Sometime around my early to mid-thirties, I decided I needed to make some changes in my life. I was a fulltime mother and housewife at the time. And I was more than happy to continue doing that indefinitely. I absolutely loved, and still do, taking care of my children and managing the household. But I had come to the realization, observing my and my siblings relationships with my own parents, that children grow up and go on to have their own lives. If I didn’t find something to occupy my time, in addition to my children, a day will come when I will feel very alone. I was also feeling a need to be financially independent. At the time, my thinking on the matter wasn’t feminist in the slightest. I wasn’t thinking that I needed to be my own independent person and part of that independence was my financial independence. I simply wanted to have enough money to buy a nice shampoo every now and then without my husband complaining about how I was spending “our” money. And I wanted to be able to get my children nice things when I wanted to.
Shortly after I came to these realizations, I began to work. Becoming a career woman radically changed my life. I was exposed to different kinds of people and ideologies. I learned new skills. I began to see the world, really see it, in a whole new light, rather than watch it move by while I was sitting on the sidelines. I found passion beyond my original passion for motherhood. Not only did I want to bring up well-rounded children, but now I also wanted to play a role in changing my country, my region, and even the world to be a better place to live in. I realized that didn’t necessarily mean that I had to be involved in politics or in huge developmental projects. If I focused on being the best I could be at my job, and helping others in my field do really well in theirs, I would be making my small corner of specialty journalism just a little better and thus also those audiences who were affected by it.
Around the same time I began considering work, I also looked internally. My body was no longer what it used to be. Age and four children had paid its toll. I didn’t have the same energy I had when I was younger. Simple things, like walking up a few flights of stairs, were laborious. A good university friend of mine suggested I join her at our local gym. The thought otherwise may never have occurred to me. Going to the gym was not something that anyone I knew was doing. It wasn’t part of my “culture”.
It took years for me to reach the stage of incorporating exercise into my daily/weekly routine. It’s one of the most difficult things in the world to do: getting a relatively lazy and weak body accustomed to daily, rigorous activity. It requires a tremendous amount of willpower and determination. Even today I need to actively talk myself into getting in that all-important one hour of hard physical exertion. The difference, now, is that I can see the benefits. I am in better physical shape and fitness than I have ever been in my life. I am able to do things that I never before even imagined I could or would do. And by keeping up the routine, my body and my mind feel more alive than ever.
Working, making money, and being physically fit all allowed me to start travelling, seeing the world, meeting new people, and engaging in new activities. It all began simply because I could. I figured that I might as well. But as I became exposed to new things, my senses began to open and my life will never be the same.
Opening myself up to the world has taught me so much. Most importantly, I have learned how little I really know. I have learned that there is beauty in every single human being, no matter how different they are from me. I have learned that if not for the wide diversity in human thought, belief, and practice, the world would be such a stagnant place to live in. I have seen some of God’s creations with my own eyes, felt them with my own hands, smelled them with my own nose, heard them with my own ears, and tasted them with my own tongue, rather than experience them through a nature documentary on the television set. As a result, I have come to feel that much closer to my Creator.
What started with the simple thought of “I want to be able to buy nice shampoo” has resulted in a completely new outlook on life for me.
I have now made the active, conscious decision to actually live life. If something about my life upsets me, I make a real effort to change it. I know that life is not always easy and fun times, but I also know that life does not need to always be shitty. And I know that sometimes we need to go through shit to smell the flowers. So I’m more willing to go through shit now if I think it will eventually change my life for the better. I know that good things take time. They need to simmer on low heat. I need to have patience and wait till they are ready. I don’t need instant gratification. I don’t need things to happen NOW. I know that if I work hard, they can happen eventually. And that is good enough for me. I have learned that success does not come from wanting to be successful. It comes from hard work and shedding lots of sweat and tears. If I want to be successful at something, I need to stop being envious towards those who are, and just get down to business. I have learned to open my mind. I have learned that there are very few things in life that are blatantly right or wrong. I have learned that what might be “right” for me might not be right for other people. I have learned that every person has a distinct recipe for living a healthy life. What works for me won’t necessarily work for other people. We all have different skill sets and different circumstances. We need to incorporate both into our distinct recipes in order to find the perfect mix. If I keep trying to fit someone else’s ingredients into my recipe, it will never work to my taste. I have learned that sometimes you need to take certain risks in life to achieve your goals. As long as these are calculated risks, they are almost always worth taking. As long as you have a backup plan, go for it. Big dreams and big successes cannot be achieved without taking some risks. I have learned that happiness comes and goes. Happiness does not need to be my goal anymore. What is more important is to feel content with what life dishes out to me. The good times are great. They make life worth living. But the bad times are more often than not what help us grow and mature as human beings. I have learned that I will inevitably make awful mistakes. I have learned that I will inevitably go through very hard times. But I have learned that I can be at my lowest, stay there for a while to recuperate, and then I can brush myself off and get on with things.
So even though I have come to feel more fulfilled as a person, that does not mean my life has become perfect. I have made awful mistakes, I have had terrible lows, I frequently feel very confused and lost, and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. But I now know that all that is all right. It’s part of living. It’s part of growing. It’s part of getting to where I need to get; that place I am still looking for. I know I will never find it without getting a little bit lost first. And so instead of needing to be there now, I’m going through the journey. Oh, and I’ve learned that life isn’t really about getting to that one place of success or of happiness. Life is only really about the journey. And I’m content with growing through this journey of mine. I’m learning so much on the way.