I have no idea what I am doing half of the time. I plan things out like a regular sane person and I have a vague idea of the future but quite often things don’t always go the way I want them too.
Like the final season of Dexter.
As I get older I have realised that I am, and always will be, a work in progress. My life is a movie with a cast of 7 billion and an audience of thousands. I haven’t a clue what the next scene will be or even if it will be my final performance, but that’s fine.
I am 32 and I have learnt a hell of a lot in my time but experience is exponential. The longer we live the more we learn about ourselves, those around us and life in general. Like not investing 8 years of your life in following a TV show only for it to turn around and slap you in the face. I learnt that this week.
I digress. I’m starting to realise that there is no such thing as a perfect existence. Everyone goes through ups and downs. Nobody is exempt from the rollercoaster that is life. Our elders are only wise because they have reached a grand old age without getting themselves killed in the process. They haven’t figured everything out, nor do they know everything.
They have reached an age where they stop trying to resist life’s many obstacles. Instead learning to embrace everything that comes their way – accepting the good and the bad with equal relish because they have the experience needed to take everything in their stride.
But for those who are younger, who maybe haven’t figured it all out yet (me included), these lessons can be terrifying when they occur.
So far, during my 32 years on this planet I have come to realise that…
1. Nothing lasts forever
It’s time for a quick pop quiz.
What do hangovers, childbirth and late night Doner kebabs have in common? Apart from the fact that all three can be the result of drinking too much alcohol.
That’s right, they are all bloody horrible. Yet we keep going back, again and again.
We’ve all woken up after a particularly heavy night with a stupendous headache and a mouth that tastes like the Devil’s piss. Telling whoever is in earshot that we will never touch another drop of alcohol. Our words are uttered with the utmost sincerity, of course they are, but once our beastly hangover has passed we tend to forget about the pain and the suffering and the following week we are back out partying like mentalists.
A similar thing occurs after childbirth. I obviously have no first-hand experience but popping out a lump of screaming flesh the size of a Honeydew melon would definitely put me off ever doing that again. Yet unfathomably, women keep going back for more. The internal, instinctive desire to seek out the happiness and joy of having another child is far stronger than the pooping and pain that occurred the last time they gave birth.
As for kebabs… no science in the world could explain why we keep going back for more. (Does anyone ever finish a kebab anyway?)
Every relationship begins with the hope and expectation that this will be it. This is the one. This is the person I will spend the rest of my life with.
Likewise, every career begins with the belief that this is what will be paying our mortgage for the next 25 years.
Sadly life offers no guarantees. We all know that relationships end. 99% of them do – it’s just the way it is. That doesn’t mean that we are ok when it happens. Break ups hurt. Some of them are akin to rubbing vinegar into an open wound.
Losing a job or coming to the conclusion that your career is a dead end can be a scary moment too. The security you thought you had has come crashing down and you feel vulnerable and genuinely worried about your financial future.
As teenagers or young adults we don’t think ahead too much. We live in the present moment. Life is about the now, not about the future. It’s a simpler time for all of us. But then shit happens. Our first relationship ends and it feels as though our whole world has ended. We don’t think we can ever love again but we do – of course we do, and we figure this out in due time.
Many of us will lose a job at some point in our lives. Redundancy and being fired (cough) are common enough that they are both a real possibility. When we suddenly lose a job, especially one that either paid well or was somewhat interesting, it can leave us fearing that we never find another one.
Yet we do. Of course we do.
At a certain point this blind naivety turns to burning cynicism and then finally, acceptance.
Nothing lasts forever. The trick to living a stress free existence is to acknowledge that occasionally, shit happens and if it does then that’s fine, because we are all resilient enough to get over it and move on with our lives. We do it again and again.
Hangovers, childbirth, ending relationships, losing a job, being broke and even the horrifying realisation that the kebab you desperately wanted to eat is making you want to shove a plastic fork in your eye can be tough to deal with, but it is only temporary. Human beings are resolute bastards and nothing can stop us from going back to the beginning and trying again.
Because that’s just how we roll.
2. You can never outrun your shadow
The truth is – you cannot change who you are.
You can change your job, you can change your appearance, you can even change the way you think, but you cannot change the person you really are on the inside. That person is with you for the long haul.
One of the many reasons why people allow addiction to overcome their basic everyday needs is because they refuse to accept who they are.
Substance abuse can be a means to escape the conscious mind. The mistakes, the failures, the embarrassments, the shame and the hurt – memories we strive to banish from existence, yet they are still there, picking and scratching at our surface, vying for attention.
There are people out there who spend thousands on cosmetic surgery because they believe that it will change who they are. They are often saddened to discover that beyond the compliments and the initial surge in confidence, things level out again and their old self re-emerges.
