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What I’ve learnt this year

2020. Well, it’s been a slight shitstorm to be frank… I think it’s safe to say that for all of us, this year has been unprecedented. We’ve been plunged head-first into a world of lockdowns, masks and social distancing. ‘Normal’ life as we knew it seems to have changed for the foreseeable future.

For me personally, life in lockdown has been an incredibly daunting and yet humbling experience. Amidst the backdrop of global catastrophe, I lost two precious lives within a week of one another. You literally can’t make these things up. Each time, life serves us a reminder – showing its full glory, its capacity for tremendous beauty and sadness.

Over time and this year especially, I’ve come to realise that our lives are made up of moments, small and large. There are moments of breath-taking beauty and moments of heart-breaking sadness. Each moment comes together, creating a plethora of memories, memories which shape and define our very existence. But there are also those moments which change the very course of life itself. 

My Dad passing away is one of those moments. I’m very aware that I’m teetering on the edge of remaking life as I knew it. There’s two parts to life, before and after grief.

It really doesn’t help trying to deal with grief in the middle of a pandemic. Grief is messy at the best of times but navigating your way through a tsunami of emotions during a lockdown just makes it more complex. At a time when you can’t go and physically meet friends and family just to pour your heart out; or the freedom to go somewhere just so you can see someplace different other than the four walls of lockdown, it really puts things into perspective.

Let me share what I’ve learnt during lockdown…

Acceptance.

I’ve always liked a plan and knowing which direction my life was moving in. It gives me a sense of control in the otherwise chaotic nature of life. This year has come down in a crash, reminding me that life may have other plans in store, that in itself has been humbling. 

I couldn’t have predicted that we would be caught up in the middle of a global pandemic, just how I couldn’t control Dad’s illness or the life that had been growing inside of me. Initially, I wondered why my Dad was ill in the first place, why Alzheimer’s chose my family. But over time, I began to change the way I thought and that maybe there was a wider meaning to this such as raising awareness about dementia as it’s an illness shrouded in stigma. It took me a while to accept these things but as soon as I did, I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders, pushing me forward so I could get on with re-making my life.

Gratitude.

I am so grateful this year, grateful for love. Having spent lockdown at home with my husband, we have helped navigate each other through every tragedy and predicament. We’ve laughed, cried and survived together. I’m grateful for the love and support around me, my incredible mother, sister and father in spirit. This love is magnified against the smaller, more isolating moments of lockdown.

Even when Dad was ill with his Alzheimer’s, for as long as he could, he continued to protect us. I felt safe and loved in his presence, even when the illness eventually stole his speech as well as the ability to do the things he once loved. But there was one thing that Alzheimer’s couldn’t ever steal from us and that was the power of love. I’ll be forever grateful for this comforting thought, it really is the small things.

Resilience.

The beauty of life comes from the power of human resilience. We adapt, even in the most difficult of times. Where I once couldn’t imagine a life without my Dad, here I am, slowly picking up the pieces and learning to live again. I’ve found victories in the smallest of moments and this empowers me, allowing me to celebrate my own triumphs.

Lockdown or no lockdown, I have come to realise that I need to keep showing up for myself. By that, I mean realising I have what it takes inside of me to push myself forward, so that even if we are plunged into yet another unknown, it may faze me but only for a moment. The other moments I’ll spend processing, feeling my feelings and understanding what I need to do next. I know that it’s OK to cry, to grieve and to reminisce but that it’s also OK to laugh, to look ahead and to move on knowing this year hasn’t got the better of me.

And so, life goes on. And we move forward, with the hope of tomorrow in our eyes and the love of yesterday in our hearts.

And with that in mind, thank you for the lessons, 2020.

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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