Choice. That is the thing that has defined my life. It is something I have recognised time and again that I am lucky to have. My gratefulness for it has grown, especially when I have seen the impact not having choice has on people.
Imperfection. I grew up with a belief that I wasn’t good enough. I now know that this was accidental, but none the less it became a part of my identity. I am grateful for it now, if I had grown up believing I was enough I would never have felt the need to grow. Instead I believed I must be better, I must do better to be accepted by my friends, by family, by the world. It drove me to try to understand myself, my motives for things, why I behaved the way I did. It taught me to see when other people were struggling, to see how people worked together, to identify what I needed to do to help. I am still not satisfied with who I am, but more and more I am glad that I have worked so hard to grow, I feel like a better person because of it.
Adventure. I hadn’t intended to be an adventurous person, I had planned, I think, a traditional life, but I come from adventurous stock. Sometimes my family ventured abroad to break new ground and grow their skills, often though, their adventure was at home, in their workplace, in their lives. I have had the privilege to see quite a bit of this planet, to live my life inside other cultures and through reading, to adventure even further. That adventure as taught me to appreciate the diversity of life, the beauty of our planet, the necessity for compassion for everything else on it. It has given me a hunger for change.
Adaptability. My parents taught us to be adaptable. We moved houses, we spent summers away, we went on cultural adventures. Later I lived abroad, lived in shared houses, had a wide variety of jobs. I know how to make my home where I am. I know how to build relationships and how to squash myself so that I can to fit into uncomfortable spaces. I have learned to look beneath the surface, to listen for the meaning rather than the words and to observe the reality of another culture, and challenge myself not to judge it.
Honesty. This one is very much a work in progress. I have always strived to tell the truth, and to follow the rules. I have watched others live with no regard for the rules, or for those they hurt by disregarding them, and felt mystified by how little they care. I have felt the responsibility of trying to speak a difficult truth and felt my heart break when I have had to hear to it. I have learned that it is surprisingly easy to lie to myself and others, often much easier than telling them something they might not want to hear. And I have recognised that by not telling the truth, who I am disappears over time.
Regrets. I have many. Most of mine relate to people and relationships, to mistakes I have made and things I have said. I know I have broken hearts, and I know now that at the time I couldn’t comprehend how much damage I did. I have struggled to understand what other people were feeling and that I have negatively impacted their lives. I have said things, which I later regretted and hammered out canyons that I later wished to cross. For me regret is something that lives, like a gaping dark hole, inside my chest. Something I have discovered I can rarely reverse and instead must learn to grow from and live with. To use it to get better and prevent further damage.
Emotion. I realise now that I am an emotional person. It took me a long while to understand that many other people didn’t live on the edge like I did and consequently they couldn’t understand the impact life had on me. I live on the edge of a swell of emotion. At any moment, for almost no reason I can well up, feel overwhelmed or feel the urge to help. It can come from a stunning view, from watching a father comfort his son, from seeing people help someone up or just from seeing the sun shine through the rain.
I have learned over the years to temper this, to hide the tears about to fall, to resist the urge to help when it is inappropriate, to breathe into the enormous emptiness of need and hopelessness that exists in the world. I have coped by making a difference in my small patch; by being the best I can be; by volunteering my time, my money, my expertise and sometimes my compassion. I have coped by writing short impassioned essays that voice my need for others to hear about the beauty and diversity I see, and now I throw those to the void in the hope that they bring others something of value.