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Treading Through 2022

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I came into this year with one troubling thought: what do we do when the monsters no longer hide under our bed but scare us from inside our own head? It’s a big thing, you know, when you realise that you’re no longer afraid of the world around you because the scariest thing already exists within you. And so, as 2022 settled into my bones and the days passed, I realised that I had two choices here: 1) continue to walk on eggshells around my own self, or 2) embrace the fears and learn how to live with them.

If I’m completely honest, I spent the first half of the year on eggshells. I was gentle. I was soft. I took up as little space as possible. I existed without wanting. And mostly, I never let myself feel too much. I wore clothes that would easily blend into the background, and I was never too forthcoming with my opinion on things. I kept myself as low-key as I possibly could – best friend, if you’re reading this and saying, “excuse me, did I not tell you you needed to ration your use of words?”, just know that you don’t count in this because you received a (mostly) unfiltered version of me. But you know what? I think that first half of 2022 broke me more than anything else ever did. Because for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t being put into a box by others, I was doing it to my own self and there is truly nothing more heartbreaking than dimming your own light.

Things changed though. I don’t know how and I don’t know when, but it felt like a switch in me had been flipped and all of a sudden, I wasn’t afraid. I mean, yes, in the grand scheme of things I’m still afraid of stuff, but I was no longer walking around like a shell of my own self and cowering at the thought of taking up more space than was available for me. I no longer worried about there not being enough seats at the table and decided that I could build my own damn table if I so wished. I stopped shaming myself for liking things so deeply. And mostly, I just stopped shrinking to make room for others. I began to stand up for myself and not take crap from people who had no reason to be in my life. I put boundaries in place that I willingly maintained (even though they still hurt like hell). And I just started treating me how I’ve been treating everyone else for most of my life and my goodness, what a life. I’ve really been missing out on treating myself like the love of my own life and it shows. Because I get it now. When the loves of my life tell me they’re grateful for me, I didn’t understand, but I’m starting to see it. I’m starting to see how life could look if I just care for me, relentlessly and with no desire to receive anything in return.

But here’s the thing nobody ever tells you about this side of growth: it’s terrifyingly lonely. I know for a fact that I’m not alone, but that doesn’t really make much of a difference when it feels like you’re standing still inside a bubble when the rest of the world is moving around you. Because here’s the biggest thing I learned this year, being open and being vulnerable are two very different things, and while I’m great at being open, I’m not very good at being vulnerable. I will create safe spaces and maintain them, but for some reason (that we all know is self preservation because the trauma of life has really clawed its way in, but let’s pretend we don’t know that) I won’t let others do the same for me. I will gladly let my sentences run together as I speak at a million words per minute, but if I really listen, I know that nothing I say is of significance because I’ve been intentional about that. I’ll willingly tell the people I love what’s happening in my life, but I won’t ever really let them in to any of the feelings behind it or the things that it will have triggered for me until it has all passed. All simply because I feel like I am too much and need to keep parts of myself hidden away to be worthy of receiving the love I so willingly give to others.

I have had 27 years of being told that I am too much, and I am finally trying to unlearn that. I am trying to unlearn the idea that by simply existing as myself, I am burdening others. But, it’s hard. And it’s only going to get harder. But I’m determined to get there. I know the potential I have to be the person I always needed, but I need to keep reminding myself that it’s okay to take a step back each time I take a few forward because it’s how we grow through all the things we go through. So, as I step into 2023, I won’t be making any promises about this grand transformation I intend to experience this year, and simply focus on crumbling my own walls so that I can be unapologetically myself for me.

To the friend who surprised me by laughing and saying, “yeah, you really are the Grinch, but I love that you are”.

To the friend who messages me every so often from across the pond to remind me that we might never have met in person, but we still inspire each other to love life and that’s beautiful.

To the friend who tells me often, “I’m so proud of how far you’ve come”.

To the friend who sees my hesitation and asks, “did you say yes to another plan you wanted to say no to because you didn’t want to disappoint them?”. 

To the friend who gives me quiet days in because my brain goes quiet around them.

To the friend who says, “ok great, cry it out and then get the hell up and be the bad bish that you are”.

To the friends who stand by me when I cannot stand my own self. To the friends who often want to break my phone because I’m terrible at replying to messages despite having my phone in hand. To the friends who have seen the worst in me and continued to stay. To the friends I pretend to hate but would set the world alight for to protect their name.

To the friends.

You are my chosen family, and I wouldn’t have gotten through 2022 without you. I hope that you’ll be patient with me as I learn to get myself through 2023 so we can love each other better.

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Ayesha Khanom

Sometimes a teacher, sometimes a student, but mostly caffeinated. This blog is a terrible attempt at writing out my thoughts - think of it as the 'comments, complaints, and suggestions' section of my brain. Nevertheless, I hope that some of these words will find a place in your heart and will stay with you even when I do not. If you'd like to get in touch, send me a message on Instagram or leave a comment on one of these posts and I'll get back to you at the best possible time.

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