I’ve been thinking about circumstance quite a bit lately, the cards you’re dealt. It’s easy to look at those cards individually and see how crappy it is, there’s absolutely no way you can win this game. The game is rigged against you, the other player’s have the better cards, they’ve got the joker, they’re going to win, and you’re going to lose.
C’est La Vie.
This is life.
You can’t win every game, and you can’t always have all the good cards. Sometimes you lose, and that is okay. It’s not the win that is important, it is how you win and how you lose, what you do in between and how you react to the cards you’re dealt.
How you react to the cards you’re dealt.
This is the lesson that I am learning at 26. It’s how you react to your circumstance is what matters, not the circumstance itself. You may not be able to control or change your situation, but you can control and change your reaction to it.
I lost a grandparent in 2017, my mother was diagnosed with cancer in early 2018, my dad was diagnosed with cancer in late 2018. In early 2019 my mom finished her treatment, this followed with my dad and the beginning of his. In late 2019, I was in the room as I watched my Aunt die, and in 2020, well, need I say more? It was easy for me to see these cards and say “I’ve been dealt a crappy hand.” It was. Although these circumstances have touched me, and affected me in one way or another, they are not actually my reality.
My reality is that most people don’t get a chance to spend a beautiful summer with their grandmother in a once in a lifetime trip, hold hands and spend nights talking about her good old days. Most people lose their mother and father to cancer, in fact, I know a couple who have lost their beautiful mothers so prematurely. Most people don’t get a chance to say goodbye, and I had the chance to say goodbye to my aunt. And although loss is painful and it stays with you for the rest of your life, and although cancer is, for lack of a better word, a fucking bitch, it is a part of life, it is inevitable, it is expected. It is life. And if I plan on living my life, the only one I have, fulfilled, I needed to stop seeing these situations with the lens of “this is my reality”.
I would say about late April, I got into my head way too much and started reacting in such a way that was detrimental to my health. I felt stuck. I’ve always had this gnawing insecurity with my role in the world. I was afraid I wasn’t tapping into my potential, that I would leave the world with untapped and unfulfilled potential. I’m surrounded by brilliant people who are so intelligent, creative and resourceful that I felt I wasn’t contributing in any way to society, that although I wanted to impact situations, people, laws, I wasn’t. And it seemed as though I would never get there.
What was even more detrimental, was the fact that I started to question who I was and what I liked. Do I actually like reading? Am I a biker? Do I enjoy running in the rain or is this someone else? Do I enjoy cooking and baking or am I just doing it for others? Am I a good writer? Should I write? Will people even care to read what I have to say? I found myself wondering if my favourite colour was blue and if my clothes matched my personality. What was my personality? Who am I? Who was I? Are those mutually exclusive? I didn’t even know what to identify as? What was I good at? Was I good at anything? I’m terribly afraid of heights but all those thoughts, questioning the very atoms that make me who I am shook my world, and I don’t think I’ve ever been this afraid. Ever.
It’s weird, because from the outside, I’m sure it looks like I’ve got it way more figured out than I do. But I don’t. Does anyone really? What we put on social media, on Instagram and Twitter is, as we all know, the best version of ourselves, but behind the screen, the post and the like, I’ve come to realize everyone has the same concerns, the same fears, the same aspirations, the same worries, our collective experience as humans are very similar, yet this is something that is hard for each and every single one of us to understand. We acknowledge that it is a collective experience, and yet when we are in this “slump” or “low” we are blinded by our own experience and the loneliness we feel in it, despite the fact that behind a like is a story of the same sadness you feel.
To rewind back to April, I felt helpless and out of control. I couldn’t control my parent’s health and I couldn’t control the health of planet earth. The weight of those two situations were far too heavy for me to take on by myself. And as absurd as it may sound, I blamed myself. How could I not control the outcome of a CT scan? Of a cell so small I can crush with my own bare hands? How can I not do something to help the innocent 11 year old boy in Slemani with months to live because of his kidney failure? Why could’t I impact governments and change policies? Why couldn’t single handedly stop Turkey from killing my people? Every day we’re inundated with news of a new global crisis. How do you pick and choose what to fix? How do you decide where to put your energy? Who to fight for? What to fight for? There’s just too much that needs to be changed, to be fixed. So often, instead of doing anything, we end up doing nothing. And I felt so out of control, that that is exactly what I did, nothing. We wallow in our own exhaustion. We drown ourselves in the noise and turn on the new Netflix show or scroll through Instagram to avoid having to confront the issues all around us. What I failed to realize is that in my attempt to try and fix everything and everyone around me, to no avail, I neglected myself. I was not the best version of myself, I didn’t even recognize myself.
Here I was, the only variable I had control over, the only thing I could change, and yet for a good 26 years, I completely ignored myself. I realized I needed to stop changing the world, fixing everyone and everything around me, I needed to stop focusing on circumstances beyond my control. I can’t be an activist, a politician, a doctor, a philanthropist, and superwoman all at once. It is physically impossible. The exhaustion of the weight of the world paralyzed me, and unbeknownst to me, I couldn’t impact anything or anyone, If I couldn’t focus on myself. If I couldn’t figure out what was limiting me and my potential, then how could I ever impact anyone else to change.
I look to the people who inspire me and move me, and most of them do so through leading by example. I think the most important lesson of all is that the world is paying attention. To inspire change and be impactful, you don’t have to say anything at all, because the words is watching, and many will start to question what they’re capable of, their potential and how much more they can do. This is what it means to lead by example, to inspire. It’s not words, it action. The minute you invest in yourself and who you are, is the minute that people will start to notice you, the change in you, your accomplishments, without even saying a word. So forget social media, forget the weight of the world, focus on yourself right now. The ripple effect that follows will be far more greater than you’ll ever know. That is the lesson. It might even be the greatest lesson of all.