I turned 24 on a Friday of the previous week, and for the weekend that followed it, I found myself celebrating with friends, feasting on basil dumplings, marveling at the deliciousness of my pizza, posing before my camera and laughing at every joke I heard.
On the surface, it appeared as though I was ecstatic about my life, jubilant even. But during those momentary pauses between jokes, between those slices of pizza, behind every smile I produced for the camera, there was an unshakable feeling of apprehension gnawing at the insides of me.
The first time I felt a similar feeling was the night before I started 8th grade. I was lying on a mattress at my grandmother’s (mom’s mom) house with the lights out and everyone fast asleep.
I remember counting the minutes, praying the night wouldn’t end, which – by extension – meant there wouldn’t be a next day, 8th grade wouldn’t start and everything would be the same. But the minutes did pass, with the passing of each causing spasms of anxiety resonating through my chest.
Eventually, the heavy breathing exhausted me so much, I passed out. When I woke up, the morning rush surpassed my fear and by the time I entered my new class room, the events of the previous night felt farfetched.
What had spurred my anxiety then? The idea that it was my first day of secondary school and the fact that it would inevitably lead to the last.
The second time I experienced this phenomenon was during the summer of 2015, just after I gave the last paper for my BA exams, and hitched a ride with my best friend in her boyfriend’s car. I didn’t like the idea of passing out in their backseat, so I requested them to drop me to the Nature’s Basket close to my home.
I could do with some German Potato Salad, the 4 pack chocolate yogurt and – for reasons even unknown to myself – the walk back home. Not the best ‘post exam celebratory’ meal – I know – but enough to keep my anxiety at bay. At least for a bit.
Even though, the fear didn’t hit like a bullet, it did come like a 1940’s Battle of France grenade: detonating after a whole 4 seconds – my equivalent of 24 hours. But when it did explode, the damage stretched over 7 months. I finally recovered only in the winter of that year.
My cause of concern then: making meaning of my life after college.
In the wake of my 24th birthday, this feeling of apprehension didn’t transpire by its usual modus operandi, rather it came like the unleashing of Zyklon B, that seeped gently through the cracks of my subconscious; destroying the deepest vaults of my mind and releasing all those unanswered questions about life that were once safely locked into its chambers.
Questions about my past choices, my present actions and the consequential impact they would have on the vast unknown, I usually refer to as ‘my future’.
Inadvertently, I entered 24 with such a profound sense of self awareness that it scared me to look into a mirror, completely unprepared to see what would reflect back at me. Would I be disappointed by my past actions? OR in a remote possibility, actually contented and accepting of my current status?
In a way, I don’t know.
But what I do know is that turning 24 also changed something within me. And, like I mentioned at the end of last year – no matter what my reflection may say about me or whichever form of weaponry my anxiety might next choose to unleash upon me – as long as I know I’m headed towards achieving contentment – nothing can deter me.
Because even with each stage of anxiety behind me; each one more severe than the last, I did eventually make it out. And, right now that is all the consolation I need to prepare myself for everything that is yet to come.