Men hit the gym and pound the weights. They eat a shit ton of food and inject copious amounts of testosterone in the pursuit of a physique that will turn heads and reduce women to a quivering wreck. Yeh sure, it works, but again – to what end? When the lights have been turned off and they are alone in bed, all they have is their mind and the same hopes, dreams, fears and everyday stresses remain.
Most of us cannot understand when a celebrity or a hugely successful movie star or athlete complains about their life. ‘What have they got to moan about?’ we ask. ‘How can they be depressed with their bank account?’ It’s because depression doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care about your material wealth or how you look on the outside. There are many cases where a beloved celebrity has come to the realisation that being rich and famous counts for nothing. They believe that making it in Hollywood or finally having a hit single will suddenly erase their inner demons. It won’t, it never does,
They struggle because they haven’t accepted who they really are. They try to outrun their shadow but it’s not until the light shines brightest that they realise how futile it really is.
There is absolutely nothing wrong in changing your appearance, but it has to be a means of enhancing your outer shell, not as an attempt to replace who you are on the inside.
Acceptance is the key. We have to accept the shadow that follows us around because try as we might, we cannot get rid of it. Learn to work with it, become friends. Offer encouragement, accept the flaws, embrace the memories and work on the weaknesses.
You will always be ‘you’. Just become a better you.
3. You’re a failure
You may not want to hear this, but I’m going to lay it on you anyway. You’re a failure.
You failed when you were a child, you failed throughout your teens and you’re an even bigger failure in adulthood. Now, before you run away, attacking a huge tub of ice cream declaring ‘that nasty Jamie is being mean to me’, realise this – failure is natural and it is normal. In fact, it is damn right essential. Here is why.
Today, I was caught in a torrential downpour and to suggest I was a bit wet is an understatement of biblical proportions (I think I even saw the animals leave two by two). I was drenched. But as I write this, I am now pretty much dry. Aside from the little wet patches at the bottom of my jeans, you couldn’t even tell I had left the house today.
I was completely wet-through, but it was only temporary. Later I will be 100% dry and everything will be right in the world.
Failure is a bit like that. You fail at something, thus you are a failure, but is it permanent? Hell no. You dust yourself down and you try again. We are constantly failing, at everything we do, but eventually we move on and either we give up or we succeed. Which largely depends on only one thing, how much do we really want it? Things that we don’t want, we leave as failures. The things we do want, we find a way of succeeding. It’s just how it is.
Without failure there can be no success.
We all believe, sincerely believe that there will come a time when everything will work out. It may do, but just because something is great, doesn’t mean that other things won’t be. We will always be a work in progress. It’s a good thing. Failure means trying something new, breaking out of our comfort zone.
Don’t become disheartened because you have reached a certain age and you feel like things haven’t worked out yet. Fail, fail over and over again, become a failure but embrace it and know that without it, you cannot become the person you truly want to be.
You’re a failure, and that is why you are successful.
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
4. The more you know, the more you realise you don’t know
I like to think that I am a pretty knowledgeable and intelligent. I know a lot of stuff. Ok that doesn’t stop me from being a colossal idiot, because I am.
I’m an idiot.
I have always been very self-aware and one of the scariest realisations I had was how insignificant we really are on this planet. It’s so easy to just accept whatever we are told by our parents. If you are born into a Christian family then it’s likely you will grow up as a Christian. If you are born into an Islamic family then it’s likely you will be brought up as a Muslim.
Yet no matter how strong your beliefs may be, there will surely come a time when you will begin to question your faith. It may only be for a fleeting moment, but it will probably happen at some point in your life. This can be terrifying for most people as it can feel like a betrayal of their very existence.
Regardless of the outcome, you have entered the realm of self-doubt’.
In the movie, ‘The Matrix’, Neo is offered the choice between a red pill and a blue pill. The blue pill would allow him to remain in the fabricated reality of the Matrix. The red pill would lead to his escape from the Matrix and into the “real world”.
By taking the metaphorical ‘red pill’, you have suddenly considered the prospect that there might not be a God at all. For many, having this internal debate can actually strengthen ones faith but once the acknowledgement has been made, it can never be unlearned.
This moment of clarity is scary because for the first time you have thought about the possibilities outside of your previous reality.
Many people live in ignorance – blindly believing in something to the detriment of everything else, or worse, not even thinking at all. By questioning who we are, why we are here and what lies beyond, the terror can be crippling but once it has been accepted that it’s ok to have these thoughts, the only outcome is one of strength.
You will either have re-enforced your faith or you will have rejected it. It doesn’t matter which path you take because you have faced the fear of uncertainty and come out a better person.
Yes it’s scary but I believe that it’s something that we all must go through, whether you are a religious person to begin with or not. To ponder what is out there is simultaneously fascinating and healthy.
Have a think back through your life. Are there any terrifying lessons that you have learnt along the way? If so how did you deal with them? Let me know in the comments below!