What does your life mean to you?
I think we have all been there, asking ourselves that. In my experience, that question has always come with a burst of impatient energy, swiftly leading to frustration. It is funny how we are evolutionarily and socially engineered to think about all that we are not, before we even give a chance to all that we are.
I turned 32 two days ago. In general, I like quiet birthdays, celebrated only with people who are closest to my heart. I usually get my way and that is how I celebrated turning 32 too. I think I want quiet time on my birthdays because it is during this time of the year that I go into the height of introspection every year. I think each one of us is a miracle, which makes all of us unique. As oxymoronic as that sounds, it is the truth. Being born into this world is a miracle. I watched in a TEDx talk (by Mel Robbins, if you want to check it out for yourself) that the chances of being born are about one in 400 trillion. I don’t think anything else is qualified to be more of a miracle than that. Well except maybe the Milky Way and all things related thereto… which includes us, so I guess we are back to how we are awesome!
That is why I think it is apt to go into the deepest form of reflection about what my life means to me on and around the time of my birthday every year. What did I learn this year?
- That life has only come to mean anything at all to me because of the struggles it poses. We can’t escape strife in life. What we can do though is develop the kind of grit that will take us through adversities with grace. You also need to find out what spirituality means to you. For me, it is finding answers in my reading materials, switching off by disappearing behind my 50mm lens frequently, picking up my colours to paint and writing out my thought processes. Speaking of searching for truths in my reading materials, I hold on to this Nietzsche-ian philosophy very close to my heart, especially during those long weeks when doubts and frustrations come uninvited to pay me visits: “To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities — I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not — that one endures.“
- Expect anything worthwhile to take a very long time. Also, things take the time they take and there is nothing we can do about it. Someone wise that I know once told me that life is not about the milestones, but the way we journey between the milestones. I think he is right. It is so easy to feel disappointed and helpless when we are not doing anything that is popularly deemed to constitute an achievement. We often forget though that achievements, in whatever form they mean to you, are just temporary culminations of our everyday actions. So, life’s meaning really can only be found in the everyday journey between our achievements. Achievements are really just life’s way of telling us to take a day off, give ourselves a break, before we journey again. To then put off our happiness until we reach milestones that we have set for ourselves would mean we will never ever be happy, not really, and never for long enough. Happiness is not the destination, happiness is the way. Find joy in the things that you do everyday. Find people who spread love and warmth within you and keep them close. Leave situations that do not make you happy. Love anything and anyone that means something to you deeply. We do not get to collect on the outstanding love at the end of life, and love is limitless.
- Know your worth, and never compromise. I know they say life is all about compromises, but what they don’t tell you is that whilst you may have to adapt to what life offers you instead of what you have wanted for yourself (you can either call this fate or compromise), you never should be less than what you can be, and you should try everyday to be a better version of you than you were yesterday. Also, do this at your pace, don’t slow it down for anyone else. Insist on the highest standards and set an example of what that means to you. I have come to realise that when you know your worth, and you are unwilling to compromise your standards, the universe bends to your will and finds a way to deliver the highest standards you dare imagine to you. You just need to believe in yourself and persist. You owe it to yourself to be every bit as awesome as you are born to be, and do not ever compromise on that.
So, whatever it is that you may have decided your life means to you, don’t ever forget that in the very least it means that you are a miracle. Spread joy, love and warmth and make your life count.