One moment, you’re a carefree eleven-year-old, running through the jungle of the playground and indulging in as much chocolate as your heart desires. And a blink of an eye later, you’re wheelchair bound, learning to walk and talk your way through this new kind of normal.
There are certain things that this experience will teach you – and no, I’m not referring to becoming fluent in medical jargon, being able to swallow 12 tablets at once without water, or inject yourself with 47 needles per week.
As well as these unique skills, this experience teaches you a few things about life, things I sometimes wish people didn’t need to face death to understand.
1. Your health should always be your first priority, because you can’t buy a new body.
Health doesn’t mean spending endless hours every day at the gym. Health doesn’t mean cutting carbs, eating only kale and halving your portions.
Health means balance. Balance in everything you do. Health means balancing work and leisure, margaritas and kale, sleep and exercise. No factor will ever be more important, nor should one take continuous priority over the others.
Health means finding a moment in every day to be a ‘me moment.’ Your mental wellbeing is just as important as your physicality.
You are your own company and your thoughts will inevitably manifest into reality. In order to ensure you are maximizing your opportunities, create a lifestyle for yourself that negotiates a little time each day to break a sweat, to eat your veggies, and to finish up with a serving of ice cream.
2. Instagram isn’t real and will never equate to real life happiness.
Although the app does provide a platform for self-expression, inspiration, and connectivity, it has also developed an unhealthy obsession with perfection.
The seemly flawless faces staring at us through our screen with their acai bowls, Lorna Jane apparel, and #wokeuplikethis selfies are not real.
These images were specifically selected (from over 100 almost identical photos on the camera roll), contrasted, filtered, and uploaded with an seemingly effortlessly witty caption that actually took longer than the editing process to word.
These pictures are chosen to portray a particular message, but do not represent an entire story.
These smiling faces do not speak of the richness of their lives. We do not see the moments of pure happiness, when their eyes are crinkled from smiling and their cheeks are puffed from laughter.
We do not see their smeared face on a Saturday morning after a Friday night out with the girls. We do not see their sleep deprived bags hidden by concealer.
We do not see the love that is baked into their grandmother’s muffins or the worn paper holding the family’s secret recipe. We do not see their reality.
Whenever you find yourself comparing your life to these two-dimensional, digital ‘people,’ remember that you are already your own #goals, because you are here and you are incredible.
3. Surround yourself with beautiful souls, because botox and bronzer don’t last forever.
When you’re 80-years-old and living in a nursing home, it’s not that popular girl you pretended to like Triple J to talk to or that cute boy that you can’t even formulate a sentence around that will be visiting you.
It is the people who connected with you on an emotional level, who remembered your birthday without Facebook reminding them or called you on their way home from uni just to catch up.
It is your family and friends who care about you, who ask how you are and actually wait for an answer.
These are the people you need in your life. Real people. These are the people who will build you up, motivate you, and remind you that you are special just because you are you. Don’t be afraid to show these people how much you care about them, don’t leave them wondering.
Tell people you love them, call someone you miss, kiss people with two hands, and press the send button on a risky text.
Sure, things might not work out the way you want them to, but imagine if they did? Don’t let fear or embarrassment cloud your judgement. When you find those beautiful souls that are meant to be in your life, make sure they know.
4. It’s okay to be alone.
Being alone or being single is often viewed as a problem that requires solving. People often associate being alone with being lonely, when in fact, these are two very different things.
Some people become so obsessed with the ridiculous notion of needing a partner to be complete that they are willing to compromise their identity and their happiness in order to achieve this goal.
The reality is, no person can ever make you as happy as you can make yourself. If you don’t love who you are, if you don’t have your own goals and ambitions, if you are not creating the life you want to live, then you will never experience real happiness.
During this process of self-discovery, it is okay to be alone. Being alone allows you to work on being you. It provides you with an opportunity to express yourself without the influence of others. It encourages spontaneity, personal growth and reflection.
So if you are in a relationship and you’re unhappy or you find yourself swiping right and ‘chatting’ just for the sake of it – stop. Stop what you’re doing and start doing things that bring you happiness.
There is nothing more attractive than someone who knows what they want and isn’t afraid to go for it.
Once you’re on the right path, you’ll meet the right person and you’ll know exactly where to go to from there.