I start the year with hope — hope for all that is meant to be and yet to come.

“Do you think you will mellow with age?” I was recently asked. I laughed. “This is already the much-mellowed version of me,” I said. “Is it still too much? You should have met the original version.”

We will never be what others expect us to be. We will never be what others imagine us to be. We will never be what others want us to be. We can only be who we actually are — faulty, flawed and flailing on most days.

On the days we succeed, we celebrate. On the days we struggle, we persevere. And on the days we find significance, we fall on our knees and give thanks.

We can only be — real.

I start the year with hope — hope for all that I can be and still become.

We live in a world where the ones who curate the most, win — the most likes, loves and stars. But is it not a hollow sense of victory when our fake, filtered and fabricated selves win? But this is the world we live in.

No place for authenticity because real is derided not lauded. And when even fake is bullied, how can real find the courage to come out? In a world of punctiliously-curated content and deep-fake technology, how do we know what is real?

I start the year with hope — hope that I can filter fact from fiction, that I can tell genuine from sham, that I can stay authentic in this pretentious world we live in.

Some friends I’ve known since kindergarten are still my friends today. And we continue to hope that in the years to come, we will still be together — for better or for worse, through sagging skin and botoxed bodies, in sickness and in health, till life on Earth ends for any of us.

Marriage doesn’t have the monopoly on lifetime commitment.

When we love, we commit to the other person’s well-being. We don’t need to profess it. We don’t need to declare it. We don’t need to make public vows about it.

It doesn’t have to be in the context of an exclusive, romantic relationship. When love is there, it shows.

It’s love beyond filters, love beyond fillers, love beyond what you see — behind the screen or in front of you. It’s love despite, not because.

I start the year with hope — hope that I can see love when it’s in front of me, that I never take it for granted, that I make space for it in my life.

In a world of fakery, filters and highly-fabricated lives, we can only hope to find the courage to present our real selves — struggling every day to stay sane with our sense and sensibility in precarious balance.

I will hold on to the faith. I will stay steadfast and strong. I will not give up. I will fight to the end. I will endure. It is not what you see. It is what you believe in your heart, can be. “For we live by faith, not by sight.”

I start the year with hope — hope for all that still awaits me.