36-yo big deal.

Let me tell you about my little adventure yesterday.

I packed my bags, took a deep breath, and headed off to Johor to visit my grandmother and stepmother. Sounds simple, right? Well, for someone like me, it was a bit of a big deal.

Since I was a young child, I’ve mastered the art of avoiding interactions with my relatives as if they were the plague. I’ve never really delved into why I am like this. Some people may think there must have been some childhood trauma or something similar. I don’t want to overthink it yet, but I know I need to improve my efforts and frequency in reaching out and maintaining connections (extending silaturrahim) with my relatives.

My anxiety isn’t just your run-of-the-mill jitters. It’s like a stubborn little gremlin that’s been living rent-free in my brain forever. And when it comes to family gatherings, well, let’s just say I’ve perfected the art of ghosting.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my relatives. They’re a bunch of wonderful, loving people. But there’s always been this invisible barrier between us, especially more with my dad’s side of the family.

And then, to top it all off, I went through a divorce a few years ago. Cue the isolation mode – population: me. I became a hermit, avoiding human contact like it was my full-time job. The only time I’d reluctantly emerge from my cave was to fulfill my duties as a daughter and child, visiting my parents once in a while. There, I got to meet some relatives.

You can imagine the Herculean effort it took for me to muster up the courage to visit my grandmother and stepmother. And the kicker? I didn’t have my parents to hold my hand through it all (Yes, I am a 36-year-old this year). It was just me and my rock-solid partner-in-crime, Hakam, navigating this uncharted territory together.

So yesterday, I won’t lie, I was nervous as heck. The thought of awkward conversations and forced smiles made my stomach do somersaults. But guess what? Stepping into my grandmother’s house felt like a warm hug from the universe. Suddenly, all those nerves melted away, and I felt… relieved.

(I can’t really talk about the visit to my stepmother’s. She’s very nice, but for the love of my mother, the details of the visit will just stay with me forever.)

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, it was… dare I say it… enjoyable. Turns out, all those years of avoiding relatives and family gatherings were for nothing.

And as I sit here, reflecting on yesterday’s adventure, I can’t help but feel proud of myself. Proud for facing my fears.

So, to anyone out there battling their own demons – whether it’s social anxiety, fear of the unknown, or anything in between – I see you. I feel you. We are not dramatic. This is real. And I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone. Take it from me: sometimes, the scariest journeys lead to the most beautiful destinations.