#makchicmumtribe, please give yourselves a pat on the back for getting through the rollercoaster known as 2021. It’s not been an easy ride for many of us (and sometimes, it still feels like we’re clinging on for dear life, doesn’t it?). As this year draws to a close however, Team makchic takes a step back to reflect on the many things we’ve faced over the course of 2021 that have helped to shape us.
Here are some of the biggest personal lessons that 2021 has taught us:
Publisher and owner
When I was asked by our editor to contribute to this piece, I honestly thought ‘Oh dear, what haven’t I learned this year?‘ And hasn’t everyone experienced roughly the same elements this year? Confusion, mental overload, destabilisation, some form of grief, listlessness? How do I do this without making it sound like a Hallmark card of clichés? But yes, after a year of personal extremes and a mental health crash, I had to learn a lot of things this year, and maybe they will indeed sound like things we all already know. The lesson I have learned most recently, however, is that knowing is only half the battle and if we all need actionable tasks and hacks to get us there. But I am getting ahead of myself.
This year, I learned how to seek help, to really rest, to appreciate therapy, to understand my personal triggers, and to be kinder to myself. I am still learning all these things. Of all the lessons I have learned this year, I think the biggest and most comforting was that when you just love people hard, and for no other reason than just love itself, you are deeply protected and safe even when you are filled with debilitating doubt. When you are weak and vulnerable, they will shield you, steady you, wrap and envelop you with fierce love, support and affection. They will tell you truths, and that many people who love you can’t be wrong.
I was lucky to have felt like an army was safeguarding me while I was still trying to make sense of my brokenness. I was more able to understand the saying ‘use things and love people, not love things and use people.’ But I also had to dig deep about what that really meant to me, to think about why I do what I do and seek what I seek. What does it mean to really love people?
This year, I learned that besides really being there for people and truly listening to them, sometimes loving people can also mean holding them to account, or wanting the best for them despite conflict. Loving people can also sometimes mean backing away from them, or leaving them be. To appreciate help for my wellbeing but not depend on them for my own happiness.
This past year has made me think a lot more about consumerism, connections and contentment, and I now have very simple personal reminders to hopefully keep me in good stead – Don’t be the *sshole. Truly love people. Reflect. Am I the *sshole? And that these things must always be a work in progress.
Chief Executive Officer
Juggling my kids’ online schooling with working from home, and dealing with uncertainties due to the pandemic took its toll early in 2021. I was close to burnout. Working with an organisation like makchic that not only understands the heavy load mothers are carrying, but prioritises a healthy balance when it comes to work and home life, made it easier for me to take a step back when I really needed it.
We spent the first half of the year thinking about what makchic is and what it could be. Despite the challenges we have faced, I believe that we returned from our much needed ‘time-out’ stronger than ever. For the first time since its inception, makchic is fully owned and run by women. It has been a privilege to work in the company of women who want more than opportunities and satisfaction from their work, but who are also looking for meaningful engagement. And I believe we have done so, with the publication of our first book for children, What if? and our continued efforts in championing the work of NGOs, such as WAO, SPOT and Toy Libraries Malaysia.
We often discuss the pandemic taking a toll on parents, but the year has been really difficult on children too. This was never made clearer to me than when my two older children started struggling with the effects of prolonged school closures and social isolation, which have resulted in frequent anxiety and panic attacks. It was important that I keep lines of communication open, and I tried to do this by making it a priority to spend quality time with my children, be it with movie nights, weekly hiking sessions or frequent cuddling time. The pandemic changed how I valued time with my family. It was time to reassess my priorities.
And if I didn’t realise how important healthy communication is to a relationship before the pandemic, I know it now. The challenges we faced this year would have been insurmountable had it not been for the compromise, constant ‘give-and-take’, and deep and inherent trust that in spite of whatever we faced, I would have my partner in my corner, as we worked through these challenges together.
