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On the 20th anniversary of "You've Got Mail"

"Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life. Well, not small, but circumscribed. And sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave?"

This classic will always and forever be my favorite, because with every re-watch, I feel like it's got "a hundred and fifty-two insights into my soul."

Thank you for this, Nora Ephron. ✨


1929 Anaïs Nin on 2018 Karla

From "The Early Diary of Anaïs Nin: Volume Four, 1927 – 1931," from the diary entry dated 27 February 1929.

It's almost that time of year: 2018 is coming to an end, and everyone is making time for some introspection.

When your birthday is at the tail end of October, it feels redundant to have two big reflections about the year just two months apart. The things I realized on my birthday are still... pretty much the same things I'm reflecting on as the year comes to a close.

I turned twenty-seven almost eight weeks ago. I have also become many things in the last few months (lawyer, aunt, colleague, among others). But — and I say this with no bitterness, only a quiet sort of acceptance — I am also, still, very much, not a lot.

To be quite honest, I am still having trouble with that paragraph, Anaïs. "No book, no stage career, a lot of unsatisfied desires, and a realization that I am half of what I hope to be." 

But I'm trying. I'm trying really hard.

It's terrifying to acknowledge this status quo, because I'm no failure - and to say that I am would only make me sound ungrateful. I only prayed for one thing this year, and I was given so much more. I had goals: I reached them. And I am very, very thankful.

And yet.

Anaïs says, "I am terribly, profoundly happy, and terribly, profoundly unhappy." How apt.

With age comes the weight of many kinds of sadnesses that have no name. It's the kind of sadness that comes from little things that, as a much younger person, you so easily managed to brush off. Like realizing you are drifting apart from some of your friends, or discovering that you are no longer as agile as you used to be, or finding out that you may never get to see the world as much as you want.  Meeting people at an inopportune time. Losing interest in things that used to excite you. Making mistakes at work. Coming to terms with a disorder. Accepting your parents' aging. Realizing your nation is in shambles. Dealing with someone's death. These are not things that are supposed to stop you from reaching more goals, from achieving more things. But ostensibly, these are considerations that now weigh heavily on your mind when you start thinking about what lies ahead, when you wonder about taking big risks.

With age comes the weight of fear.

Have you ever changed your mind about anything that used to excite you? I had a childhood dream of going skydiving. I used to tell myself, "That's on top of my bucket list." But as the years go by, it becomes less and less enticing. It's just utterly terrifying now. What if I die? Who takes care of my family? What about master's? Who gets to read the excerpts of my book? And even if at the back of my head, I know that it's something I can do, I'm no longer sure if it's something I should.

The world says, don't let fear stop you. In theory, I know it should not. But when you've started nestling comfortably into a status quo that is just okay, you develop this instinct to not change it. "I have enough sadnesses to keep me company and anchor me into this safety," I tell myself.

See, this particular brand of fear is not a badge I like to wear.

But like I said a few months back, I like putting on masks of courage. There is comfort in my pretense. So every once in a while, I allow myself to admit my fears. Because when I do, I am forced to talk myself out of it. (Or more accurately, I find old books and passages and authors who will talk me out of it. Tonight, I scoured my bookshelf and it's Miss Nin.) Even if it means writing another "reflection paper" just eight weeks after my birthday "essay." Sometimes, it comes as a time when I should be doing something else, like preparing my daily service report.

Well, consider this today's service report: I am not a lot of things yet. And that terrifies me, because what if I never become everything I ever hoped? But I acknowledge that I am all the things that happened to me this year - and more. For now, that should be enough. Every day, I keep trying to be a better, kinder person to myself. I am grateful for what the universe was generous enough to give me. And whatever lies ahead, I should be ready. I put on this mask, and I try to be convincing, even and most especially to myself. I owe it to all twenty-seven years in me to really try.

Both "terribly, profoundly happy" and "terribly, profoundly unhappy." But I will be okay. I'm okay. It's okay. It's going to be okay.

"I am alive - and thank God!"