A few years ago, I thought I knew what I wanted from life.
I thought I knew what was best for me.
In fact, every single year I laugh at how sure of myself I used to be.
Things change. Sometimes things happen the way you want them to, but mostly they happen in unimaginable ways.
Three years ago I saw myself living as a hippie backpacker, hopping from this hostel to that, meeting new girls in every port, counting pennies, working as little as possible.
Pleasure was my ultimate goal in life.
Respect was up there as well, but back then I didn’t know what respect meant.
I may not have had a plan for the future, but I sure as hell knew what I wanted here and now. I was sure of it.
Fast forward six months, and, as is the way of life, I got a devastating existential kick in the face.
I watched my expectations crumble around me through the tears in my eyes.
I found myself in an ever-tightening vice of a little-known, even-less-researched, nightmarish illness. It was related to medication I had been taking for a long time.
Better yet, it seemed that the illness would be chronic. At least two to five years, I found out.
The five stages of grief. I went through them all.
It couldn’t be that bad for me. Exceptional cases of this illness resolved themselves in two to six months. Surely I must be one of the lucky ones. I wasn’t even hoping, I was certain.
After half a year of crushing pain, sores, insomnia, isolation and nightmares, I started to get pretty pissed.
Why can’t anybody do something for me!? Why can’t this be fixed?
I started buying all kinds of supplements, I changed my diet again and again.
I ate only steamed vegetables and white rice for six weeks. No salt, no spices, no animal products, no sugar, no chocolate… No coffee or tea, nothing really.
Try it, and if you don’t get depressed I’ll send you a medal.
After trying everything I could possibly think of to end my suffering, to no avail, color faded from the world. Meaning was nowhere to be found. Why bother at all?
Suicidal thoughts became frequent, and even welcome, guests.
At this point I was still in school, barely scraping through, on a special deal with my teachers so I didn’t have to come in every day. Even so, I had no interest in what I was doing. I was totally burned out.
The point of acceptance only came at around the eighteen month mark. I was still hopeless, I thought there was no way I would regain my health and live a normal life again.
However, I started to accept my lot.
This was the hand I had been dealt in life. Better do what I can.
I quit school, and spent all my time researching what I could do to get better. In fact, I finally did find some remedies that seemed to work!
After a few months of giving myself the rest I needed, I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My symptoms got markedly better, the black smoke of depression started to lift.
I started to exercise a bit. I felt confident enough to leave the house once more.
It finally looked like I would be able to climb out of the pit the universe had pushed me into.
A few months after that, I felt well enough to walk the eight hundred kilometers from the Pyrenees in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. I made a pilgrimage.
It marked a new chapter in my life. I finally felt like I was gaining some control over my fate once again.
I didn’t get what I wanted. Life didn’t give me what I thought I was entitled to. I got pure horror instead. I was given a reminder of my mortality.
And you know what?
I wouldn’t change a thing.
I never did get what I wanted, but by the grace of something higher than myself, I got what I needed.
Life is tricky. It’s not really what it seems. It’s an illusion of endless layers. We live and we learn. We learn through experience.
We’ve all been smacked in the face by life, and if you’re young enough or lucky enough to have dodged it, someone you love and cherished has been.
And anyway, life will get you too.
I may sound harsh, but it’s nothing to fear. It will be difficult, painful, and you will suffer. But, if you stay conscious, you will also grow.
And that’s why you’re here.