And so we come to the end of not just the year, but the decade. And this, dear reader, is your last blog post for 2019 from yours truly.
December has got to be one of my most favourite months of the year. It swoops in with its saving grace and big spirit, an all’s-well-that-ends-well conclusion for everything that the previous months may have lacked. Even the grumpiest scrooge cant dodge the celebratory mood rife in the winter air, the promise of starting anew.
It’s the month we lay our unfinished resolutions to rest as we get busy forging new ones. Wreaths, tinsel and baubles twinkle from every conceivable corner – from coffee shops to airport terminals to office cubicles. It’s like being suspended in a parallel universe where everything is covered in fairy lights and good cheer. How can you not get swept up by that wonderful feeling?
Halfway across the world, Dhaka lights up with a different purpose in the same red and green to celebrate Bangladesh’s Victory Day. Neighbourhoods are awash with multicoloured morich bati to mark peak wedding season in this corner of the world. No wonder everyone around me was celebrating their anniversaries this month!
This 19th of December, Nizar and I completed five years of marriage, Alhamdolillah. From doing long distance over Skype, to starting our married life in a studio flat in Ealing, West London, to moving to a two bed rental in Ocean Village, Southampton, to becoming parents, to moving BACK to London with a baby, we have gone through a lot of transitions as a couple and as individuals.
Being a working mom in 2019 feels just shy of impossible despite all the advancement in gender equality. Balancing a full time job with a toddler, settling him into two different daycares, enduring job losses, making city moves – life threw many curve balls at us this year. I know I keep saying this like a broken record but I am grateful for all the hard luck and work. For the vulnerabilities as well as the opportunities. Growth never happens without discomfort, struggles and failures.
I can honestly say I tried to live life as much as I could despite the many ups and downs. Each day, I paused just enough to take stock of all my blessings no matter how long my to-do list was. It is very easy to let arrival fallacy mar our efforts. To be so consumed by the idea of happiness waiting in the cusp of our achievements, that we forget to live.
I lost my grandmother this summer. Not a day goes by without me thinking of her. Her death has given life a more urgent meaning. So has Paul Kalanithi’s book When Breath Becomes Air and the Bollywood movie The Sky is Pink. Both have instilled in me a renewed appreciation of life – and death. A desire to live my life to the fullest, just like Paul and Aisha did in the face of imminent death.
I struggled a lot with my mental health this year. My anxiety was at its peak right after we moved to London, and it was pretty bad. As my physical self went through the necessary motions, my fragile mind failed to keep in step. I slowed down and gave myself grace whenever I could afford to.
I have actively tried to work on improving my mental health – I am still working on it. I realise I can manage it better when I can manage my life better. I have zero help and a lot of aspirations – its constant work to manage them. But I dont know any other way to live.
Blogging wise, I am pleased with how far I have come. I started the year with a humble following of 1K and was able to grow it to 5.7K. It is a lot compared to when I had just started out but not much when compared to others who are in the same niche as me. I am not here to compare – I am here to celebrate. This was the first year when I was a full-time blogger, mother and engineer. I am proud of myself for sticking it out, for juggling duties and dreams despite the hurdles and challenges. For showing up consistently, and giving my best.
I read 13 books this year. 13! I haven’t read this many books since I was in school. You know what it is though? PRIORITIES. Reading is my chosen form of self-care and these 13 books are proof that I invested in it. I learned so much, cogitated so much, derived so much inspiration. Reading is the best therapy I know. I urge those who have drifted from reading to come back to the club.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. I will be honest, it took me some time to get into this book. I received it as a gift last year when I was still coming to terms with being a new mom. I only had to read a few pages to know this was going to be an inspiring read but I wasnt in the mood for such an intense experience. When I picked it up a few weeks ago, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t read it sooner. I was just in the right mental space for Paul’s profound and beautiful writing and I couldn’t stop pouring over it. It’s a powerful book that tackles the heavy and intricate concepts of life, death and mortality. There is so much wisdom sprinkled in that book, I could not help but share a few:
“I began to realize that coming in such close contact with my own mortality had changed both nothing and everything. Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. But now I knew it acutely. The problem wasn’t really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.”
“Life isnt about avoiding suffering.”
“You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.”
One of my most favourite reads of 2019 by far.
Christmas fever is in full swing – you cannot walk into a place without being greeted by a beautiful, twinkling Christmas tree or being serenaded by George Michael. Toffee nut lattes are being downed in mugfuls and Secret Santas are being hosted all over the country. Winter Wonderland has everyone flocking to Hyde Park in droves braving long queues in terribly cold weather.
Nizar and I bought our first (fake) Christmas Tree and decked it out in all its glory. We also hosted a potluck party with some of our closest friends. Even Muslim majority cities like Dubai (we were briefly there en route to Bangladesh) and Dhaka have been celebrating Christmas with gusto – after all, there is a lot of money to be made from holidays. I am still recovering from the whopping ten pounds I paid for a toffee nut latte at Dubai Airport (costs £3 – £4 in UK).
Aryan turned 1.5 years old this month. This boy keeps my heart full and my tired limbs moving on the coldest, hardest days. He is picking up new words and using them in context which still baffles me because wasn’t he a newborn just two seconds ago?! During meal time, he says ‘more’ if he fancies what he sees and ‘NO’ when he doesnt. My cheeky little bugger.
His toddler tantrums are gaining serious momentum. Nizar and I exchange partly bemused, partly cautious looks as he throws himself on the floor because we tried taking off his shoes which he had been refusing to wear in the first place. We also had our first episode of public meltdown when he decided to lie down on the aisle at Wilko, bawling his eyes out. In his defence, he was hungry and tired. Those are usually the two most common triggers for toddler tantrums. Sometimes I can almost see it in his face – his struggle to control his own emotions. Although it can be really frustrating to deal with it as parents, I keep telling myself that he is feeling worse than I am.
The latest in his ever changing YouTube preferences is Thomas and Friends. He really likes trains and planes and every time he sees one, he gets very excited.
We travelled from London to Dhaka on Christmas Day. He fell ill within 24 hours of touchdown and gave up on food. Made me realise, again, how different holidays as parents are from holidays as single or even married couples. Jetlag and toddler emotions are a dangerous mix!
What’s Coming Up?
A brand new year! Whether you have resolutions set in stone or you don’t care for such notions, make sure you are kind to yourself in the new year. Let us all try to be more mindful, more present. Let us make time for our favourite hobbies. Let’s give ourselves time to enjoy life. Let’s give to others.
Happy New Year!