Birthday Reflections: The Good Life
Something told me that this year is going to be good.
It’s not a word that we use often, good. It’s one of those filler words that vaguely summarises pretty much anything. Yet somehow it’s bold to say that an entire year or an entire life will be good. With all the unknowns, how can you say that when you can’t predict the future?
So we hold back, we keep our mouths firmly shut, just in case things don’t turn out as dazzling, glamorous or as successfully as we would expect.
“Sit. Feast on your life.”
— Derek Walcott
For many years now, I’ve approached birthdays with nervousness or complete indifference, but this year something changed. Despite the details of my life being pretty much the same as any other year, I was more thankful and more expectant this time. I realised that a good life is more than what society tells us to aspire to. Instead, it actually stems from what’s going on within.
1. First, it’s about quality.
It’s about slowly but steadily building up an arsenal personal qualities that will help us to navigate the world we live in. It’s a lifelong journey of unlearning bad habits, building new ones and completely shifting the way we think.
It’s about understanding that good life is not a finished masterpiece. It’s every paint stroke, every line, every minute and every hour that goes into creating it. It’s about developing the patience and resilience to weather life’s storms; and to truly enjoy and be present in the good times.
2. It’s about giving yourself some margin and some space.
Allow for the fact that things and people will not always be perfect. Take a little bit of the pressure off of yourself and others, and accept that making a mistake is not the end of the story.
Hannah Brencher once said words to this effect: “we’re all stumbling around in the dark — trying to make sense of this brilliant, but confusing life” — and that means occasionally we will bump into each other. When you give people (including yourself) some margin for error you allow your relationships to flourish and deepen, instead of cutting them off them before anything meaningful to takes root.
“The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!”
— A man named Paul
3. When you do this, you allow yourself to always see the beauty in life.
As 00:00 came around on my birthday I felt nothing but gratitude. Like most of us, my life has been far from the perfect. I still have some unanswered questions but it doesn’t take away from the positive experiences I have had, or the fact that I have made it out of some of my darkest moments. The reason that life is rich, and life is good is because of these ups and the downs.It’s a paradox, but you couldn’t have one without the other.
4. With every day and every year that passes we have the opportunity to take responsibility by the hand.
To ‘put skin in the game’ and LIVE. Without risk, there is absolutely no reward, and that applies to new relationships, friendships, career opportunities, finances and faith. I’m not a pro at any of the above, but I would rather put myself out there and get a few battle scars, than simply sit on the sidelines, watching other people do things that I was too anxious to do myself.
5. Own your differences, own the quirks that you bring to the table.
For what seemed like forever, I never felt like I “fit in” anywhere. So I would attempt to camouflage myself to suit my environment. Until one day I realised something very simple: if you believe that everything happens for a reason; if you believe that God, the universe etc. operates in some sort of cosmic order, then your background, your appearance and your skills are not a mistake. They were made for this time, and if it’s good enough to be created, you don’t have to apologise for it. We all have a part to play on earth, but we will never fulfil it if we keep second-guessing ourselves.
When you realise this, you stop holding yourself back and start giving the world your true contribution: the contribution that it desperately needs.
So here’s to the ‘good life’. One where you take opportunity by the horns; where you’re free to be yourself; where you fall in love with the process more than the outcome. A life that is full of experience and adventure.