16 January 2014.
Exactly a year ago, I took a giant leap of faith and left for Manchester. I did the physical act of exiting my comfort zone and embraced the subzero temperature of Northern England alone.
I thought it apt to kickstart this new year of writing with this entry – a timetravel of sorts – a letter to the 16January2013-Atikah on what to expect for the year. Who would have thought that three hundred and sixty-five days later, I would be so different.
You will be reading this on the plane on your way to Manchester. I know you’re alone now and you’re filled with an stomach-churning mix of excitement, delirium and uncertainty. Hey, you’ve finally been given the chance to finish what you had to drop out of halfway at the Australian National University – you’re going to be studying overseas again! Congratulations.
You just left behind your family, your friends and your boyfriend. Oh you think you’ve had it all figured out, don’t you? I don’t want to spoil things for you, but let me just give you a heads up – things aren’t going to be the same when you come back seven months later. And trust me, it won’t be a bad thing.
Good news first: You’re going to get to travel. A lot. Both in the UK and in Europe. Go where your heart leads you to, not where everyone else is going to. You’re going to thank yourself for that.
You know… It’s a terrible thing in life to wait until you’re ready. No one is actually ever ready to do anything, so you might as well do things in the moment. Do it. Especially when you’re scared – go out and do whatever you were scared of.
You’re going to use up all the money you saved up from teaching tuition and doing part-time jobs but not a cent will be wasted. There will be times when you need to make hard choices when it comes to money but I’m glad to say that you’ll be wise enough to spend it on what matters most. You’re going to learn to be street smart and savvy in your day to day activities and in your financial management. *pats back*
Things will happen. Your life will get out of (your) control. But let me tell you this, what might seem to be a series of unfortunate events will, in fact, be the first steps of an amazing journey of (self)discovery.
I’ll give it to you straight: You’re going to face betrayal. You’re going to lose the people you care about and you’re going to lose the future you’d crafted together. Respect yourself enough to walk away from anyone that walks all over your dignity.
Like Paulo Coelho wrote, “If you are brave enough to say ‘goodbye’, life will reward you with a new ‘hello’.”
You’re going to learn to trust Allah and your own self. You’re going to learn to believe that everything happens for a damn good reason, so have faith. Have faith. Remember, Allah is your ultimate protector. He can protect you in ways no one else can, so leave it up to Him.
You’re going to be forced into situations that allow you to look within and find yourself. In the moments of loss, you will gain inner clarity. In the moments of despair, you will be guided back into His arms. You will make peace with yourself and (nearly) all the baggage you have been carrying for the past two decades.
Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask it.
When life changes to be more difficult, know that it’s the perfect opportunity to become stronger.
But fear not, you’re never going to be alone on this journey. You’re going to meet amazing people. So many of them! Some people will come into your life and you just know you’ll never be able to replace them. Some people you’ll meet just for a short while, some for extended periods of time. But each and every person you meet holds a key to the many answers you will be searching for. Be open. Be selfless in the giving of your self and your love to these people. Embrace them and let them know who you are. Be an ambassador of your faith.
When you’re in a position to react, always choose to be the better person. Be the one who nurtures and builds. Be the one with the forgiving and understanding heart. Be the one who looks for the best in people. And most importantly, leave people better than you found them.
You will be making a lot of crazy decisions, but then again, you’ve always been the go-getter and risk-taker anyway. You will fly out of your comfort zones so many times, but that’s fantastic because, hey, great things rarely came from comfort zones.
You’re going to find your passion in writing, and you will meet amazing souls through your writing.
You’ll come back to Singapore a new person and will need to renavigate everything you were once familiar with. It’s okay, you’re going to be alright.
The good news is, you’re going to keep travelling. You’re going to keep going on solo trips (yup, you’re going to be crazy enough to do that) and meet new people. You’re going to realise that your travels aren’t just a means to cross out items on your bucketlist or to show off to people. No, you’re going to realise that travelling is your calling, it’s a soulful and purposeful journey of self-discovery and understanding, even faith.
You’re going to stumble upon your passion involving children and giving back to the world. You’re going to find your strength in organising events. You’re going to meet so many like-minded souls.
Your first love (yes, that man who taught you how to love) is going to get married and you will be happy for him. Very happy, in fact. You will wish him and his new wife well.
You’re going to fall in love again, but in a way completely foreign to you. It’s going to take you a while to realise that you’re in love with that man. It’s the kind of love that doesn’t require reciprocation; you will find freedom and peace in that love. You’re not going to get together with that man (at least, right now as I’m writing this you’re not) but you’ll be okay with that. Knowing that you are capable of such love will be enough for you.
You’re going to end the year being diagnosed with a mental illness and fighting to be better – know that you’re strong enough to get through it. You overcame it years ago remember? It’ll be different this time round, if only in that you’ll finally be able to see the wisdom behind it. Oh and you’ll be alone and in a foreign land when the year closes too, but don’t worry, you’ll be ready for it.
It’s going to be one rollercoaster of a year, so be excited. Oh yes, you’re allowed to be scared too, but like I said, go do what you fear anyway. You’ll survive. Wait no, you’ll thrive.
I’m going to end this letter with this beautiful quote from Rumi:
“Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?”
Trust me ok? You’re going to be just fine.
With lots of love,
The 1 year older you.