There is a quote that really stuck with me this New Year.
Okay okay, I know a lot of people just chuck inspirational quotes around at this time of year such as, “don’t worry, be happy,” “stress less babes” or “blah, blah, Bob Marley.’ Or my pet hate quote: “be the change you wish to see.”
However, all cheesy quotes aside for just a minute, there was one that really lodged in my mind upon hearing it:
“Want to be happy? Be grateful.”
And do you know what, I genuinely think this is true. But not just that, being grateful in the moment — which seems almost impossible in this day and age of constant Keeping Up With The Jones-Beckham’s Internet.
This realisation has come from a recent light bulb moment — I realized something quite sad recently, and I am actually sad writing it. I looked back on old photos for the first time in ages, on Facebook nonetheless. I stumbled across a few old photo albums, consisting of a younger, suppler, more naïve, lovelier version of myself. Here I am, older, wiser, caring less about my appearance and looking at the pixels of my past, peering into the life of a completely different person, a carefree spirit roaming around the world at 19. Nineteen, you’re only nineteen for god’s sake — you don’t need a boyfriend.
Staring at this stranger, I remember that she is rather insecure, unsure of herself, afraid, freaked out by general life or anything that comes too close to her. She wasn’t sure at all what she was supposed to be, in life, in career, who she was. “Do I need to wear hot pants to be sexy? Hey, I am just going to copy everyone, and then I’ll be fine.” And on closer inspection, I realised another thing about her: She looked really good. And this is not me being narcissistic or arrogant FYI, because this is five years ago me, and I am not her now. She died and I am merely commenting on her, I am doting on her like a long lost daughter.
I noticed she had great hair, great skin, she was thinner, smiled wider, and had a more glowing complexion. She had great teeth, (they have since moved back slightly from not wearing my retainer properly) and a more youthful, happier looking face. This all sounds rather lovely on reflection, doesn’t it? Except when I remember that she was the unhappiest and the most insecure she’s ever been at the time. Behind the smile she was completely confused and travel sick of life. I remember vividly how much she hated her body, how she was repulsed by it and thought no one would ever understand it or love it. She never once looked in the mirror and liked what she saw. It was all wobbly bits and thighs and unflattering mirrors and blemishes.
Right now, however ironic it might seem, I am looking at this old photo seeing a better looking, younger version of myself with a fabulous body that I never got to cherish at the time. I also understand now that I probably took better care of my appearance because at that time as I didn’t know what other things I had to offer. My relationship now with ‘younger me’ is wanting to shake her, to tell her how great she is, to embrace life fully and feel the confidence overtake all other trivial gripes. With that body and smile she could do whatever she wanted. Sing and dance down the street. Get her legs out. Sleep with warm-hearted people. Go to the library in her pajamas. Wear stupid clothes. Not spend money on stupid stuff that she thought she needed to fit in. To stop covering her body up. The people she was trying to impress were not her friends.
The sooner you realise that the better. I can vouch for it now.
University and school is the giant kids playground and at this point it is all about artificial things because you haven’t yet proven your worth or mastered any skills worthy of applause, you are literally just your parents children and a surname and a body and a face. You are nothing but a growing fetus of a personality, a blossoming weed in a field of angry sheep that will try to make you socially suffer from moving against the herd.
This year I will urge myself and others to appreciate what they have. But not only that: in this exact moment. You will never be as young as you are now and I promise you, you will look back and wish you were happier when you had the chance to be.
Happy New Year, y’all.