Read this when you feel like: You’re back at Square One

STEEPED BY SAMIA #11 | 11.28.22
I’m in my flop era — but I mean that in the kindest way to myself.

Note: I wrote a “Read this when you feel like” about the feeling of not “doing enough” in September, and I realized it could be a fun, reflective series. So, here’s another one on approaching Square One. It’s a letter to me, to you, or some version of us who needs to hear this. Past, present, or future.

This time last year, you would have found me on my bed, under two blankets, and binge-watching TWICE videos on YouTube. The performances, the music videos, the interviews, their reality TV show Time to TWICE, parts of the survival show Sixteen that they were on years ago. I think the rabbit-hole was sparked because SCIENTIST had just come out (I love women in STEM), and it was on the home page on YouTube. Very quickly, I was hooked.

At that time, I was at a crossroads of sorts;

I was finishing up a job I adored (but I knew it was time to go). I was wading into the unknown of the next year, without anything “lined up,” except for the desire to take a break. I felt creatively drained. I was anxious — the kind of anxiety that makes you want to nap a lot and watch mind-numbing things (K-pop!).

To myself and to others, I couldn’t quite articulate how I was feeling. The depth of the murkiness. I just knew I needed a pause.

So, in January 2022, I set out to spend time with myself, cultivate my writing, and explore new angles to my career path. I wanted to do things I’ve been putting off and give myself time & space to do them. I wanted to start from scratch, to center curiosity and exploration.

As it turns out, this year had different plans for me.

— Mainly, my dad’s lengthy AML Leukemia + bone marrow transplant treatment & recovery and becoming his primary caregiver (I’m his Emotional Support Daughter, lol). Time flew, seasons changed; from the cherry blossoms scattered to the ground, to the first tinges of fall in the air.

A part of me was relieved. The lofty career exploration and job search could wait, and I started freelancing with some lovely South Asian-owned small businesses. I was able to read a lot, and along the way, I’ve been retracing my steps with writing.

Now that my dad is well on his way to a full recovery (Alhamdulillah), it feels like it’s time to focus on myself more. Less thinking, more doing. But it hasn’t been easy to start.

I’m saying hi, once again, to Square One.

On the topic of the year ending soon, I sometime say: “I feel like 2023 is going to be 2022 Part II, because it feels like I’m back where I started. But with a little more trauma, lol.”

Back to Square One: (v.) 1. A starting point, initial stage, or step. 2. Back to where one started, with no progress having been made.

Going back to Square One gives me mixed emotions:

(+): On one hand, it can be refreshing. You’re acknowledging a need for change and gathering the courage to reinvent & realign with who you are and who you’re becoming. You’re giving yourself permission to be a novice at something and centering learning. You can look at it as a clean slate.

(—): On the other hand, it can be anxiety-inducing. That feeling that you’ve wasted time and you’ve ended up right where you began. You feel confused, unsure. You feel like your same-old self. I picture that quintessential movie scene of a woman walking down a desert-road with her high heels in her hand, waiting for a car to pass by. Stranded.

Some reflections while approaching Square One:

1. You’re not starting from scratch. You carry with you years of knowledge and emotional growth. You carry the mistakes, the successes, the stumbles, the joys, the confusions, the diverted dreams. Layers and layers.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I am bad at this but hope to get better at it! There are people who have your best interest at heart, who are here to listen or point you in a direction.

3. You are not your anxious thoughts. They are certainly a part of you; perhaps they’re a protective mechanism. But your anxious thoughts aren’t who you actually are. This is a profound phrase I’ve been seeing here and there. I feel like it’s calling me out, lol.

4. Action leads to things happening. Shocking, I know! Whether you do something or don’t do something, something is happening. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, you’re evolving. And it might take a couple of years to see a fuller picture.

5. Embrace the messiness of the middle. I am chronically bad at starting things. I don’t fully know where this anxiety comes from. Part of it is a fear of how messy the middle can be; I just want it to work out right away. I’m reminding myself that the middle is where all the juicy and intriguing things happen. It can be exciting.

We went to Sutro Baths in San Francisco, the other day.

It was a clear, sunny day, a lucky time to see SF’s best spots. We could see a wonderful view of the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. The air was perfumed by salt and a calming, chamomile-y scent.

I am fascinated by the history of Sutro Baths. It used to be a glamorous bathhouse (with seven swimming pools) that Adolph Sutro made for the public in the 1900s. What I didn’t know is that it was an all-around attraction: it had restaurants, a museum, music performances, and more. Now, its facade has eroded to pools of water enclosed by crumbling walls, walkable bridges, exposed pipes, and lots of graffiti. It’s just nature and people doing their thing.

As my dad and I waited near the car while my siblings & co. finished up a longer walk, I gazed at the Baths from high above. I could see specks of people walking among the ruins. The salt water pools mirrored their bodies; a secret up-side-down version of themselves.

As I stood there, I thought: Wow, life can be so expansive, if you let it.

My worries about life and my trajectory are just one small part of something bigger. At different ages of our lives, we are able to do different things and can welcome these undertakings with a clearer headspace. So, if I feel regret that I haven’t done something yet, my future self might have a better time with it. At 25 or 35 or 55, and onward (Inshallah!).

This, in a way, is a reminder that I’m exactly where I need to be. My present self is doing what I need to do, so that my future self has the fortitude to take on more and live my dreams.

So, here’s to embracing Square One. Over and over again. —S.A.


Steep On This:  


Catch Up:  

11.10.22 | On the resilience of skin

STEEPED BY SAMIA #10: I’m developing a cordial relationship of sorts with my skin, wbu??


About This Blog:

Steeped by Samia is a space where I can simmer on thoughts & curiosities in the scope of digital culture, creativity, life, & more. Far too often, my writing ideas fizzle out in energy; I never get to see them to their full potential. While building my rhythm with writing, I want to share these ideas with you. 

Stay Up-To-Date on my blog by clicking the ‘follow’ button at the bottom of the page, and you will receive an email every time I post. I aim to post a new installment at least once or twice a month. Thank you for supporting my storytelling!🧡

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