The life rollercoaster continues, which I’m so grateful for. It’s been a year since I’ve arrived in New York, and so. many. things have happened.
This year has had its share of joy, fun, tears, broken heart, laughter, feeling lost and found again.
A wholehearted life.
Here are all the things that I’d want to tell my last-year self, as I was freshly moving to New York to start a new chapter of my journey.
1. You’ll never have to negotiate your way in a heart that wants you there.
There’s a huge difference between making compromises and changing in hope that someone else will love you.
The former may be needed to move forward together.
The latter got me feeling soul-crushed, lost, hurt, resentful and naturally, did not result in a happy ending.
2. You don’t have to explain yourself.
My ex-boyfriend did not understand many aspects of my personality, and I kept feeling the urge to justify myself.
I write because…
I do yoga because…
I empathize with people because…
How EXHAUSTING… and quite frankly, not worth it.
To be honest, I don’t always understand myself fully either. However, I’m very introspective, and often seek to understand every single thought and feeling that goes through my head and heart.
So this is a good lesson to myself: sometimes, it’s nice to just give myself the freedom to just do whatever without necessarily tying it to a higher purpose.
3. You don’t have to master every single activity you start.
It’s a trap I’m aware of and watch out for.
I started a ceramics class recently, with a teacher who’s goal seems to be to have us perfect the art of cylinders.
I did not like the first classes.
I actually don’t care about getting to perfect cylinders. I’m not going to start a pottery business. I just want to create nice mugs. Realizing that was liberating in starting to enjoy myself, keep the first pots I would make, even if they are far from perfect.
4. You’re in control of your fluid identity.
For a while, I was the ‘yoga’ person. Then I became the ‘yoga-writer’ person. Then, as I got a bit aloof from yoga, I got annoyed when people close to me would put me in the ‘yoga-hippy’ box as if that was all I was.
But what if I don’t want to be anymore?
The truth is, whether people do that or not doesn’t matter — what matters is that I have agency to say who I am at any given point. Without the need to justifying, arguing, explaining. See #2.
5. You won’t always be on top of your game.
I initially felt very annoyed that my relationship ended based on the last few months that were full of stressful events and a no-so-joyful-all-the-time Laila. It felt unfair.
That’s when one of my best friends pointed this out to me: I’m not always going to be at my best, neither are other people around me.
So, dear future me: please stay compassionate to yourself, no matter what happens during your lower times. It’s human to not be at your best all the time, and it doesn’t mean things going wrong is all your fault.
6. Feeling lonely while being surrounded by people is really, really painful. It can be avoided.
Have you ever been within a huge group and still felt like crushingly alone? I know I have, many times. That mainly came from trying to fit in, and not feeling seen.
Brené Brown points out to us that the opposite of belonging is fitting in. When we try to fit in, we bypass our true identity and instead, behave in ways we think will get us to be loved. It sucks. And it doesn’t work.
I don’t want to fit in. I want to belong.
So I try to make myself a favor by:
– First, doing my best to stay authentic and not try to fit in. Otherwise, I would still end up feeling
– Second, not spending time with people who don’t listen, who I don’t find interesting and whom I don’t feel seen with
7. The hardest thing about being an adult is creating a community that feels authentic to you.
When you’re in school, you have a default community all around you, every day, whether you like it or not. I did not always find incredible people while in school, but still, it gave me a great head start to making great friends.
When you’re out in the big world, it requires a LOT more effort to not only meet people, but meet folks that I am truly interested in, that I feel comfortable with. That I can be authentic with.
I’m at a place now where I’m starting to find those people. My people. It takes time. And patience. But it’s so worth it.
8. Start listening to your intuition, even when it tells you something you don’t want to hear.
Twice in the span of a year, I’ve told my intuition to shut the f* up because I did not want to face what I truly wanted. In both cases, the universe stepped in to slap me in the face and make things right. Thank God.
But I keep asking myself:
We all have so much wisdom inside about what our needs are, and what we truly want — why would I not listen?
I think I know why I didn’t.
Because it was scary.
Because it was going against the stories I had made up in my mind.
Because I thought I could fix things.
And that’s okay. From now on though, I really want to pay more attention to that little voice from now on. It’s there for me.
It’s hard. But I think it’s still worth it.
9. No one knows how to communicate.
Yet everyone around me — including myself, at times — say that it’s obvious, and that are great communicators.
I realized that we think we know how to have hard conversations, but really we don’t.
We don’t know how to say how we feel.
We don’t have the courage to actually try to say anything.
We tag along and let things rot, until it’s escalated to a ridiculous point.
This is a huge lesson learned for me. There’s no such thing as effortless communication.
Communication requires a lot of intention and vulnerability, and I think it’s a tremendous part of meaningful, beautiful and sustainable relationships.
10. Relationships are hard.
In part, because of the fact that no one knows how to communicate.
11. Relationships change fast.
What a weird phenomenon to be extremely close to someone for a while, and all over sudden, it’s all gone, leaving two strangers behind.
Yet it happens, and people transition fast from extreme closeness to nothing. That’s life, I guess. Even if it sucks.
12. Seeking validation from the outside is not a good idea.
Externalizing our sense of worth is risky, unfulfilling, and brings at best ephemeral satisfaction.
An amazing person from my past used to ask me a powerful question.
What would happen if you didn’t hold back?
He helped me surface that I had a fear that others wouldn’t love me if I was fully me. Which led him to ask:
What would you do differently if you weren’t afraid of anyone’s perception of you?
13. Putting others first is not a good idea.
Empathy shouldn’t be an excuse for me to put other people’s needs ahead of mine, however much I love them. That’s not okay, either for me or for them.
14. It’s okay to feel sad, disappointed, scared, angry.
I tend to try and practice gratitude, joy and seeking happiness. So, I’ve come to see sadness, disappointment, anger as negative emotions that… I should avoid.
But I’ve realized, going through my latest break up, that letting myself feel those feelings is important, however intense, and however much of a positive person I am.
That does not mean swelling in self-loathing, but leaning into these emotions that are very much part of our experience as humans.
15. Everyone carries baggage with them.
So, check in with your compassion. And with your core values.
What is okay to accept?
What is not okay for you to be around?
Again, a fine line between empathizing with others and advocating for yourself.
16. Vulnerability is at the core of all of the above.
There’s no trust without vulnerability.
No friendship, no feeling seen, no meaningful relationship without being vulnerable.
No great conversation, however hard, if we’re not willing to expose ourselves emotionally.
No authenticity without it.
And for a while, I forgot. Which is okay. I’m happy I’m learning this again now.
17. I’m not alone.
Since I moved a lot, and have a few of my loved ones spread out across the world, it is my tendency to feel like I am alone during tough times.
It’s been good to remind myself that it’s not the case, and to reach out to my friends and family when I’m not doing so well.
18. I am free.
And extremely lucky and grateful to be so.