Dictionary.com’s word of the year for 2017 has been ‘complicit’, and aptly so. For now, more than ever before, we seem to be recognizing the part we’ve played in allowing, if not perpetuating some of the most atrocious and cringe-worthy of behaviours. A lot of this has meant being able to look the Self in the eye and admitting to errors of the past while holding space for the aggrieved, even when we might not have played a direct role to cause them hurt.
This got me thinking about my ‘word of the year’. For the past two Decembers, I have been reflecting and summing up my lessons from the annual-trip-around-the-Sun. Last year I relied on quotes. This year, I thought hard and found my ‘word’.
My word of the year for 2017 is self-awareness
There are two types of people in the world:
(i) those afflicted by what others think of them i.e. logg kya kahengay, AND
(ii) those afflicted by nothing but the voices in their own head i.e. the imposter syndrome.
I belong to the latter and 2017 has been my journey of overcoming my inner demons.
2017 has been a challenging year for me.
Not difficult, but challenging.
2015 and 2016 were difficult.
2015 was when I began learning the ropes after I quit my job.
This was also when I was first confronted by the need to pay extra attention and take extra care of my mental health after my therapist diagnosed me with Dysthymia. We chose to walk the path of no medication and in turn, I got invested in equipping myself with the tools (under the guidance of my therapist) to help manage myself better.
2016 was when I began my journey as a soloprenuer with Be You For You. Entrepreneurship and mental health aren’t known to be the best of friends especially when it involves playing hide-and-seek with financial certainty.
Through those two years, I reckoned with myself from the present while tending to my scars from the past and my trepidation about the future.
This is why I maintain that 2015 and 2016 were difficult.
I (re)learnt how to live with myself through those two years. And boy was that difficult!
But I managed to do so and did so quite well.
This meant I was all pumped and geared up for 2017!
A clean slate.
A fresh start and direction.
A whole lot of new energy and zeal.
And that was the beginning of the challenge because…
2017 has had plans of its own – plans it is yet to disclose to me
A couple of days ago, I made light of the Facebook Year in Review feature because when I clicked to see mine, this is what Facebook said: “We aren’t quite ready for you. Come back soon.”
So I shared the screen-shot with this caption: “Not just you, Facebook. 2017 wasn’t quite ready for me either!”
Was 2017 THAT bad?
Let’s take stock.
2017 was when travelling at least once to each the 29-states-of-India-before-my-29th-birthday achievement level was unlocked by visiting the seven sister states of northeast India during the first quarter.
It was also the year I launched an advanced level of Be You For You on self-expression and personal narratives, ran a session on impact of narratives for a non-profit (yet another first), did another session on professional development through personal narratives for a corporate entity (one more first), travelled twice to another city in another state and facilitated workshops there (again a first), designed and implemented a residential Be You For You workshop (also a first).
2017 was the year I finally experienced Vipassana which reinforced to me in a very subtle way that I have known many of the answers that I have been seeking. It was the year when I got access to compassion and empathy as a language.
The twelfth month of 2017 saw me launch my website after years of using Blogger.
All of this seems as good as perfect. No?
So what made 2017 challenging?
Well, for starters, if 2017 were a person, s/he would most definitely qualify as a sadist. Here is why:
2017 has also been the year when now more than ever work opportunities arrived and then disappeared mostly under mysterious circumstances. These included a few big names (read: names that sound nice when one wants to brag) who approached me to work on longer-term projects. And just as instantly as I said yes, these projects went poof!
Interestingly, it has also been the year where, in the spirit of leaning into impulsiveness (an attribute I’m not a fan of), I said ‘yes’ to potential projects and then backed out of them simply because it didn’t feel right or sit well with me anymore.
2017 was when eight Be You For You workshops got cancelled because of no-show i.e. not a single person registered to attend. Five of those eight workshops were scheduled between the months of October and December i.e. all of those cancellations happened back-to-back over a period of seven weeks!
My mental health plummeted to the pre-2015-diagnosis stage and Dysthymia has been accompanied (mostly preceded) by episodes of anxiety.
It has been the year where my personal relationships have undergone silent but tectonic-level shifts. In my heart and head, I know these shifts have caused irreparable damages; some of which is yet to manifest itself.
At the time of writing this post, my hands are inflamed by a skin condition that makes them sensitive to touch (and the heat from my laptop isn’t making this easier).
It has been the year when for every setback I suffered, I chose to fight some more. And that has been the mistake.
Why fighting back was a mistake and 2017, a challenge
It wasn’t until very recently but after weeks of self-expression (yes, I preach at workshops only what I practice on a day-to-day basis) that I might have stumbled upon an epiphany.
What if instead of fighting back, I sat myself down and took a moment to catch my breath?
And instead of exercising resilience, I allowed myself the permission to savour defeat?
What would happen if I became for myself the voice of comfort I am when someone else I know feels despondent?
At the peaks of my despair, I repeatedly heard myself wanting out.
And it was in those same moments when I learnt to allow and hold space for myself to mourn the setbacks – personal and professional.
In those moments, I started to rediscover ways to be-me-for-me; similar to how I have been there for many others, even though it has meant coming across as being selfish/self-centered. But then again, who better than me to know that there IS a difference between selfishness and self-compassion.
Folks who’ve experienced Be You For You know what I am talking about!
The same 2017 that showed me how stubbornness and perseverance were key, whether while planning the entire northeast India itinerary or taking Be You For You to Bangalore or designing as well as re-launching my own website, had also shown how the same attributes fuelled despair!
Why am I not painting myself some silver linings?
2017 has not been an absolutely horrible year.
It has definitely not been a pleasant year either.
Above all, it has been very trying as well as tiring. It has been tough. Period.
Like I already said, I am still unwrapping it.
I am not ungrateful for the ‘good’.
But if I have come to realize anything it is this: I cannot overlook the ‘bad’ either.
It does not make me any less resilient to call out the ugly parts of the fight.
Nor does it make me any braver to mindlessly keep fighting the fight either.
It is said that “nothing worth having comes easy”.
But to paint pretty silver linings is just as foolhardy in my humble opinion.
Self-awareness is the ability to tap into oneself and acknowledge the entire gamut of emotions one is capable of feeling – without fear or favour.
It is this same self-awareness that’s keeping me buoyed.
That’s why it is my word of the year.
Self-awareness has shown me that just as there is a place for gratitude, there is also room to mourn. That we don’t get to cherry-pick our emotions.
Self-awareness has taught me to embrace my humanness.
I cannot be certain that at 00:00 hours on 01/01/2018 the spell of 2017 will come undone. I ain’t Cinderella.
So I am not going to wish 2017 away.
Instead, I only pray that I seek and find the fortitude to listen to myself.
And you, what is your word of the year?
Let’s work together
I use narratives as a medium when working with individuals, groups, and organizations to help explore and improve both, intra and interpersonal relationships. Let’s explore!