Sometimes when life experiences seem overwhelmingly contradictory, I struggle to place them on the same continuum. It doesn’t seem possible to link each subsequent event from the previous when they do not always follow the same straightforward lines. Sometimes experiences jump forward, fall backward, trip and skip a few steps, or stop altogether. Some of them make sense, some are ludicrous, and some are otherworldly. Each chapter is colored with a different shade, some more vibrant than others, and some lacking color altogether. So how am I supposed to make any sense of it? This “it”, that I call my life?
I think back to my childhood – it is filled with hues of pink, full of my parents’ tender loving care, multiple protective nests, limitless sibling bonding, and carefree friendships where the only concern was whether we wanted to bike around or rescue kittens (the latter, which I did a lot of!). I remember my school days – it is colored with vibrant greens of educational nourishment, adolescent socializing, and the constant testing of boundaries (especially as my parents resisted the concept of sleepovers and unsupervised movies at the mall). I recall my college years – it is splashed with scarlet flushes of youthful fun, growing independence, and a whole lot of putting noses to textbooks and keeping eyes open in countless lectures (even when functioning on a few hours of sleep!). I remember my working days – it is outlined in bold, black lines, structured and molded from a temp worker to a full-time employee, starting the journey in New York and then moving it halfway across the world to Singapore before making an exit. I remember the days of being married – it is a chaotic muddle of greys and browns, vigorously smudged together until undecipherable, with the occasional streak of vivid yellow blinding me from reality (though eventually the sunshine yellows blended into scorching burning oranges that guided me out of the line of fire). Now, I think about becoming a mother – well, it is a complete rainbow crayoned with all the colors of the universe (and lucky me, I have a double rainbow!). I think about the future – it is as blue as the endless ocean, the limitless skies, the edge of the horizon where the sea meets…? (I’m still waiting to find out.)
With so many gradients, shades, and blends, how can I make sense of what has been my life so far? Do I seek sense in a chronological or sequential order? Do I fill in the same page with these multicolored scribbles? With so many experiences, so many thoughts, so many emotions, it starts to get real messy putting it all together into “one whole”.
So I started categorizing. Chopping, slicing, separating. I made chunks of my life: Childhood. School Days. IB Student. Expat in Indonesia. College Years. Singapore Management University Student. Boston University Graduate. Working Woman. UBS Temp. Morgan Stanley Banker. Single Woman. Blogger. Traveler. Family Time. Sister Time. Vacations. Matchmaking, Engagement, Wedding. Marriage. Wife. Pregnancy #1. Krish! Pregnancy #2. Shiv! Chennai (My Revival). Psychologist-in-Training. School Counselor/Therapist. 2017 ReDo. Separation. New Zealand. Co-Parenting?
I now view these “chunks” as, well, just that – separate episodes that have dotted the chapters of my years so far. Each chapter has its own stories, and each story has its own narrative. None of them are the same, but they are connected to each other by the continuing thread of my existence. Giving each chapter a label and drawing boundaries around them has kept each experience in its own space. Rather than making a soup of my life stories, I can now enjoy them in bite-size portions. It is less overwhelming and infinitely more precious when I can relish them in their own flavors, time and time again. I have different colored doors for each episode, every chapter, all the different stories. And I enjoy opening the doors and peeking back to the beautiful memories stored inside. Sure, a few doors will probably remain closed for a long time, but most doors are painted with inviting colors that I will enjoy revisiting for years to come.
Considering that the recent doors have not been the most colorful ones, I can’t help but dig deeper to remember the days I smiled without a care in the world, laughed with utmost delight, and greeted each new day with unbridled enthusiasm. These past memories in color-coded chunks have been my biggest motivation in putting one foot in front of the other today.
It is ironic that I now move forward and attempt to thrive in my present life by looking back and savoring the good moments of the past.
But I’m glad I can do that. These color-coded chunks save me in moments of distressful hopelessness. They remind me that I am deserving of new doors, of new shades and hues. And, in time, I will add more colorful chunks to my beautiful pile of memories.