Here at Preen, we’re fully aware that adult life doesn’t always go as smoothly (and look as beautiful) as curated Instagram feeds. We all face challenges amidst all the good things. Meet Mikka Wee, a former food editor-turned-working gal in Singapore, who’s about to share all the ups and downs that come with adulting and living. Welcome to Bless This Mess!
I turn 28 on Monday. Twenty-eight. I’m letting it sink in, rolling the number on my tongue, pronouncing every rounded syllable, and ending with a crisp “t.” Twenty-eight.
I am at the brink of capping my twenties off and ushering my thirties in. Society has its many expectations once this season of life has been reached, and I have had many pep talks with myself—“Girl, keep strong. You know yourself and your timings best.” So let’s hope I do manage to hold the fort and not succumb to cultural pressures.
There are many things that I dreamt to be at this age, but at the same time, there is much more that hasn’t sunk in yet (like me getting married in a couple months’ time when I solemnly swore at 24 that I would be single forever). But then, such is life with its tiny mischiefs and incredible miracles, don’t you think?
I used to anticipate birthdays the same way I did New Year’s Eves. It’s a clean slate, a new chance, a new beginning. I’d scrawl on acres and acres of journal pages, jotting down my realizations, my analyses, my hopes, and my goals for the next 365 days of my life. Looking back, it sounded like a pretty shiny cover-up for my control freak self. I pressured myself to meet my personal KPIs (lol)—so much to the point that I didn’t know how to let loose and grow with the flow.
But I’d like to think I know better now about letting go and letting life win some times. As I type this today, I am filled with a quiet sense of gratitude and contentment. No pressing need to draft a list of things to accomplish before 29. No bells and whistles and things to swear by. But what I do have are some truths I’ve learned about certain topics in my 28 years of breathing and living here on Earth, and perhaps it’s worth jotting down somewhere beyond the margins of my journal.
No matter what people say about separating work from play, your work will always carry your identity. It’s your yoga, as my editor friend Tara told me the other day. Your work will always be a microcosm of who you are. In my 28 years, I’ve worked many different jobs. Some I’ve abhorred with an intense passion, and some I’ve loved like mad.
There is no easy job—remember that. But it helps to know what sh*t you are willing to plow through and stick your neck out for. It’s insane to keep toiling and expending your energy on something that exponentially depletes you, so trust me on this: Find a job that excites you, one that gives you a sense of purpose. And please, make sure it’s a job that gives you self-respect and confidence.
It may not always be a pleasant walk in the park, but knowing the above will at least give you the tiny ray of sunshine that will help you get by. And sometimes, it’s that sliver of brightness that illuminates more of your path, opening your eyes to the flowers and the other small details that can create a world of a difference.
I put on quite a significant amount of weight since my teenage years, and having people tell it to my face makes me want to curl my tiny, tiny fist and give them the biggest, strongest sucker punch of their lives. But instead, I smile politely and quickly change the topic (I usually divert it to food, which justifies my weight gain even more). I really never understood why society makes a spectacle out of weight gain (or even loss), and why it is the first remark that most people say, especially after not seeing you for quite some time.
But what I can tell you is that I understand the impact of such comments on self-image and self-esteem. I had so many issues regarding my looks (more so, my weight), because of how I would let these comments affect me, and at the same time, it was my own doing because I’d compare myself to girls on Instagram to the point that it also affected my relationships.
The truth is that comparing your insides to other people’s outsides is a surefire formula for disaster. It’ll leave you feeling sucky and miserable and pathetic, which, by the way, you are not. All bodies are unique—it doesn’t even make sense to compare in a real sense because there are just too many bodies in the world. It’s really sad how the power of media has diluted the definition of beauty.
I really don’t have a better answer on how to deal with this, except that it’s a decision you need to make on your own. I still struggle so much with my self-image, and this, in return affects my self-confidence. But I remember there was this one day when I was just so determined to get over it, so I stared at myself in front of the mirror, took off my clothes, and just looked at all the curves of my bare body for a good 15 minutes. I told myself, “Well, buddy, this is pretty much as good as it gets. You’re running, doing yoga, eating healthy, and this is the best your body will give you because, well, this is how you were engineered. You may not love it, but your best friends and your family do. And you are happy.”
Pitting someone’s highlights against your lowlights will just leave you miserable. Your body is yours and it carries your stories and your truths—an amazing use of stardust, don’t you think? Still feel bad about your body? Exercise. Break a sweat. Do a detox. Find something that will get your insides stirring in the most positive way. And then, you’ll notice how that inner glow will just shine through naturally.
Now I will talk about the relationship kind of love here because that’s where I learned most of my truths.
Like I said, never in my wildest dreams did I think that I was going to get married at 28. You will be so surprised at your capacity to love, at how much loving someone can just keep getting better and better despite the disappointments and the heartbreak.
There is no heartbreak that’s doesn’t suck, I’m sure you know. But your heartbreak is now your truth to tell—it’s your story, and it happened, and the best thing you can do is to learn from it. Pick up the lessons to prepare you not for your next partner, but for a better version of yourself.
In the learning, you will discover that you have unlocked so many good and strange parts of yourself that you never knew existed, some weird warmth that you didn’t know you possessed. So what if you gave your heart to the wrong person, and he trampled all over it? (That ass!) Well, it happens—it happened to me (more than once). Don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t turn each mistake into a charm to wear on your bracelet. Learn, grow, and be better not for anyone else but for yourself. Remember that you are your top priority. And the truth is, you cannot rescue or save people, but you can rescue and save yourself, and that counts for something.
One truth I’ve learned about life is that you can’t keep living in the past. You need to get over it. Let me raise both my hands as I am guilty of this, especially with my career. So I’m writing this for myself as well with a gazillion exclamation points—GET OVER IT!
Living in the past is also a form of comparison about a better life you once had, compared to the subpar one you’re living now. This instantly places you in a negative state and affects your energy. We all lose good things in life, but that doesn’t mean there will be better things. And most of the time, we’re too busy whining and throwing really embarrassing adult tantrums to see the good that is filling the gaps.
Another truth I’ve learned is that life is its own beautiful, ironic, and sometimes catastrophic comedian with its surprises. I can love it and I can hate it at the same time, but at the end of the day, life is really also the best art teacher you’ll ever have. You’re given limitless opportunities to create and shape the course of your life—isn’t that amazing? Sometimes we are the ones who are getting in our own way. And then, there is the beauty of second chances, and of things we don’t deserve landing on our laps. That’s just life. It gives and takes; yet, it always finds a way to give again. Things always work out in the end.
A part of me used to a birthday scrooge because it meant slowly bidding farewell to my youth, and along with it, my plethora of opportunities and advantages. But writing down some of the things I learned to be true makes the sailing somewhat easier as I discover and walk on new and foreign lands. I’m embracing this age, and I’m just going to live each day the best I can, exercising lots of love, gratitude, and self-care. Turning a year older doesn’t have to be so bad after all.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.
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