AMAL MUSES, DECEMBER 2018
Get Up And Dance
By Amal Ghazali
There was a moment this year. It was a Sunday morning. I had woken up early, and in the morning light I put on my boots and went outside the cottage rental I was staying at, plucked a lemon from its tree and made some hot lemon tea. They say Amalfi lemons are some of the best in the world, and I agree. After that I went to sit at the writing desk by the window that faced the vast, open sea. I sat there and wrote for hours, with the gentle breeze coming through the curtains smelling of the sea, my Italian chocolate handy by the laptop with my hot lemon tea. Down the road, I could see the local farmers working in their olive farm, with rows upon rows of beautiful olive trees growing on the long, beautiful Italian coastline.
The moment came after a few hours of writing. I stopped looking at my laptop, and stared outside at the beautiful view. I was somewhere in Salerno, but I couldn’t even tell you where I was exactly even if I wanted to. There was nothing there except for my cottage, a few other houses, a very angry dog tied to the tree at the edge of the road, a small grocery store, a café with exactly 2 tables and a bus that came by every hour. I was sitting there writing my second book. I realised that because of certain choices I have made in my life, there I was, in a wonderful Italian village doing what I love best. That was very early in 2018.
In the beginning of this year I made a plan to have minimal plans. I remember writing about it in NST in January. 2017 had been a little overwhelming for plenty of reasons, and so I thought that as an experiment, why not try to live through 2018 as spontaneously as possible? What happens if all I do is focus on reconnecting with myself, stop wallowing about the past, pause worrying about the future, throw caution to the wind and live everyday of the year doing whatever I feel like doing? Would days seem any different? Would I enhance the quality of my life?
Analysing The Experiment
The result? I took time off work to travel solo, meet up with friends, and write as much as I’d like in beautiful places. I found myself on a random skiing trip to a place I’ve never even heard of in Prapoutel, France. I had the best sushi of my life in Tokyo with a Japanese dude I have never even met before. I went to see Vikos Gorge in Greece, the second-deepest canyon in the world I had never even knew existed. I ate half my body weight in Italy. I climbed the highest I had ever been; The Ananpurna Base Camp. I was stuck at a lonely café during a rainstorm in Barcelona. I had food poisoning in Santorini and threw up everywhere.
Of course I couldn’t always be traveling. Unlike the characters in Crazy Rich Asians, I have bills and mortgages to pay, an employer with expectations, and a family I’m very close to. But even on the weeks where I was at home, I stayed true to my commitment of trying to live a full, spontaneous lifestyle. In that spirit, I made a choice to finally try out everything I have been meaning to but never got around to because of ‘life reasons’ (and this could include these excuses but not limited to – I’m too busy, I’m too tired to do anything after work, I don’t see the point, I just feel like being lazy and watching Netflix).
So I found myself pounding a punching bag in a kickboxing gym almost every Tuesday after work, a place I’ve always been too intimidated to go. It turns out that not everyone there was a professional fighter after all. I practiced playing the Ukulele every week even though I still sound like an American Idol reject to this day. But it’s so much fun to sing along to, so who cares? I squeezed in 2 hours of French classes every week and can now understand simple directions and expressions, something I never thought I could do. I tried roller blading that ended up to be rather disastrous, but hey, at least I tried. I made conscious efforts to spend more quality time with my family, which allowed me to be more present in my nieces and nephew’s lives, even though they live far away.
Concluding The Results
I’m careful about the advice I take on life. But one of the people I have always admired the most is Oprah Winfrey, a woman I deem to have led a full life, and her advice have always been gold to me. Through one of my readings this year, I came across a book of hers where she said this; when you get the choice to either sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.
And boy did I dance this year. I took that advice personally. And in the end, it really did improve the quality of my life. Instead of waiting for vacations and weekends, every single day counts in giving me pleasure, fulfilment and milestones. Instead of thinking of a million reasons as to why I should do something, I opted to think why not? To a certain extent, I had always seem to shroud myself in the expectations of others on how I should live my life. But the thing is, we are all given different circumstances and different opportunities, so make that choice to stop yearning for what others have, and begin living your own truth.
And that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned this year. Don’t just sit it out. Get up there and dance. That’s when the magic happens.