It’s that time of the year when everybody tries to make a list of all that they want to do to be a better person, mostly, items refurbished from their undone list the past year. I think everybody should keep on trying no matter what. Life is a journey anyway, you win and lose, and what matters is that you tried. To quote the pop sage Miley Cyrus, ‘it’s the climb’. Ok, I’m joking about the sage part, but I admire her for being a staunch vegan.
So here I am diving in again, listing some things I want to do or be, in 2019 and beyond. Hold on to your seat because these are dizzyingly tall orders. And why not? If we aim for the stars, there is a minuscule possibility we could at least reach the clouds. But if we aim only for a feet higher than where we are, we are very likely to find ourselves kissing the ground. So why not go all out then? There is no limit for dreams, and the world has proven malleable for the audacious and hungry, and those in a state of blessed inconvenience. For such souls, the drive is much stronger, and anything beyond the current state is better. The fire of one’s passion is strong enough to shape the future, at least to a certain extent, even only in the way one views it. I guess this is the attitude one should adopt when dealing with the future, to be gung-ho about it, or else, what’s the point?
I am dividing my list of 2019 new year revolutions into four themes: advocacy, career, relationships, and self.
Advocacy. I am particularly passionate about two things, climate change and animal rights, both of which I could sum up as caring for Mother Earth. There is much to be desired in the way that I am working for these issues I care about. For animal rights, online I have Vision:Vegan World, Vision: Vegan Cambodia, which I initiated, and Vegans Philippines, of which I am admin. I also do online mentoring to anybody interested. Offline, I have much to do, especially here in Cambodia. In the Philippines, there are groups I have been joining for offline action, the Save Movement, Cube of Truth, and Vegan X Movement. For climate change, I have fairly established myself as a climate communicator, going all around the country sharing Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth slideshow, and joining the activities of The Climate Reality Project, of which I have been involved in since 2011. But in Cambodia, I have only done one talk for student leaders in 2017.
So what do I want now for my advocacies? Doing direct action is nearly impossible in Cambodia for three reasons: I am alone, I am a foreigner, and the political situation is not conducive. These should not be complete barriers in still working for animal rights and climate change. When I was working here as a volunteer last year, I did little things, leafleting, chalk art, and a couple of vegan meet-ups. Still better than nothing. Now is Sihanoukville I wanted to volunteer in an animal sanctuary, but they moved to a town two hours away, owing to the growing cost of land and rental in the city. For climate change, nothing much except for my own practices on simple living.
The situation calls for more creative approaches, and I will try to figure out what I could do in that department. I still want to volunteer at the sanctuary at least once a month. Moreover, I will try to be more personal in my approach here, less online, but more on interacting with people outside of work to create opportunities to discuss both animal rights and climate change. It will take a lot of effort on my part because I just want to be home alone after office, watch Netflix and sleep. I would have to force myself to reach out as it is not something I do by default as a semi-recluse here. If the little that I do would not be so impactful to the cause, it would be to me, and that’s what real revolutions are about. I’m only planting seeds and people would have to go through their own change.
Career. As Technical Adviser, I am the most senior (technically, not by age) at work. But I don’t want to rest on this as a privilege even if I have earned it in the course of my career. A couple of weekends ago, we cleared the land where we will be setting up a new community center. I could choose to join for a few minutes of photos and leave, it was Sunday anyway. But I was the first one to pull out the grass. I stayed the whole time and helped as much as I could, even if it’s not really much.
Why did I do it? I want to be the best colleague I want to have. I won’t be the one who makes excuses and saves my ass. I want to be present and fully engaged. If I want to do this, then it means I have to work more efficiently and effectively, teach and learn more, and always seek meaning and work for it. I have been working on this for the past several years already. I feel that I have had tremendous growth over time, but there is always a room for improvement. If I am already on it, will it be difficult enough to be a challenge to myself? In fact the better one is at a thing, the harder it is to improve. It’s easy to give oneself a pat at the back for some job well done. It’s easy to be complacent. But to be static means to die a certain death. We have to keep on growing and getting better. This means I have to do much beyond the call of duty, take that extra mile, and flash that extra smile, even if I’m hurting. Do I have to be so hard on myself? Yes, I think so. I’ve always done well in my career, but I was never the best at anything I did. Still, mediocrity is not my best friend so I’d rather challenge myself more than be self-satisfied.
Relationships. This is where I couldn’t claim any victory at all. I failed many times in this department. My family loves me unconditionally and they have always been there for me. But the stars have unfortunately not been kind to me in reciprocating their love. I am still the ‘green sheep’ of the family, veering away from home and norms, and living life my way, not pursuing the traditional notions of success but flying as a free spirit. An old friend once described me as a nomad, and I am likely to believe that now. I do love my family, but I have some sort of social disability that I can express better typing at a computer than saying how I feel towards the people who mean most to me. This doesn’t have to go on forever though. Starting this year, I will make more effort to connect and keep in touch, profess love at every opportunity, and find ways to make them feel I truly care.
This disability goes deep in that I have no idea what to do. I currently communicate with family through Messenger. I live and work abroad. I have grown to love being alone. But I do love my family. I do love my friends. In fact I don’t know anybody I don’t love or at least like. Despite being outspoken about my advocacies and coming off as loud and angry at times, I simply don’t have a bone of hate in my body. I have dispelled hate long ago from my life. And even if I am annoyed or frustrated, I am not really angry. Have I lost the capacity for it? I hope so. Love for me is all there is. Everything else is nothing. But showing this is a totally different story, and I would have to go beyond myself to give justice to this one. Were you ever in this boat? What did you do to get back to the shore?
Self. Somebody once gave me a crown and made me feel I deserved it. I am still wearing the crown, but there are times I don’t feel like it fits. If I am to be a queen, I have to be the best version of myself. I can’t continue feeling small and dimming my own light. This is certainly the biggest challenge, since everything else I want to do is anchored on me. There are only so much in life one could do or be in control of. The self, the only thing one could be truly a master of, is usually the hardest to manage. Negative self talk, baggage of the past, fear of the future, and all such nonsense are actually real life monsters that could leave one with debilitating anxiety, depression, or both. But I’m not going to allow it. More than a queen, I am a warrior, and I have survived more than many people could handle.
Who then is the best version of myself that I am aiming to be? The healthy me. Without health, almost nothing can flourish, so I need it to be able to nurture everything else. As vegan, I will continue and strive more in my mostly whole food plant-based diet. I want to eat at least one raw meal a day, and take supplements as a good vegan should. I will exercise and be thick in the right places. I will take care about how I look, not for anyone, but for myself.
The happy me. I must have been born melancholic, or maybe I just watched too much soap opera growing up. I’m a terribly emotional and sensitive person, almost an empath. I have made great strides in the second half of last year but I need to work on it more. I need to choose to be happy and continuously work on it until it becomes a habit, until happiness becomes me.
The grateful me. I found that the more gratitude I feel, the easier it is to be happy. With gratitude everything changes almost instantly. It is a lens that allows me to see what is good, what is positive, and what good is coming if it’s not there yet. Gratitude feeds the soul like no other feeling could.
The loving me. If I have the capacity to love, I have the capacity to love myself I can see myself in others, I can feel oneness with everything in this world, or at least understand it. If I can love then I can do great things. I can stop being so self-absorbed and be a person for others.
It might have been easier just making a list of 19 things to do in 2019, but it would be about resolutions, and not revolutions. Such a weak word does not sit well with the warrior in me. What about you? What are your revolutions for 2019?