The end of every year is always such a sentimental time for me. I am introspective by nature, so of course on New Year’s Eve I will be sitting alone in my room, slightly tipsy on a few glasses of wine, lofi music playing on the background while I reflect on everything that has happened to write my 2023 year in review.
As I write down these words, a strange realization is dawning on me–2023 has been a year of many new experiences for me. I volunteered at an international conference in Thailand. I got into my dream graduate school. I moved to Canada. I got promoted. I got scholarships. I finally completed NaNoWriMo for the first time and wrote 50,000 words of my WIP in a month.
And yet, my mind keeps replaying the same scene on repeat: across the ocean, I see my father sitting next to my mother in a hospital bed as she fights against the dengue fever that’s taken hold of her. I see my sister struggling to take care of the house in the absence of our parents. I am in my room, comfortable and safe and utterly useless. When it’s time to turn in for the night, I know sleep won’t come easy. My worst fears will reappear like monsters under the bed because no matter how hard I try to go on with my life, my thoughts are always with my family.
And the worst part is that 2023 taught me that this is a luxury. It’s a blessing that my mother was able to get treatment at the hospital when she caught dengue back in early December. It’s a blessing that she was able to get the medical aid she needed without the fear of a bomb dropping on her and claiming her life.
The people of Palestine cannot say the same. Try as I might, I cannot make my 2023 year in review be about what books I have read or what milestones I achieved with this blog because so many innocent lives will never again see the start of a new year.
For most of us, writing a 2023 year in review is a fun experience where we look back on how far we’ve come and find memories to celebrate and cherish. For those in Gaza, looking back on 2023 would mean reliving a hellish nightmarish from which there is no waking up.
For me, personally, 2023 has really been a year of lessons in strength, patience, and perseverance. The year had started off rocky with several big personal scares, moments of doubt, and anxiety. But it has also been the year where I learned to stop and appreciate all that I have and truly be grateful for it. If nothing else, 2023 has taught me to cherish the quiet stillness that follows in the wake of a hurricane. It has taught me to see the silver linings in every thunderstorm.
When my father and mother and my grandparents got sick, when my family kept finding themselves trapped in a never-ending cycle of financial distress, I learned to have faith, strength, patience, and perseverance.
Every day when I came home from work feeling drained and just about ready to give up, I learned to be strong enough to hold out for another day.
Waiting for my loans to get approved, for my visa to get accepted, for my funds to come in, getting a place to stay in a foreign country where I had no one and knew no body–so many little trials by fire that taught me to keep pushing forward and never looking back.
And finally, this November, when I wrote 50,000 words in one month and completed NaNoWriMo for the first time, I learned that I was capable of more than I could possibly imagine.
And amidst all these personal struggles, there was this constant ache that never went away, an ache that I carry into the new year. The crimes that were being committed in Gaza in 2023 is nothing new to those of us who have been following global news for years–I was barely ten years old when I first heard about the occupation in Gaza and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. I am more than 20 years old now and nothing has changed…and yet.
And yet, it seems that in 2023, more and more people did wake up and educate themselves. For the first time in my life, I was forced to acknowledge that boycotting, protesting, and sharing on social media could actually raise awareness. For the first time in my life, I dare to believe that one day Palestine will truly be free.
Once upon a time, I’d written in my journal that to be human was to be a million infinite possibilities trapped within a finite, fragile body. I know now that it is indeed true, not just for myself but for every one of us on this beautiful planet we call home.
Because while politicians sign questionable trade agreements that benefit them at the price of a thousand innocent lives and search engines and social media giants adjust the algorithm to bury the truth of atrocities being committed, millions of people around the globe are flooding the streets to stand in solidarity for a nation that’s been too cruelly oppressed for more than 75 years now.
While mainstream news outlets say Israelis are being “killed” and Palestinians are “dying”, while Times Magazine names some American singer Person of the Year, heroes like Motaz, Wael Abdullah, Bisan, and Plestia risk their lives to report directly from an open-air prison.
While those in power pass resolutions to equate anti-zionism with anti-semitism, in order to silence and divide us even further, millions of adults, elderly, and teenagers are educating themselves about an apartheid that people will read about in future history classes and wonder how the generations before could allow it get so bad in the first place.
2023, you’ve been a year of experiences that have changed me forever. I will never again be the same.