Looking Back On 2023

If I had to describe 2023 with one word, it would be stabilization. It had a bit of everything for me, ranging from life-threatening encounters to falling in love (and consequently falling out of love). Extreme highs but also extreme lows, which managed to balance each other out near the end of the year and reached an equilibrium.

I’m grateful for everything that happened, bad and good alike. Without those experiences, I wouldn’t have grown so much. 2023 taught me a lot, and if I were to list it all, this would turn into one hell of a long read, so I’m just going to keep it brief.

(editorial note: it was not short at all):

I’ve grown fond of risk-taking.

I rank this as the number one thing since, as you’ll read in the sections below, at their core, they were enabled because I took some risk.

I went on my first overseas trip alone, to France, and crashed at my friend’s small cozy studio apartment. I did absolutely zero planning for this trip and did what I felt like doing. One afternoon, I stayed inside with the windows open, staring at the landscape and taking in all the sights and sounds. To some, this might seem like a waste of an afternoon, as I could have been visiting some monument, but to me, it was like bliss.

My only regret would be not buying enough souvenirs, as the ones I brought, namely chocolate, went in a flash.

I got my first two tattoos! And made a friend along the way. This started when the host of a podcast I regularly listen to said on social media that he needed volunteers to practice tattooing. I decided to go ahead and contact him, as I felt like this was a chance to give back for all the entertainment and laughs he had given me with his own show. Turns out, he was a very approachable person. We ended up hitting it off and became friends! (I got two more tattoos from him, bringing the total to four.)

I signed up for a gym! I had a severe aversion to gyms for the longest time as someone who is on the heavy side. I’d think everyone else was judging me in their mind. And, if the opportunity ever presented itself, they’d knock me down and shame me. But I couldn’t be farther from the truth, as everyone is mostly in their own heads, thinking about their life and current events or being anxious if other people are judging them. In all the encounters I’ve had so far, all of them were people encouraging me to keep going, noticing that I’d gotten stronger/lost weight, or giving me tips about exercises.

I fell in love! But, had my heart broken. It was a weird and fun experience, one that I have many fond memories of that I’ll cherish for as long as I live. Unfortunately, or fortunately, it didn’t work out. It taught me a lot about myself, as well as showing me that there are areas where I need to improve upon and that I should look out for myself to not let me get completely blinded by love, that there are behaviors if the other person doesn’t tolerate in me, I shouldn’t either in them.

I started going on blind dinners with strangers! This one is strange, but it’s something that I enjoy since it both allows me to find out new restaurants and also allows me to meet new people with backgrounds that I wouldn’t normally encounter. I’ve only been to a couple, but I’ve had a blast each time. It made me lose much of the fear about chatting with strangers, replacing it with fascination as other people always have unique stories and interests.

This past year, I’ve been a bit reckless with all the risks I took. As a way to offset all these years of playing it safe, and it showed in some other things that I did. For 2024, I want to keep taking risks. But, at the same time, I want to be aware of the risks that I am taking and not just going head-first into things that I don’t even take a moment to stop and ponder if it is a good decision. Of course, I’ve had some incredible luck in both positive things and escaping (mostly) unscathed from things that did not go completely awry. If I had given it any thought or mentioned it to anyone, they’d berate me for how reckless I was being and how much I would be endangering my life before I did it (I feel sorry in particular for my therapist, as she would often face me with looks of disbelief and lecture me on why things that I did were dangerous on many different levels).

Being myself isn’t so bad after all

For most of my life, I feel like I have been filtering myself and wearing different personalities with different groups of acquaintances or friends, and this worked, of course, but only to the extent of forming superficial bonds and not more intimate ones. My wake-up call to this was when a friend of 10 years described me as mysterious and a little box of secrets. Initially, I dismissed this comment as both I and said friend was under the (heavy) influence of alcohol. The next day, I realized it was true, as I had never spoken to anyone in that group about who I was. Instead, I relegated my whole personality when with them to be the jester. Since then, I’ve been trying to be more of myself with them, to share my experiences and stories, my hopes and ambitions, and it feels like it’s working as I feel more connected with people, less of an outsider.

In follow-up to the previous point, not everyone will be my friend, and I should quit shaping myself to appease everyone. If I have to be someone that I’m not just to be friends with them, maybe it’s just not meant to be. Previously, I’d try and be that makes everyone like them, but I’ve realized that it’s a pointless effort as they wouldn’t like me in the first place. They would only like the version of myself I present them with. I’d be stuck with that persona forever while with them, as I would potentially risk destroying the “relationship” if I deviated from it and let a bit of my original self through. So it’s just better to embrace being myself because then I will know that if someone likes me, they like me for who I am and not who I seem to be.

I’ve spent all this time pretending to be me, and after 22 years, I’m finally learning how to be myself. It’s going to be one hell of a journey. I fully intend to keep on going, no matter how much I stumble or fall, as I want to live for myself, for my ideals, to trace my own path in life, and not the path others pick for me.

Dropping the pessimism is always worth it

A lot of times, I would not do something because, in my mind, it was a waste of time, as it would either not work out, and even if it did, it would not last. But isn’t that the appeal of life? That things don’t last forever, that people come and go? I would get so lost in the anxious thoughts of control. I would forget to enjoy things and torment myself for having done the thing or not having done enough to keep the thing. Now, I’m trying the opposite. I’m embracing the ephemeralness and focusing as much as I can on enjoying the moment and living a life free of regrets. Of course, the anxious thoughts still linger in my mind, but I accept them instead of trying to fight them.

In addition to this, due to the environment in which I was raised, whenever I think about asking someone for help or just chatting them up, my mind immediately jumps to the conclusion that they’re going to react badly and that they’re going to think I am talking to them entirely due to having hidden interests, which, after (anxiously) putting myself out there and just saying screw it and doing it, couldn’t be farther from the truth, as in many cases they’re more than happy to help, encourage me to rely on them if I ever need them and are delighted that I thought of them.

There’s a case to be made for pessimism, as with it, you’re bound to live a life that can’t negatively surprise you, won’t take any risks, and all the actions you take, you are confident you can take. If they go wrong, there’s not much, if any, fallback to you. However, you’ll always remain inside your comfort zone. You’ll experience life inside your little bubble, relegating yourself to the certainties and despising the unknown. To others, you say you’re content with your life, but deep down, you know you’re not doing all you can. You’re aware of your potential. Of how far you can go, but you won’t go there. Because of the what ifs, the what if something goes wrong, what if I’m actually not that great, what if other people start hating me, and you’ll be forever haunted by those regrets, by the thoughts that there was more that you could do but that you chose not to, because in your mind the pain of failure is smaller than the pain of the all the regrets. But it isn’t because, unlike the short-lived sting of failure, regrets are the weights that keep piling on your shoulders and that one day will make you crumble under their own weight.

Wrapping it all up

In these closing words, I want to thank everyone who passed through my life in 2023. Each of you helped me to grow in a certain way. Helped me lose some of the misconceptions I had about things. Thank you for helping me bloom into the person I am today. I am indebted to all of you, and from the depths of my heart, I love you all.

To those still in my life, thank you for still being around, for choosing to stay despite my many shortcomings and disgraceful attitudes, and for sticking around when I was at my lowest. And hopefully, you’ll linger a bit longer to see who I am becoming. To those who have gone away, either by circumstance or by my actions, thank you for being a part of my life. No matter how short it was, I am grateful for it, and if we ever meet again, I hope we can reminisce and laugh about all the memories we shared, good or bad.

TL;DR: 2023 was a wild ride. Let’s look forward to 2024!

#2023 #reflection