Three things have dawned on me recently – all of them unrelated, yet each are life defining in some small way. In a world full of conflict and uncertainty, wars raging in faraway places and so many people suffering through dictatorships, or at the hands of corrupt governments or even through a genuine lack of opportunity, it can really make a difference when you stumble upon certain truths. These truths can offer you the change in perspective that you need, or they can help you to define who you really are; especially in a time where it can be difficult to filter out all the background noise and appreciate our true selves and how lucky we truly are.
Here are my three recent revelations:
1. Nearly half of the world’s population (Over 3 billion people) live beneath the poverty line and I am not one of those people. Although I do not have millions of dollars at my disposal and I would most definitely call myself a spendthrift, when I truly think about it, I am actually rich.
I have a roof over my head, food on the table, clothes to wear and I have money to spend if I need to repair something or even buy myself a little extra. I have a university education, health care and the luxury of having access to running water.
Our view of wealth has been skewed by the hyper capitalistic society that we live in. There are those who are ultra-rich and have so much money that they don’t know what to do with it. But by the traditional views on wealth, those who are able to provide themselves with a comfortable life, without the worry of where the next meal is coming from or whether rent can be covered for the coming month are truly the rich ones.
There are so many people out there who have nothing, who are starving, homeless, without opportunities to change their situation. 45 million people in the USA alone live underneath the poverty line. There are children who go to school without food, because their parents can’t afford it. Although my mother was single through much of my childhood while raising three kids, we always had food on the table.
I think that this realisation is important in relation to your perspective on where you are at in life. So many people in the middle classes aspire to be rich and work themselves to the bone in order to reach that status when in fact, if they took one moment to look around themselves – at their house, their car and fridge full of food, they would realise that they are already there and maybe they don’t need to work themselves into the grave for some kind of unattainable ideal.
2. I’ve made many mistakes in my life. None more so than when I was 21 years old and there was someone who needed my support. They didn’t ask for my help directly, but if I was more attuned to those around me back then and not so insular, I would have realised that her actions and words were a cry for help. I was thinking about her recently and the fact that we are no longer in contact with each other and I recognised that I am the person now, that she needed me to be back then.
This revelation was huge, because it showed me that although sometimes I don’t feel as though I have grown as much as I should have, and I really do dislike this whole adulting caper – I have developed and matured and I am a much better person than I used to be. It flies in the face of the old saying ‘A leopard can’t change its spot.’ I think my spots have changed so many times that if I met my younger self today, she wouldn’t even recognise me.
When you’re right in the middle of your own life it can be hard to see your own development and it is revelations like this one that show you how much you have matured and changed. I only realised now that she needed my help back then, because I am finally able to empathise with her situation and understand that although she always appeared so confident, she had really built up a façade and when she let me in I needed to be stronger than I was. And although it does nothing for her now, I can at least be happy in the knowledge that if something like that happened again, I would be able be the person that is needed and not so egocentric.
3. It is never too late to change the path that you are on. I spent so much time trying to please everyone else, that I forgot to think about what makes me happy when I was pursuing a career path. This will sound completely conceited, but as I had scored so well during my schooling I had the opportunity to study practically anything that I wanted to. I chose to go into the medical research field because I thought that it would make my mother happy. When I began working in a laboratory however, I realised that a life full of sampling, testing, pipetting and repeating was not for me.
I achieved my Masters in Professional Accounting because my partner at the time was in business and I thought that it would be the perfect combination. But the long hours and endless excel spreadsheets were not what I wanted either. Although I had made it into a big firm, with a good job, with infinite amounts of opportunity for promotion, it was not the way that I wanted to spend the rest of my life and I knew that a heart attack in my mid-forties would be on the cards if I stayed there long term.
But there was one thing that had remained consistent throughout my studies and my many different jobs and that was the fact that I had never stopped writing or having ideas for novels and stories. I realised that it was writing that made me happy and even though I had studied at university for around 8 years and had other job experiences, it was time to pursue the thing that made me the happiest.
It may not make the same amount of money, but I am no longer stressed, I am doing what I enjoy, I have the flexibility to spend more time with family and friends and most importantly I am happy.
It is so easy to get caught up in a wave of negativity, that we can forget how much we actually have. It can work wonders to just pause for a moment and take some time to appreciate what we do have. And sometimes all it takes is a slight change in perspective.