There’s this poem, you see. You might have heard of it. It’s called Invictus and it’s been my most favourite piece of writing for years and years. But this year I found that the words struck me more than ever before.
I like to reminisce. I love to look back on things and see what I could have done in different scenarios. To be honest, I drive myself a little insane. You can’t change the past, obviously Aurelia. But the future! Now, that’s an interesting one. I can’t control it (I’m a little OCD, can you tell) but I can do my damnedest to make the most of it, ergo not repeating the same mistakes, although it happens. We’re all human here.
And so, every year, since I started travelling, I’ve tried to sum up what I’ve learnt; what experiences have helped me grow and become a better version of myself. The past 3 years have helped me become my best self – although I have grown in hardship, it was in those struggles that I found myself. I made amazing friends and met people that have changed my life forever. Can you say that you have developed since this time last year? No, I don’t mean that your personality has changed or you’ve sprouted wings. But seriously, have you improved upon yourself? Have you leveled up?
I don’t know about you but now that I look back on the year… 2015 was a hectic one; filled with drama and adventure, a little heart break and many blissfully happy moments. Here’s what it taught me:
1. I’m the ‘me’est me I’ve ever been. Are you the ‘you’est you? The person I think I am and the person I want to be are the closest they’ve ever been to being one and the same. Every single little experience that I wished I could have gone without, has made me into who I am today. So thank you, if you’re reading this and you know you had a part to play, thank you. You’ve helped shaped me into a better diamond.
2. Others do not validate your being. No lover, no friend, no family member, no outside pat on the back. YOU. You validate you. Stand up and make people take note! It always feels good to be complimented and supported by others; sometimes we feel that we need it, but ultimately if you constantly seek outside approval it means that you don’t accept yourself. And I have done that my whole life. Enough. I am awesome. I don’t need anyone’s blessing or acceptance. I love me. I love myself. And that is not a narcissistic thing to say.
3. Just because you don’t need validation from others doesn’t mean that you don’t need friends. We’re social creatures. Our whole civilisation was built on relying on others. Your friends are your family that your soul chooses. My soul chose well. 🙂 Sometimes they’re not who you would expect… There’s a saying that says that we have friends for a reason, a season and a lifetime. And I believe that to be true. Each type of friend helps us with whatever we need in that moment of our lives, but appreciate them all anyway.
4. Challenges should be dealt with head on. I realised this year that I work better under a little bit of pressure, it pushes me to see where my limit is. Work, personal, physical – doesn’t matter. And the funny thing is that my limit is usually nowhere near where I think it is; it’s way further than I expected! We don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when we overcome what we once thought were great obstacles.
5. Excuses. We seek to lessen blame or try to justify our actions. Stop. Just stop. There is probably nothing I hate more in the world. From others definitely, but from myself as well. Our brain creates excuses for us not to do things that we should do. “I can’t go running today, I don’t have time.” “I need this whole bar of chocolate because I’m having a bad day.” “I had to act this way; I had no choice.” There is literally a never-ending cycle of these types of thoughts that we have had to push past on a daily basis. But I realised something, quite recently: those thoughts quietened down when I made an effort to silence them. Mental strength is something that every one of us should focus on, every single day of our easy, privileged, 21st-century lives.
6. In the end, you don’t owe anyone anything. You are your own person. You were not put on this earth to please others. People get hurt by the decisions we make and that’s something we all have to live with, but if we stop (or continue) to do something because we feel bad about it, we are inevitably just hurting ourselves.
7. However, that being said, that does not give you the right to be an arsehole. Take responsibility for your actions. That doesn’t mean you get to walk all over someone. We live in an imperfect world and I get that. I do. What I don’t get is that people think it’s ok to treat others however they so wish. People get hurt no matter what, true, but situations can be dealt with in a delicate way. We are supposedly civilised and spiritually enlightened people. We should act like it. Do unto others what you would have done to yourself. This is known as the Golden Rule, people! Look it up here. It’s existed for thousands of years in every culture and religion. Human kindness, god dammit.
8. Don’t hold onto people that don’t value you. How can you shine if the ones that surround you don’t rub you the right way? How can you move forward in life if you are anchored by others? If someone isn’t bothered to fight for you then I don’t see why they should have any factor in your life. Life is not something that slowly passes you by… no, it is a wild thing! And you must catch it! Grasp it with both hands and treasure it! And you are a part of that wild thing that is this gigantic oddity we call the universe. You are as wild as a lion! But some think of you as a sheep. Let. Those. People. Go.
9. Trust is a fickle thing. Be careful who you give it to. At one time or another, trust is broken and you have got to make sure that you are prepared to be willing to repair it.
10. Don’t give your power to just anyone. That amazing light inside you? Don’t give that warmth away so easily. Share it carefully; only of those worthy to bask in your awesomeness. You protect it. But we are human. And we give our love to others. It’s our nature. If someone ever happens to discard your light, maybe they don’t see how bright it shines, then you take it back gracefully. Mourn and grieve if you must. How dare someone not protect that little soft glow that you ever so gently put in their hands? It’s ok. Take your radiance back. It’s not as fragile as you might think; quite elastic in fact. It will shine as brightly as ever.
Ultimately, each experience (the good and bad) is just a wave and all that matters is how well we ride it.
You know, in the end, it doesn’t matter that you got hurt. People come into our lives for a reason. There are 7 billion souls out there and you were touched by one particular one. What did you learn? Love is a gift. Not only for those you bestow it upon, but for yourself as well. You allow yourself to grow like a wild garden and sometimes a storm comes along and destroys a few of those precious flowers. That’s ok. They’ll grow again after a time; that’s how nature works. That’s how we work. Love is a gift. Don’t stop being a carefree, beautiful soul because of someone else’s storm passing by. We need a little thunder and lightning to appreciate the gorgeous rain. (I like imagery, have you noticed?)
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley