Yin Yang: An expression of contrast

Yin Yang: An expression of contrast

Source: Food Wars anime

    Hey, it’s Michael! So you know how sometimes you meet someone on your journey and you bond perfectly with similar childhood stories of running around on playgrounds, your first crush and how your family took vacations every summer to the serene getaway home in Greece.

Nah, this isn’t one of those, this is a story of contrast, one of those weird bonds that form out of an admiration for how vastly different you are. Growing up off the west coast of Africa in a lively, noisy, hustle and bustle of Lagos, it was clear right out the gates how vastly my world differed from Aina’s. 

Who is currently facing a gap year with currently figmental plans but has realised time is passing by with absolutely no remorse?

There are probably many answers to that question but today we shall be settling on one:

   Hi, I’m Aina and I come from Malaysia. I am that person facing a gap year. It’ll be a recurring theme in this post as you’ll come to realise when you make your way down. Michael and I have been talking for a week now and we realised how different our lives have been and yet we’ve both found reasons to aim for the same thing. 

Getting to know Aina stamped our worlds in a huge yin-yang sigil.

A little about me: I’m a modern-day nerd meaning although I love books and anime, I also love to play basketball, workout and dress nicely. I do like to be attractive.



Whereas our stories may be yin and yang, I find that it’s interesting we are quite similar in certain fragments of our personalities. I, too, would proudly consider myself a modern-day nerd in some aspect. I love to study and make aesthetic notes on topics I want to know more about. I love literature and the art of the written word, everything about words and what lies beneath them. Beyond that, I love team sports! I have a particular place in my heart for touch rugby and football but basketball and netball are also part-time favorites.

I believe calling ourselves ‘modern-day nerds’ means we both identify with the reappropriated version of the formerly derogatory and negative association of the word. Nerds are cool and can most definitely be attractive. 

A topic we came to talk about was family and I have relatively little interest in family because right from my early years I didn’t have a nuclear family; my father left, my mother also left but for different reasons. Eventually, that led to me growing up as a boy with daddy issues, trust issues and a certain indifference to family and almost every form of association but it also left a huge wanting for some form of intimacy to fill that gap which turned out to be a bad idea, break up after break up until it really started getting to me and stirring up a lot of the darkness inside. My emotional life became a mess and that was just the beginning.

Am I a family-oriented person? 

Here’s where Michael and I differed significantly. Only recently has it come to my attention that I really am. Growing up, I’ve always lived in a pretty noisy household with my three siblings. My mum is a homemaker so she’s with us day in day out and my dad financially supports the family. My immediate family has played a pretty big role in who I am so far. Nearly every year I have celebrated Eid with my extended family so I’ve been surrounded by family my whole life and I intend on it being that way. My biggest challenge when it comes to family is the anticipation of disconnection. I’ll be flying off to university next year and after being quarantined with my family for the past seven months, I know it’s going to be a painful departure.

What happened next for me, you ask?

Let’s just say I learned of my innate affinity towards a cocktail of all the wrong drinks that led me down a dark phase where I found a spark that recalibrated my inner compass. I began to build anew, a person I would like to be and not just a collection of conditioning, vacuums and programs taught to me by circumstance.

I started a new journey with self-awareness and guidance from an unknown source and gradually learned more about myself. I fell in love with my true self after filtering the chaff for the first time and that journey was what led me here, to you as well as an amazing cohort of people from around the world who have changed my life. They have shown me support and led me to see that although as travellers, we step into a world unknown with a path peculiar to us, the journey through that vast wilderness guarantees that you can come across other travellers who will have a different perception and perspective from you just like Aina and me. Someone I would have otherwise never have met if I hadn’t taken the first step.

My journey of self-actualisation came from a place I found myself earlier this year. A place I had briefly visited once every year for a while and a place I don’t want to go back to anymore. Earlier this year, I was a boarding student in a local A-level college. A-levels being the haunting keyword of my life at the time. These exams, these papers in which I would sit each within a time span of 1-2 hours, were to decide where I would be going for university and spending the rest of my education for the next 3-4 years. Not just that but the university I would be going to would also affect my future regarding my profession and experiences. The burden was heavy in my mind. At the time, I was simultaneously balancing a few leadership roles that had buried themselves deep into my thoughts. With exams cancelled, I reflected on myself throughout the quarantine period and realised that like any growing teenager, I was changing.

The A-level college isn’t the place I’m talking about, rather the place my mind was at. My mindset was deeply rooted in pessimism yet I only wanted to think of myself as an optimistic extrovert. Anything apart from that was undesirable, unwanted and unacceptable. Coupled with my intrinsic perfectionism and high expectations of myself and the world around me, I had begun to spiral into an intense emotional state that I had never had to fully handle before. It was always the fact that any emotion I had was heightened and more often than not, they were negative ones. I thought of it as normal at the time and now, I feel better every single day. Michael and I differ in this way as well, the way we started our journeys and yet, the journeys we are on are so similar. 

Where am I going?

Well, first of all, I’m running from living with family as fast as I humanly can but more importantly, I’m running towards a version of myself who lights up the room with energy, fills you with confidence and boldness to tell your story, cooks amazing food, lives in Japan but travels the world to create as many flames of change and kindness to burn away the darkness that separates us as humans as well as learn vast cuisines. Quite the journey ahead right? Makes it all the more exciting.

And where am I heading towards?

As selfish as it sounds, I chose to have this gap year for me. It’s all about me. Just earlier today, I listened to a podcast by Rob Dial called ‘The Key to Self Love is Self Discipline’. He discussed the very concept of how working on yourself not only betters you but the world around you: ‘The better that you are, the most perfect actualised version of yourself is going to go out and serve the world much higher than the version of you that is not your highest self.’ I found myself deeply resonating with this and how by properly focusing on yourself, you can do much more.

That person I was at the beginning of this year, even though she wasn’t an entirely negative version of me, I don’t want her back. She served her purpose as a lesson, as that moment of darkness so that I understand what light is. As much as resentment, anger and sadness hurt, without those feelings I wouldn’t know and properly cherish what it feels like to be happy, excited and grateful. She also served others more than she served herself, always wanting to please and having that subconscious desire for external validation.

While the version of myself at the beginning of the year was a really awesome guy. I finally began to build my confidence and I was leading a team in charge of making arrangements for some events that had never happened in my department, like I was finally stepping into the aura of growth but this whole period at home locked me back up and put everything I held on hold. It took a lot of reflection to realise that I wasn’t doing what I enjoyed, I was trying to cram a whole bunch of stuff into my head so I could have more options, it made sense to me then but that wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing.

We can still feel remnants of our past selves now but Michael and I are working on what we’ve experienced and felt to grow into the best-actualised version of ourselves. Michael lives by the motto of, “Better Today Than Yesterday, then repeat.” Words that truly encapsulate the paths he and I have taken. Although separate, they are in the same direction. We hope you’ve learned a bit more about us and will continue to follow us and our tribe on The Torch with the journeys we will have ahead. Although I’d rather we not say goodbye, we can’t wait to have you read what’s to come.

As Charles Dickens once wrote: “The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again”.

This post was written by Michael Adeolu and Aina Aleeya.

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