Have you ever thought why is this my life and how did I get here? Like me, you love the people who are in your life and you have created a beautiful life. When you look back, you are thankful because you realise that life could have been so much more cruel and the challenges you have overcome could have consumed you. So you know that you must be grateful for where you are.

Except there is that pervasive feeling that you are missing something that everyone else has already found. Or that you are just not where you should be.

It’s like we all set out for a walk and then some of us were given a different road map to follow while other people were allowed to follow the regular and more organised route. When we find ourselves back on the same path alongside them; it seems that they have gained skills, which we do not have, and they navigate the path with so much more ease and with some pizzazz too. And we feel kind of old and tired because the cares we have come to know create a fog around us.

There is our group hesitantly looking for the boulders and deep ditches. Planning for the storms that only we believe are bound to come while trying to be a good walking companion to the other group. We feel that the people from the other group have no idea where we have been. They listen and empathise but it is such a foreign journey to them that the only way they can reply is to talk as if they too have known the same fog.

“Oh yes, I found it awful to sleep out in the open. I mean my tent was so thin and I could feel the chill. I so wished I could have brought the warmth of the fire into the tent with me.”
And all the while the rest of us are thinking: “Tent? Where the heck did they get a tent from? We had no tent and we had nothing to start a fire with. Chill?? It was a storm!”

And so the feelings of bitterness and injustice are stirred as we are reminded of how the bends and curves of life have changed us. Everyone has tragedy and the impact of that is relative. However not everyone recovers in the same way and not everyone can start again on new terrain. Not everyone gets to feel the opposite to heartaches.

It’s all well and good that we hail challenges as life lessons that will help people to grow and become better. It’s not actually fair that those same people have to hustle alongside those who got to have the tent and a fire. Yet, that is the story of the human race.

I’d like to think that while we all travel together, there are those who share their tents and their warmth with others. If only for a little while. I’d also like to think that while we all like our stories to be acknowledged; we will also have the humility to know the difference between those that travel with a tent and those that have truly “roughed it”.

Looking back to this year, I tried to have those experiences that I thought would help me to grow and to stop asking how did I get here. I realised that I knew how I got here. What I was actually having trouble with was separating what about being here was what I truly liked and wanted, from what I thought I had to accept.

My career as an assistive technology advisor was something I was really good at but it did not make me happy. Atleast not the kind of happiness that I need. I thought about all the older people I knew, who worked the same job their whole lives and were content with retiring from that with the satisfaction of having provided well for their families.

I wondered what was wrong with me that I could not be like that…. Was I selfish? Was I ungrateful? Am I dreamer?

Maybe I’ve learnt that without the tent, I get to see the stars and without the warmth of a fire, I get to use the fire that is inside of me. I’ve learnt that the map I was given was useless anyway. I know the way to what makes me happy. It means climbing some mountains and wading through some rivers. It means picking berries and swimming in streams. It means having the courage to step off the path again and make my own path.

Credit: Michon van Staden

Here is what I hope you take from this:
*The act of believing in yourself speaks much louder than you will. But adding humility to that belief instead of pride booms even louder.

*No one can be as inspired by your life as you are. You alone know the personal costs. If you aren’t inspired to make your life what you want it to be, then you cannot expect anyone else to do that for you.

*When I become afraid of the future, I remind myself to look back and to see just how many of my worst fears I have already lived through and overcame.

Children are wonderful voices of encouragement. My son in his innocent way reminds me of all this when he merrily sings out at the top of his voice one of his favourite Elton John songs:

“Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I’m still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind”

Go have a listen. While the video will put a smile on your face, the song is so catchy that I dare you not to make it your own sing along as you plan your next move:).

Photo credits:
Desirae Pillay: Wesley Lazarus
Man walking alone: Michon van Staden
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