Over the course of the past few weeks, I couldn’t stop feeling an immense sense of gratitude. I feel really, really lucky. I don’t think that I have gotten here only because of my own hard work. You can work really hard but that wouldn’t matter if there was nobody there to recognize it. Sometimes it is worse because the hard work that you do may not be typical hard work, it is work that goes behind the scenes, in-between the lines, riffs into the subconscious.
Sometimes all you need in your life is just for one person to believe in you. And having that person to me, is a combination of luck and timing. The teacher appears when the student is ready, the old cliche goes, but I often found this to be true in my life.
The key factor is, the student has to be ready, there has to be a sense of self-awareness that you desire more in your life. You could have the worst self-esteem in this world, but it would work as long as there is this little voice in your heart that knows you want more out of your life.
There are very special people in this world, who are able to recognize this little spark in other people. I have been incredibly blessed that I have met quite a few of these people in my life, because without them, I am not sure where I will be right now. Life wasn’t always kind to me, and I had spent my entire 20s almost believing that I will never live to see any light at the end of the tunnel.
But the key difference was, no matter how self-deprecating I might have been, there was always this little spark. The first person to recognize that was my dear friend Julia, whom I had met at my first job. She was the very first person who told me it was okay to be different. It is okay to be different. How simple is that statement but how many people have struggled with not knowing it. Last week I sent Julia an email, because I keep going over and over in my head, that she was the person who kept me alive in the first place. For years she was always there to listen to me whine about my life, somehow she displayed a tremendous amount of patience for me despite my incessant attempts to be in the victim mode.
She probably doesn’t understand the full entirety of her impact on my life, she always insisted that she didn’t do all that much for me, but it was precious to a 20 year old having existential issues. She didn’t simply have a few conversations with me, she stayed throughout my life for a good number of years, always reminding me that it is okay to be an individual and pursue what I want in life.
Pursuing what I want in my life. Something that is the very basis of humanity and the foundation of any individual, but it is made to feel like a crime in many societies and familial constructs. I was always made to feel less because of my intense desire to pursue what I want in my life. I didn’t know it back then, that my rebellious behavior was precisely because I took my life very seriously. My existential issues occurred because I didn’t feel right living like a herded sheep.
I didn’t like living back then, because I love life too much.
That was one of the biggest epiphanies I have made a couple of years ago and that set the stage for the person I am today. But I will never forget the pain I had felt all my life. Because that will drive me on for my life’s work. That because I will never forget the pain, I will also never forget the people who made it easier for me to carry on, and for all of that, I will always remind myself to be that person Julia once was for me, to other people I come across in my life now.
That me, of all people, will always remember how it feels like to feel less, to feel all the disappointment felt by all the people who cared for me simply because I was not the person they expect me to be, to feel all that disapproval from authority figures, that shake of a head made by so many people because they measured me by conventional metrics.
That pain I will always carry with me, because now I will require it to identify others out there who were like me before. That sometimes all they need in life is for one person to believe in them. That not everybody is blessed with innate confidence and self-healing abilities. That there are plenty of people out there who require one other person to tip them over to what they are truly meant to do. That the people we are always so quick to reject from society, are exactly the people who would turn out to be beautiful, creative contributors if we give them the space to be.
If you have gone over the stories of all these exceptional human beings we see today, you will find a recurring pattern. Plenty of them went through a series of painful struggles, they were always misunderstood, but there was always someone who believed in them. Sometimes it is not enough, in cases of David Foster Wallace and Aaron Swartz, but there will always be people like Abraham Lincoln who channeled his pain into a greater purpose.
I look back at my life and here comes the ironic twist – I am absolutely grateful for all of that shit I went through. I would never be able to become the person I am, had I not gone through enough personal battles and crises. I wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to discover the graciousness of humanity because there were so many people who went out of their way to be kind to me in difficult situations. I wouldn’t have had the inner strength I possess now had I skipped those obstacles and endurance training. There is no way I can take anything for granted now because I came from such a bad place that I am simply lucky enough to be healthy and alive. Anything else is a huge bonus.
And this is the most important of all. I would not have developed the empathy and the ability to look at everything in multiple perspectives. Of all the gifts I have been given, this is the one that is the most precious to me – my empathy. Everything I do, stems from my empathy. I listen, I write, I design, I talk, I learn, I give, I cheer, I encourage, I nurture, I nudge, I do everything – with my empathy. And I believe that it has direct co-relation to the luck and positive outcomes I receive in life.
It also has direct co-relation to the pain I had received in my life. The pain I feel develops into this intense awareness of how other people feel. And you know what, that quality is absolutely important to my work, whether you want to refer my work as a professional designer, or my life’s work as a storyteller.
I will never, ever, want to lose my ability to feel pain, or to forget how it was like to feel so much pain earlier on in my life. It keeps me very grounded, it doesn’t allow me to be complacent, it makes me grateful for everything, I want to always have that intense awareness and I will consider it a huge handicap if I ever lose that ability.
Everything can be a blessing or a curse. It is up to you, to decide what you want it to be.
p.s. some people asked me why I don’t post these to Medium. The short answer is that I am writing these spontaneous spur-of-the-moment posts here and Medium contains more of my thought-out, edited long-form writing. It may or may not change in the future, I am still getting a feel on how I want it to be.