During the summer of 2007 I had a job that was so demanding – I was constantly on the verge of curling up in the foetal position and declaring ‘game over’.
It wasn’t that the job wasn’t fun, it was. Or that it was boring, it wasn’t – just that what they made us do was borderline sadism.
I worked on the beach as a deckchair assistant and basically that means walking around all day taking money from the old people and the lazy. Sounds easy right? That’s what I thought, initially.
Yet try spending 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, walking on the sand under the summer sun.
Yes, ouch. Great t-shirt tan though.
I tell a lie actually – it was 8 hours walking on the beach and 4 hours running around putting several hundred deckchairs, sunbeds and wind-breaks back in the lockup before we could go home.
At the end of every week my legs would be begging for mercy and my back… well, what was left of it, had already given up.
I was 4 weeks into my contract when I began to have doubts as to whether I could continue in this job for the rest of the summer. It was making me genuinely depressed. I started to resent the sun for it meant a long and arduous day ahead of me. Rain would be a relief – a chance to sit down or maybe an opportunity to finish early.
What kind of weirdo begs for rain? Me. I was that weirdo.
I had a realisation.
One particularly sunny morning, I stood at the bus stop going through my usual routine of ‘cloud spotting’ when something slapped me in the face.
I spend 12 hours a day outdoors, meeting hundreds of people a day, ON THE BEACH – and getting paid for it!
Did I mention it was hard work? It was essentially 12 hours of cardio every day. I had never been so fit.
All that vitamin D. All that exercise. Why the hell wasn’t I happy?
In that split second my mind changed and I realised how lucky I actually have it. That day was awesome – I tried to engage in as much conversation as possible – tried to flirt with as many bikini clad girls as possible – took time out on my lunch break to sunbathe instead of running for the nearest cave to hide from the world.
I began to look for the positives instead of focusing on the negatives.
It’s ridiculously easy to pick out the parts of our lives that might need changing but often this comes at the expense of acknowledging the things we should actually be grateful for.
Over the last couple of years I have lived in a part of town that seems to attract a lot of homeless people. They’re quite easy to spot – it’s the people that I tend to run away from when they lurch towards me like a zombie requiring their daily fix of brains.
I shouldn’t think this way, but it really annoys me, especially as sometimes they will try to make you feel bad for not greasing their palms with silver.
I remember this homeless guy who used to ‘live’ at the beach. We nicknamed him ‘Jose’ for his resemblance to Jose Mourinho.
Every day without fail he would stumble down the promenade, fighting the seagulls for the right to eat the discarded half eaten burgers (you couldn’t eat a whole one, it wasn’t safe) and then he would collapse on the sand and sleep off the inevitable food poisoning.
I would watch him and wonder what his story was – where he came from and why he had nowhere to live.
It’s at times like this that you do begin to realise how great your life actually is.
Sure you might not be ‘happy’ with your lot but being in a bad mood because the life you chose is bringing you down is nothing compared to the struggles that some people go through.
There are people who haven’t worked in 2 years who would love to have a minimum wage job.
There are people who cannot find a girlfriend or a boyfriend who would kill to be in a bickering relationship.
There are people who have just been diagnosed with cancer who would love nothing more than have their health worries stop at being 10lbs overweight.
There are people like ‘Jose’ who would do anything to have an annoying flatmate who stumbles home at 3am, waking you up in the process – because it would mean he has a roof over his head.
Self-help and personal development should be a side dish to the main course that is your life.
Don’t let it take over who you are. Don’t continually focus on the negative aspects of your life for you will miss out on the great things.
Every day take 2 minutes out of whatever it is that you do, and just look around. Look at how the trees are swaying in the wind, watch the birds as they go about their daily business, feel your heart as it works to keep you alive.
Become present and clear your thoughts. Focus on the here and now – not on your stresses.
You’re alive, you have your health, you have a roof over your head, you have friends and you are you.
Stop focusing on what you don’t have and take a second to realise what you do have.
You’re luckier than you think.