At the time I finished this piece, I found out that I am over 9,700 days old! It may not amount to much when I tell you that I have lived for a little over 26 years, but I sincerely get the feeling that I have lived for twice the duration, but have done less than half the things that I believed I should have done by now.
I remember when I was asked as a kid what I wanted to do professionally. I wholeheartedly felt that I would be an astronaut. After all, who wouldn’t want to go to space, and explore whole new worlds (although at the time I didn’t consider the fact that I would have to poop in a bag for months). Years later, when I felt that my interest in the sciences were waning, I began to lean towards a business background.
But life took a drastic turn in my teens.
I would not have believed you if you had told me that I would be diagnosed with cancer when I was 16. I would have laughed it off, or simply looked at you weirdly, if at 15, I was told that I would spend over a decade, having health issues, with a cure, but no permanent fix, as well as hitting rock bottom both mentally and financially. I would be left alone, with only the comfort of my thoughts, which would soon turn into a nightmare. If a question is asked about what I have done with my life in the past decade, I am left with a severely empty feeling. How many friends have I made? I do not know anybody that I can seriously call a friend. I have had colleagues who have respected me and liked me, but I do not know anyone with whom I can share my deep-seated fears, or my most wonderful dreams. Have I ever travelled to a distant area by myself? Have I ever pursued anything with such a passion knowing that it could be a dream job or could potentially change my future? Have I ever taken great chances on anything in life? The answer has always been never.
I spend a few hours at a customer relations job six days a week, with a below par pay, dealing with sarcastic slights and being everyone’s agony uncle. I spent over a year and a half being jobless, because extensive travelling, or taking risks, was not an option. Despite being told by my close ones that I can go back to life as it was, I feel that it has most definitely not been the same.
All in all, even now, I feel empty on the inside. I wish for healthy outlets to express who I truly am. But no matter what, I know that I cannot be a victim to living in a delusion. What is happening in front of me, right now, is as real as it can be. At times, I feel that something within me will just snap, and that all my pain, my anger, my insecurities, and fears will just reach boiling point. But I have never compromised on my integrity. I do not know who I am, but I do know who I can be.
I ended up spending most of my life up to my teens, focusing on getting the highest marks in a rote-based learning system, which, unknown to me then, would prove to be nearly useless once I entered the job market. Sure, it won me a lot of recognition and respect when I was consistently amongst the top performers. But I received a feeling of immense satisfaction every time I performed well in extra-curricular activities. Whether it was a storytelling, stage plays, or even football practice (in which I had no formal training), I would enrol in it, much to the surprise of my parents. I wouldn’t always win, but I would give it my all. Standing in front of a crowd and enthralling them with my words or my performances would give me a sense of belief and confidence in myself. It was truly a victory in itself. If you love something, you go after it. You do it because you simply love it. Only you can understand how you truly feel about something, and nobody can think and feel exactly like you do. You are unique, and your own best judge.
I remember when, as a seventeen-year-old who came back home from his first chemotherapy, being 5’11’’ and barely at 5 stone, I was hardly able to stand in front of the mirror whilst brushing my teeth. But I suddenly had an epiphany. Of what my life could be. It was one of the purest, most awakening thoughts I’d ever experienced. And although the brightness of the illusion faded away due to my situation, I knew that it was more than that; that it was a dream. More than 9 years later, I know that I still wish to pursue it. And I will. What I have come to terms with, as someone once said, is that ‘Pain is temporary, giving up is forever.’ If you have a dream, then do not ever think that it is impossible, no matter how absurd it may be. A doctor once indirectly told my mother to let go of me because I had a few months left, but here I am today, lifting 10-pound weights with little difficulty, and being able to work a full-time job comfortably. The only person who probably finds it absurd is the doctor!
At times, I am forced to evaluate the choices in my life. Maybe if I had chosen a particular career choice, I would not feel stuck in a rut. Maybe if I had not sunk into a pit of despair and immense stress in my teens, my life would not be in such a mess. But I have learned something key over the years – one, that staying in the past does not serve us, because regret does not solve anything. It’s okay to feel bad about ourselves, for we are ultimately human. But we need to gather the pieces and put ourselves together, and two, that no matter how many tiny steps we may take, we should keep moving forward. I think that we oscillate in extremes – life can be extremely carefree when things are going great, but when push comes to shove, we assume the worst. But I have begun to follow the 1% rule – taking an area of my life that I wish to improve and doing one thing a day or week that I think will make it better. So far, I have reduced my time on negative social media platforms that follow a toxic cancel culture, and where people pull each other down for no reason. I am here today because I believed in myself, and I believe that I should extend that courtesy to everybody. I believe that people should build each other up and support each other. Shame does not help anybody to improve or grow. I know that for a fact, for a significant part of me has been living with that feeling for over a decade.
A wise soul once said, ‘you do not ever have a problem, you have a situation’. When you look at things this way, I believe that it truly changes your perspective.
I have recently begun running. My knees seem to barely allow me to get very far, but I believe that with time and consistent practice – I will get better. I aim to run in a 10-kilometre race before my 27th birthday in March. I like running because it keeps me fit, but also because it makes me happier.
I have also begun to explore new career choices, and am willing to expand my knowledge and expertise, so that I can move further towards my goals, and have a better, more well-rounded personality.
I’d just like to sum up what I’ve said above in a few short words, without coming across as offensive. No matter what happens to you, you are ultimately responsible for your own happiness. If this was your last day, how would you look back at yourself? The point of living, is to simply be happy, and to progress as a person. The focus should be, not on the number of accomplishments and awards you have, but how you have added value to your own and to others’ lives. So, what if I have spent nearly 10,000 days at the starting line? Life is ultimately a marathon, and not a sprint. I know that one day, I will be at the place that I wish to be. And it will feel like absolute bliss. And how will I get there? By breaking it down by a per cent.