‘Canvas’, of course, refers to life in this context.

If I were to paint on an empty canvas to signify how my life was like in 2016, the colours black and grey would predominate the surface of the canvas. White to represent the people and things I lost; varying shades of Black to signify the on/off depression that I felt throughout the year; Green to symbolise the times I’ve let myself drown in jealousy over others’ success and Purple to represent the end of my journey in sixth form. Not to forget my dearest companion Blue, to represent the anxiety I felt throughout the year.

Each of these colours, splattered against the rough surface of the seemingly large canvas in varying amounts. It is currently 5 minutes to 3 in the morning, and as I reflect upon this metaphorical mess of an art piece, I realise that it needs a finishing touch. If this painting was real, I would’ve smeared the drying paint with both my hands in a futile attempt to mix all the best and terrible moments into an incomprehensible blur of nothingness. A last-minute futile attempt to convince myself that all the trials and hardships I encountered this year will be worth it. A last-minute attempt that serves as a means of reassuring myself that I can and will enter 2017 with the newfound strength and confidence I’ve garnered in this year.

Flashbacks of moments came crashing into my mind like waves, taking me unexpectedly. Random moments that I’ve cherished, featuring people that I’m thankful to have known. Memories of amazing times spent laughing with friends, memories of moments filled with frustrations and anxiety over our exam results and future decisions. Memories of the times I spent crying over the uncertainties in my life, and the depression and anxiety that comes with it.

One of the worst mistakes that I did this year was succumbing to the negative thoughts that resulted from my tendency of overthinking. I became more anxious, more reserved and more reluctant to get out of my comfort zone as a result of these self-defeating thoughts. My judgments were clouded as I fell into the abyss of self-doubt. Doubts about my future, my capabilities and doubts about who I am as a person accompanied me as I struggled to find my motivation to continue with sixth form.

The emptiness weighs heavily on me every time I walk past the tariff board at school. Our future paths were said to be determined by which zone we’re in- red, yellow or green. We were made to believe that being in the green zone would mean that you are in the safe zone, as if one’s future is firmly secured once you landed in this zone. I have been fortunate enough to be in this zone since my days as a lower six student, but I don’t feel proud for being in it. “Of course you’ll be in the green zone, I didn’t have to look for your name on the other lists.”  Comments like this made me doubt myself even more; what if I couldn’t fulfill everyone’s expectations?

My worst set of results in sixth form was during my Mock ‘A’ Level exam – 3Cs and 1D. The D-grade was for my favourite subject, so naturally, I fell deeper into what seemed like a bottomless pit of negativity at that time. Nothing could make me feel better, not even thinking about my June AS results, nor visualising myself as a university student in the UK. Blue,black and green coloured my life from this point onward.

Red, orange and yellow are less commonly found on this personal canvas of mine. It was only after my exams are over that I realised that I, myself have the ultimate control over my own feelings, over my own happiness. I then begun to use these vibrant colours to paint on my canvas, trying out different shades and different mixtures before settling on the ones that make me truly happy, if not content. It was not an easy feat, as the tubes of black and blue paint were often pushed in my direction whenever I tried painting using the three vibrant colours. Perseverance and self-control is crucial at this stage, two things I wish to have in 2017.

There are a lot of things that I realised and learnt in 2016; life lessons and realisations that I wish to utilise in my pursuit to be a better person this year. Hopefully my canvas for this year will no longer be dominated by black and blue.

Happy new year, everyone. Thank you for reading, and I hope you’ll find happiness this year.

– Ailin x