As this new year of 2023 kicks off, I find myself increasingly thinking I’m a 52-going-on-53-year-old teenager with insecurities spilling in every direction, along with my dad bod.
Yes, that’s right.
The one who left high school eons ago. The one who’s worked for what is now over a quarter of a century. In all that time, I got married, had two kids, and left full-time work to be a stay-home dad while surviving on adjunct teaching and writing gigs to make ends meet.
You see, despite all that — what some might say’s been a life well lived — I think I’ve continued to keep all of my teenage insecurities and none of its boundless energy and youthful looks.
Then again, maybe I never had any energy nor youthful looks! (Am I insecure or what?!)
Why oh why has this new year brought back these old doubts? These insecurities?
Health and body image
Maybe it’s the fact that I started the new year sick.
First, it was a tummy upset that joined me to usher in the new year a day before December 31st.
Then, the flu came a-knocking 24 hours later.
It’s only now that I’ve started to recover. Almost.
All this is so reminiscent of my teen years.
I was a sickly kid back then, prone to fall ill at the drop of a thermometer. Didn’t help that I wasn’t sporty (am still not) and loathed most forms of exercise (still do, except swimming and the occasional brisk walk).
No surprise that I had a lot of attending body image issues too as a teen, thanks to my sedate lifestyle then.
So this past week when I was unwell, all those body image doubts and insecurities returned with a vengeance.
Or maybe it’s the fact that this month, I’m saddled with endless marking that’s coming in fast and furious in various forms.
Thanks to my overzealousness to take on not one but 10 weekly classes in my latest teaching gig!
And typically, when the workload piles, my insecurities about meeting deadlines soar! Just like when I was in high school and assignment submission or exam dates loom. Or group project demands escalate.
Cos ever since those teenage years, I’ve been a livewire of nervous hormones whenever crunch time comes. They say that with experience, one gets better at managing those butterflies in the stomach when a crisis or an important and decisive moment pays a visit.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure I got that office memo!
Even after working for close to three decades, where I flitted from jobs in real estate to tourism to overseas voluntary work, to the civil service, to digital marketing and consultancy, then teaching, writing, and stay-home parenting.
Somehow I still seem unable to keep it together when the workload increases.
Or maybe it’s the strain my anxiety this time of year creates in my relationships.
You see, the months of December and January are my least favorite.
If I had to hazard a guess when this became a thing for me, it was probably when I was a teenager (you guessed it too I bet, you smart reader you).
For me back then, December represented the end of predictability, after a whole year of adjusting to new routines, teachers, and classmates. And January, the beginning of new unpredictability.
Being a natural introvert and raised in a family with dysfunctional relationships, bonding with people never came easy for me. So saying goodbye and hello as the old year transitions to the new made me uncomfortable.
Somehow this change continues to affect my mental and psychological states even today. I find myself being constantly on edge and getting upset at the littlest of things.
Like when I got needlessly upset and blew up at the breakfast table recently when my wife and firstborn casually opined that the eggs I made for them were too runny.
Or when, on another occasion, my wife asked me if the laundry I was folding then was truly dry. Feeling disparaged, I showed my displeasure openly — “you think I can’t tell the difference between dry and wet laundry?!” — which led to a week-long cold war between us.
And just this past week, I let it rip in class at a couple of students for innocently questioning my assessment of their submitted work.
For sure, no proud moments for me in any of those relationship encounters.
But there you have it.
As irrational as it all sounds, I turn back into my angsty teenage self during this time of the year.
Or maybe it’s not so much that I’m an old teen. Maybe it’s just male menopause, which apparently is a legit thing.
It supposedly affects men in their late forties and early fifties (that’s me!) and results in depression, mood swings and irritability, as well as loss of energy and enthusiasm.
Talk about depressing!
Or maybe like I said before, it’s just this time of the year.
The good news is January will pass, and February will come. Maybe things will look up then.
I can only hope so, for the sake of my health work, and relationships.