there are people in the world who value what I say, need to hear what I have to say and that I have a duty to use my abilities to help and impact where I can. I’ve grown disillusioned with material success and have unearthed an insatiable desire to be a person of substance, someone who has something worthwhile to say, someone who will leave at least one person’s life different. I’ve discovered that your past does not determine your future, but is essential to shaping it. It affords you the chance to reflect, and with reflection comes enlightenment.
I’ve learned that I don’t fit the mould, and that is what I love about myself. I’ve discovered a love for myself and my bare face, eviscerating my previous intolerance for who I am. I’ve realised a deeply ingrained passion to help women. I’ve realised I can’t be complacent in the fight to change the world, even if it means making my small impact to one life at a time – through my art and through my writing. And I’ve realised that all of the above is nothing I could’ve even conceived of when I was writing my five year plan at the tender age of 19.
So on the cusp of 26, the only reflection I have is that I am proud of the woman I am today, and excited for her evolution tomorrow. I can’t wait to for 30, 40 and 70 year old me to read this letter. Because I know that the woman I will be at each of those stages in life will be different to 26 year old me today. After all, if we are not growing, we are dying. And I know I want nothing more than to thrive when I am alive and cherish the opportunity to evolve and experience life.
Until the next birthday.
All my love