The passing of a year is a special occasion on which to reflect on our fleeting lives. As we encounter the closing of a cycle, we’re given a chance to consider how we live and what we value with a more complete perspective. Although much can be said on different levels, I'll stick to reflecting on my personal experiences.

As I wrote down my resolutions for the new year, I thought about how twenty-three provided me with many realizations and even more questions. Sometimes, we need to grow technically and intellectually. Other times, personally and interpersonally. Whichever kind of growth we feel most in need of, both require curiosity and open-mindedness.

In my personal life, I realized that continuous exploration can be a distraction and even betrays procrastination. Constant traveling, endless learning, and soulless careerism can lead to hollow outcomes. They bring petty achievements and short-lived titles. They often represent a lack of purpose and direction in the achiever. Victories unanchored to meaning are just meandering accounts of cause and effect and false narratives of self-actualization.

I have come to understand that the true measure of valuable actions is the intentionality that motivates them. An action should demonstrate a personal value, not just an empirical outcome, as its ultimate aim. This realization got me asking myself more “why”s when I read a new book, visited a new city, or worked long hours.

I’ve always been called a rational person. I classified emotions as helpful or not and ignored the ones I deemed unhelpful. Recently, however, I have grasped that reflecting on my feelings without judgment can clarify my core values. It can bring me closer to my genuine life pursuits. Self-regulation can enforce a gap between action and instinct, which often manifests during times of heightened emotion. More open emotional reflection leads to more purely ‘rational’ behavior, which can be the one thing critically missing from our lives.

In the interpersonal realm, I realized that relationships can only go as deep as we're willing to be vulnerable and hurt by the other person. Giving someone a chance regardless of all uncertainties, trusting them with our insecurities, and forgiving them reflect our courage. It shows our ability to transcend self-centered defenses against wounding. That's why kindness shows self-assurance and fortitude: it's a choice to be compassionate and generous.

And yet, it’s still inevitable that we will encounter the gap between a realization and acting on it. This gap defines unrealized growth. As I wish to close these gaps and to be closer to my purpose in life, I have to ask myself: What's the premise behind my actions? Because it leads to the most important question: What kind of person am I becoming?

P.S. If you think this post is published on the 23rd because of 2023, you're not wrong, my friend. Indeed, twenty-three is one of my favorite primes! It also doesn't hurt that it's the name of a treasured Jimmy Eat World song that reflects on endearing aspirations, dreadful anxieties, juvenile love, and hurtful loss.