It was a Saturday afternoon. My husband was assisting our toddlers in climbing on a two-meter-high rock wall in an outdoor playground while I was sitting on a bench watching the top of a tree gracefully spreading into the cloudless sapphire sky. I took a deep breath, intending to enjoy the moment of sky-watching.
My memory, however, took me back to the nomadic life I led in my 20s, landed somewhere in the woods on a hilltop where I was with several friends worshipping and praying for the city we were visiting at that time. All my earthly possessions could be contained in one backpack and one medium suitcase in those years, yet I was proud of having nothing but consumed by a vision larger than life.
Memory is a strange yet wonderful thing. They made up your life and shaped who you are today. Sitting on that bench and soaking in the warm winter sun in Abu Dhabi, I was struck by the thought of where I had been and where I am now. I didn’t miss much the extensive economic travels and frequent moving homes in my 20s, but I was forever changed by the places I lived and the people I got to know.
Entering 30, I spent the first years living in Switzerland with my husband, then two children. They were unsettling years because of the instability of our work there.
Thanks to my husband’s current job, it wasn’t until we moved to Abu Dhabi last October that I finally started to feel relaxed and welcome to put down roots for the first time, even though UAE is a country where ex-pats will never get citizenship. Regardless, Abu Dhabi feels home already.
That moment of sky-watching companied with the children’s contagious laughter felt like a gift, where my memory slipped in to remind me that whether it was my nomadic 20s or unsettling early 30s, I was never alone.
I was held and led. And all the tensions and challenges I had faced became the layers of soil where I planted and grew.
Sometimes, I feel I’m behind as an artist, writer and aspiring entrepreneur. You know, that feeling of “by this age, I should have achieved certain things or should have been at some upper level of life”.
But, what things? What level? As if there is a golden standard to measure ourselves by. As if I had reached that invisible standard, I would be the winner and more lovable. As if the beautiful things in my life were earned by my effort rather than gifted because of Grace.
This world keeps telling us that we are the master of our lives, and we have to hustle hard to chase after that mythical standard to prove we are worthy and our life matters.
Often, I have bought into that lie, and it gave me anxieties and the urge to catch up. But the truth is we will never catch up if we chase an illusion. And when the unexpected trial comes our way, we immediately feel defeated, confused and angry, blaming the loss of control in our life while we never had much control to begin with.
I have come to understand that all the bad, good and ugly in life are the composition of the soil through which we grow. A tree relies entirely on the quality of soil, sufficiency of water and sunlight to be healthy and growing. And if it is planted by the water and can receive sufficient sunshine, it will bear fruit in the due season.
In many ways, we are like trees, and we can’t bear any fruit through our effort but to position ourselves in a healthy condition— a healthy rhythm and mindset, to encourage growth.
This clarity gave me great relief and freedom. My goal shifted from “achieve something” to “maturing and becoming my true self “.
When we see life this way, we have a reason to embrace not only the ease and brightness but also the mess and trails. The crying children, the tedious house chore, the long line at the PCR test centre are no longer the obstacles to our achievement ( let go) but the rich soil for us to grow and become (embraced).
My friend, what drives you every day? What makes you get up in the morning and excited about the day ahead?
I’m currently hosting “30 days of soul-nourishing challenges” on Instagram, where I share the tips and perspectives that keep my soul healthy. You are welcome to follow along!
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