The year 2017 in review with Elaine Pillay

The prospect of a new year is exciting. It signals a new beginning, a clean slate, a hope that old problems would disappear, life would start anew.

Every year is a teacher if we are willing to look for the lessons, very often we aren’t. But being asked to do this piece made me look for the lessons.

This year I learnt if you have a dream and it consumes your very soul, however, you ignore it, go years forgetting about it, it keeps pulling you back, then surely that is your purpose and the hints from the universe deserve to be followed?

Chase that dream with all the steam you have. Sacrifice whatever you need to. The dream was put in your heart, in your mind to see fruition irrespective of circumstances.

This year saw many breaks come through for me, there were times when I had to choose between going out with friends and staying in to write to meet deadlines. Tough choice. In the end, I chose to meet the deadlines. It is the dream of a child that the adult must fulfil.

The lesson was to surround myself with people that understood my dream and who had similar dreams for themselves. From that nucleus came the support to help keep me going.

This was the year I would live my 15 seconds of fame appearing in many newspaper articles. I found that journalists WILL find your number (goodness knows how) if they want to reach you. I love reading the newspaper and generally eat up every morsel that is written, but this year I learnt not to take newspaper articles too seriously as sometimes the article could contain a message that wasn’t true. I found that at times I was misquoted but I guess that’s part of the journey.

Facebook, I found was a black hole where hours passed by unnoticed. One can get lost in endless clips of cute animals doing fascinating things, finding interesting but useless information on a number of irrelevant subjects, reading your horoscope, then your spouses, families and friends. Honestly, there’s no end to the information madness. Facebook, however, is wonderful on days when you are sick and off from work and there’s nothing else to do. It is also fabulous, I found, for carrying out investigations on future bae’s for your friends! There’s nothing wrong with it, just stop when you know more about future bae’s family than you should.

2017 has been instrumental in showing me that work has its place. There was a time when I took work so seriously that it took over my life. My anxiety levels were such that I had to pack a bottle of Rescue tablets with my lunch. Don’t worry it was a bottle a month, not a day.

This year I have realised, life is so much bigger than work. Life is experiences. Travel, meet new people, do something kind for someone, smile (a lot), try new foods, experience different cultures, expand your friendship circle outside your race, colour, religion, buy that bottle of perfume, eat carbs your body needs it, drink wine it’s good for your heart and celebrate everyday. It’s a gift.

There are people who live to work. Don’t be one of those people. In the grand scheme of things, work is a pay cheque. At work, do what you need to, to the best of your ability, go home and live. If you are recognised for what you do at work, great. If not, move on to where you are appreciated. Believe it or not, adults also need to be told they are valuable. They matter. They have done a good job. Adults don’t do that for each other.

If you feel unappreciated, worthless, insignificant in your job or workplace, find somewhere to start over. Don’t be worried that you will have to start at the bottom, people with a good work ethic are noticed easily in the workplace. It’s just a matter of whether the people above you decide to reward you. If not, then do something for yourself.

Remember, fortune favours the brave and bravery can take you to places you never imagined. Moving on to a better place is not only good for your self-esteem but for your emotional well-being. When you treat yourself with care and respect so will everyone around you.

I have seen that I don’t have to make my own mistakes. I can learn from those around me. You don’t have to make your own mistakes. Look at the people around you, what mistakes have they made? Can you see where they went wrong? What can you do differently?

Listen to the stories of older people, they have experienced more than you have so they know better.

My grandmother was a great teacher. She always had her nails polished. Red was her favourite colour. She used to say a woman must always look her best. She loved beetlenut. She used to say, it kept bad breath away and you’d never know when you needed sweet breath the most! This year while at work, I was called for an interview. The interview was straight after work and as murphy’s law would have it, I wore my dumpiest shoes and the nail polish on my nails was in tatters. Throughout the interview I twisted my fingers which drew my interviewer’s attention to my nails which in turn made me think of how awful my nails looked.

The lesson? Remove tattered nail polish? Yes, but also be prepared for anything. The universe calls you to situations when you least expect it.

As a woman and a supporter of women, I must say, finding a man who supports you in everything you do is crucial. The modern woman is, more often than not, educated, self-driven, a mom, a wife with her own goals and ambitions and no free time. As such, the old belief that there is a “place” for women has dissolved.

Women now belong everywhere. In the office, in cars, we manage without being overbearing and take instruction without feeling inadequate. Some women even raise their children alone without financial or emotional help from men. As the role of women in society evolves so too should the psyche of men and having a man understand that can mean a more fulfilling life for both partners in a relationship.

This year I learnt this lesson from my husband who is always excited to pack up his bags and go to wherever I need to be. He has sat in crowds and cheered me on and I have never been more in awe of or grateful for the quiet strength of a secure man.

Having always struggled with anxiety and depression, I have learnt that exercise is imperative to my functioning optimally. To release much needed endorphins, to work out stress, to bring balance. Taking meds, if needed, is also important. Most people are afraid to ask for help if they are struggling with anxiety and depression. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign that you want to lead a healthier life. If you don’t have anyone to confide in speak to your family doctor and he/she will be able to recommend a mental health professional. I have learnt that to do all the things I want to do, I must make sure that I have a balanced diet, exercise, do things I love and that will keep my mind well.

Sadly, I have also learnt that being wrapped in brown means that sometimes I will not always be welcomed with open arms, hearts or minds. I will also not be taken seriously in some work environments. I have learnt that as a brown being, I won’t always be respected if I am in a leadership position or welcomed in social groups. As a brown being, I have learnt that if I am wronged and stand up for myself, I will be regarded as the enemy. I have learnt that some people in positions of power would rather protect the reputation of the perpetrator than understand the pain of the victim. But the most important lesson of this experience has been, how powerful, compassionate and understanding brown beings become from such experiences. Times like these remind one of one’s purpose irrespective of tiny mindedness.

2017 has taught me that life is a series of accidents and that the most will have to be made of the scrapes. There will be dents on the car. Sometimes the paintwork will be rusty. Other times whole parts will have to be replaced. In extreme cases, the chassis number will be erased. Irrespective of the condition of your vehicle, you will have to keep driving.

One will have to refuel, pull over to the side to catch one’s breath. But always the journey will go on. So, get comfortable, these days the journey lasts about eighty years.

Elaine Pillay

Foodie, Teacher, Writer, Student of the Universe.

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