17 in ’17
For most of us, 2017 has been a roller-coaster ride. At times we were screaming for joy; other times we were sad, even numb. I had some of the most difficult experiences in my life — suffering a major depressive episode, attempting suicide, and losing people and things I really cared for. It was tough. But with the year about to end, I’ve realized that I also need to look at the other side of the coin. And here are 17 things that I learned in 2017.
- Always look on the bright side. I started 2017 with a big smile and positivity. It’s ending — time to start anew. Battling clinical depression for almost five years has taken its toll. But I’m a soldier ready to fight. I may not use a gun or a sword as a weapon, but being able to move on is my strength.
- Do not procrastinate. I was a fourth year student at the University of the Philippines and it was during that term when everything was down to the nitty-gritty. I was not graduating because I was a transferee, but my subjects were that of a fourth year student. I was doing my thesis on street harassment, tackling catcalling in the Philippine setting. Deadlines of thesis papers and other subjects—both major and minor—had to be met, but my procrastination got the better of me. Thus, I had to spend my birthday, which fell on Easter Sunday, in my bedroom in front of the computer.
- Strive hard to reach your goal. Yes, I did procrastinate. But one thing that UP instills in its students is grit. Looking back now, I can say I survived the bad moments and I am proud of myself. My group mates and I were able to perform well during the defense. We had trouble completing the final paper, but I realized that working is easier when you have a specific goal in mind. Mine was not to graduate because I still had units left. My goal was to be able to do something for a greater cause: to train a spotlight on catcalling.
- The world is not all evil. Find the good. I transferred to UP because I was bullied in my old school. I was extremely anxious when I lived in a boarding house for the first time. I did not know anyone in my course, and I told myself that I could probably survive school without a friend. Lo and behold, four years later, I had best friends and I became extremely close to fellow shiftees and transferees. The teachers were also very supportive and kind. I did find something good, and it feels good to belong.
- Crying is okay. It’s not a sign of weakness. I suddenly had depressive episodes during the second semester of my fourth year. The past was haunting me and it dawned on me that I never took time to let go. Isn’t it scary, confusing and disappointing when everything is planned but suddenly, everything goes wrong? I cried harder this time and, just like before, I rose after those occasional bouts. Everything seems clearer after you cry. I saw crying as a plea for help and as a sign of true strength.
- Take time to rest and think. Things still did not go well after that. I had a failed suicide attempt. I went back to my psychiatrist and was prescribed more medication. It was then when my family and I made a mutual decision for my mental health: I needed to take time off from school.
- It’s okay to be a nonconformist. Life is all about graduating, getting a cool job, marrying the girl of your dreams, and having kids. Well, it’s a fantasy that I actually thought should be a reality. Now I don’t think I can graduate yet and I am very discouraged. It takes some time to heal and my wounds are still swollen. I have to be me and I need to understand the situation I am in even if it doesn’t conform to society’s standards.
- There will always be a right time. That led me to believe that everything happens for a reason. I have goals and plans but I can’t achieve them at this moment. I don’t need to rush things because there is a right time for specific events in our lives. We just have to be patient and uncomplaining. Not everything might come, but something always will.
- Try something new. Since I took time off from my studies, I did something I have never done before. I joined a photography workshop and enrolled in one-on-one lessons. Photography is a passion of mine aside from writing. It became a vehicle for me to express things I couldn’t express verbally. Being introverted, I found it a way of learning more about myself.
- Take time off social media. I deactivated my social media accounts for a while. Whether you admit it or not, it is a tool for us to compare ourselves with other people. That led to disappointment and more depressing moments for me. I had some deep conversations with my mom. I asked her about her childhood, her take on movies, and her experiences with us when we were young. I learned a lot. I shed some tears. It was a humane moment for both of us, and I still tear up whenever we reminisce about simple events.
- Watch a movie or listen to a song. I love art. I spend most of my days analyzing film symbolism and relating to song lyrics. Listening to a Coldplay song or watching a Damien Chazelle film makes me feel connected and inspired. The feeling I get when I involve myself in anything artistic is a feeling I cannot explain. It can be a journey and, most of the time, it is rewarding. You can definitely learn a lot when you expose yourself to art.
- Do not overthink. The act of overthinking can take us on a downward spiral. My psychiatrist taught me breathing lessons to cope with the anxiety caused by overthinking. Sit. Breathe. Relax. Release.
- Giving is indeed better than receiving. It’s the holiday season! Receiving gifts is not the best thing at this time of year. Giving and seeing joy in people are far more rewarding than getting material things.
- Tell your loved ones that you love them. With the year about to end, I gave myself time to reflect. I would not have been able to experience joy and to continue surviving depression without my loved ones. My family and friends are my rock. A simple gesture of love can create wonders in this ever-changing world.
- Be grateful. Looking back on 2017, I began to appreciate everything that has happened to me whether good or bad. I am still here. I am living. I am moving forward with the help of my loved ones and my doctor. For that, I am extremely grateful.
- Things will get better. I may live with a disease that cripples me physically and mentally, but I am not giving up. The year 2018 is a new chapter of my autobiography, and I am excited to start anew and discover all the things in store for me.
- Love yourself. This may not be my most favorite Justin Bieber song, but it encapsulates the biggest lesson I learned in 2017. Loving myself is my greatest gift. I am giving myself a big, tight hug as I face uncertainty in the new year. I am certain that I can survive another year and finally make that difference that I long for.
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Seth Jason Tan, 22, lives in Iloilo City.
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