Special Projects Director
The best thing that came out of 2021 for me was most certainly my beautiful, bouncing baby boy. He brings so much love and joy and completes our family of six. The day I gave birth to him was also the day makchic birthed our first children’s picture book, What if?, a project I am immensely proud to be part of.
I am also heartened by how much makchic has grown this year. I’m grateful to be able to work alongside a brilliant group of women, building a platform where we have the opportunity to give a voice to those who are less advantaged and make changes in whatever way we can.
Lu Sean Seah
Chief Operating Officer
2021 went by much faster than the painfully scary 2020. While the virus raged on, we somehow settled into a routine of yo-yo online-to-offline classes, remote working, and household cooking and cleaning.
My biggest lesson learned was to take little steps in the direction I wanted – for example, 5 minutes of family tidy-up time, 10 minutes of a dance workout on TV, 20 minute walk with the kids. It’s easier to get started and usually you end up enjoying yourself and sticking to it longer than expected.
I lost myself a little in the middle of the pandemic. Right around the umpteenth iteration of the MCO, with ever-flagging morale, escalating worries about the future and finances, and the spectre of online classes haunting each morning – played to a repeat soundtrack of my two housebound children howling like banshees in the background. This year, I have felt my patience stretch tighter than my (formerly) skinny jeans, the latter bearing the brunt of my pandemic-induced stress eating, whilst I navigated countless days in a Groundhog Day-like daze.
But much like Punxsutawney Phil, I’ve been gradually emerging back into the light. 2021 was a year of rediscovery for me. Rediscovering the small and simple things in life that bring me joy. Rediscovering my boundaries and learning how not break them. Rediscovering relationships that matter to me as I spent quality time with my banshee babies, took comfort in my husband’s steady support, and reestablished bonds with several important people in my life.
I got out of my comfort zone. Co-wrote and published a book in the middle of a pandemic. Started a new journey as a children’s book author. Stepped into a new role as makchic‘s Managing Editor, with a team of women I love and respect. I learned this year that I was more resilient than I gave myself credit for. I learned to forgive, if not forget. To say no as a means of self-preservation. To celebrate the small daily victories and the people around me- whose survival each day remains an everlasting testament to their strength.
I lost myself a little in the middle of the pandemic. But then slowly, I started to find her again. Sure, she’s a bit battle-scarred, a bit burned out, a bit softer around the edges (darn pandemic weight!)…but she’s also a little smarter, a little stronger, a little kinder – and a little less hard on herself. And as I come to terms with the woman I’m rediscovering, as I learn to laugh and live again, to write and breathe and be, I remain hopeful for a better 2022 ahead.
Social Media Editor
The biggest lesson of 2021 I have learned is the same one the stewardesses on all those plane rides have been trying to teach me since I was a child – take care of yourself first.
We’ve seen inspiring quotes sprawled all over social media – the ones about taking care of yourself being a selfless act and far from just being self-serving. I only truly understood the importance of it this year, as I transitioned from a single woman to a wife and stepmum of two, from working for myself to going back to being in a team, and from living in my own home to moving back to my mother’s, as she recovers from a major surgery to remove a Stage 1 tumour.
Gradually, my own needs, boundaries and time have been coming in second (and third or even fourth). And in hindsight, all those times I forewent my exercise and rest to run a hundred errands have resulted in a version of me who’s always lethargic, unenthusiastic and absent.
Self-care isn’t always a trip to the spa. It’s the gentle ways you tell yourself that you are worthy of the time you would like to carve out for exercise, rest and your hobbies – all the things that keep your mind sharp and your heart full, so your love tank is constantly filled to enable you to be present and at your best for your family, friends and the work you earnestly enjoy.
I’m working on it. Okay, I haven’t started…but admitting the problem is the first step, isn’t it? 😉
We hope that what we’ve shared similarly resonates with you, #makchicmumtribe. We’d love to hear from you about the lessons you’ve learned throughout this year as well, so do feel free to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop us a DM at our Instagram page if you’d like to share your thoughts.