It took a dark period in my life to remind me that time often reflects immense change and growth.
My psychological state at the beginning of Grade 12 differed from the typical excitement of being a senior. I felt empty and lost, unable to share in the excitement that reverberated around me.
I had lost both of my grandmothers in the span of a month – both of whom contributed greatly to my life in different ways. My own mourning exacerbated my pre-existing sensitivity. I became consumed in a void of emptiness, unable to connect to my peers. The connections that I continued to maintain were too burdensome; I just felt too much. So much so that I became consumed in my own darkness. Sorrow and regret were all I thought about. I began closing myself off to everyone around me, even those I was closest to. I felt my friends become increasingly distant as I continued isolating myself. When I was around people, I just wanted to be alone. When I was alone, all I wanted was to be around people, to distract me from the void and pain that I could not get rid of. My mental state became progressively worse. I began skipping parties and weekend get-togethers, only later wishing I had gone for the distraction. My insomnia returned, marking a time where I was constantly ruminating in my thoughts day in and day out. In some periods, I would appear to be myself. In other times, I was clearly inside my head, trapped and unable to speak. As a relatively sociable individual, this was definitely outside of my norm. Some of my close friends noticed these changes. But I had a knack for hiding my true self and attributed feelings – always keeping things to myself.
For many, it is a connection to people that provide the needed support to fill voids. This was usually true for me too. However, this situation was different. My usual tactics of compartmentalization didn’t work anymore. I was in a constant state of disconnection from life, and from everyone around me. I was a prisoner to my own mind, held captive by my own thoughts. I was unable to escape them. Unable to sleep. Sports and running were my only outlets, but I could only escape through physical activity for so long. I soon found solace in alternative forms of connection: books, poems, and films.
In 1985, when my mother was in Grade 11, she was tasked with completing a Personal Profile Project as a part of her English class. She miraculously kept the project, giving it to me in 2016 as a way to better understand her upbringing and own innate struggles. Her Personal Profile Project was essentially a compilation of her personal insights encapsulated in various creative writing prompts and poems. Unbeknownst to me, it would be the best gift I ever received, later providing me with the connection that I failed to find elsewhere. I found comfort in her insights and feelings, many of which connected to my own thoughts and feelings. I was surprised at how similar the thoughts and feelings she expressed in her own teenage years in the 1980’s were to my own experiences three decades later. I began to understand that periods of time are inextricably linked to one another through sociological concepts – an understanding that is often overlooked by the media’s focus on mass societal change.
Grade 12 marked a period of introspection for me. It was a time that mirrored the reflectiveness of New Year’s, but spanned a whole year rather than just a few weeks. Losing both of my grandmothers, especially my Naani, made me beg the impossible question of the meaning of life. The grief I felt made me pause in time, forcing me to reflect on whether I was living a life full of potential or a life devoid of meaning and filled with immoral values. Literature became a powerful tool I used to understand all facets of life. Analyzing my mother’s poems, in particular, helped me navigate this period of adversity, a time that marked the shift to life without the guidance of my Naani, my greatest role model. It wasn’t only my deep feelings of loss that buried me in darkness. It was also my loneliness, and lack of understanding of who I truly was. Many of the activities I immersed myself in did not reflect my values, making me feel like a stranger to myself.
My mother’s poems provided me with a way of thinking deeply while understanding that I wasn’t alone. She had reflected on the same profound things that I myself had been questioning. She lived in a different time period, yet struggled with the same things I had been feeling. Her literary pieces provided me with comfort and a way out of my own pain. I was able to open up to others and recognize that the deep questions that I explored following a loss were valid. The 21st century’s fast-paced environment often made me forget the true value of allocating time and space to heal. As my experience demonstrated, healing only comes with time. Sometimes, it is alternative forms of connection, such as my mother’s poems, that provide the support needed to grow and move on.
As the New Year unfolds, remember that you are not alone. Like me, many have endured loss and self-defeat. Remember that time marks one’s own self-development. When acknowledging mass societal change, try to also examine what hasn’t changed. One may be surprised at how similar an experience can be to someone who lived in another period of time, or someone who lives in a different society in the world, governed by different rules and laws. We as humans are connected by the people and experiences that shape our life. It is only once we face adversity that we can move on, grow, and feel all the joy life has to offer. Never forget the immense knowledge we can gain from individuals who lived generations before us.
To end off, I would like to share a poem that my mother wrote in 1984:
Help is often taken for granted.
As friends help friends
Battle their problems
And achieve their goals
When there’s no one to turn to,
You have no choice
But to help yourself.
If you choose not to, you will stop caring
About life, about others
But there’s only so much
You can do alone
To get through the day
By just sitting with you
Or giving you a friendly hug
Whether the help is needed
To overcome a big problem,
Or a small, minor one,
It does not Matter,
For Comfort and Support
Are greatly appreciated
No matter how big the problem
By approaching one to help,
You know they care
And value your presence.
This alone is more help
Than any spoken words could offer.
That ever present feeling.
Psychologically or physically.
It’s there hidden deep down inside us.
For every three good things,
There are ten bad ones.
Just one of life’s absurdities.