I had a shit day this week. One of those days where everything piles on top of you.
First, my mother called me at 7am from Karachi. She had to go last-minute because my sweet, mischievous, intelligent and beautiful granny passed away a few days ago, something I am still dealing with. Although it was lovely hearing my mum’s voice, her latest news made me very upset and threw off my entire morning.
Then, as I ploughed through my tasks at work, my dad told me that my plan to learn to drive was completely scuppered because it would cost me over a grand to be insured on his car, something I can’t possibly afford even after I’ve saved money for this precise purpose.
Lastly, as I finally got home and crawled under the bed covers ready to write off the last 12 hours, I decided to cheer myself up with a takeaway, only to find that the Just Eat app on my phone wouldn’t connect with my debit card.
Sure, the last two incidents are woeful first world problems, but they served as the icing on the shitty cake that was my awful day.
It was at this point that I started The Sorry Life Evaluation. I took a look at 2015 so far: a relationship that made me mentally ill; having to leave a job and organisation I loved because the role wasn’t permanent; not getting a part in a play that I’d already acted in two years before with the same theatre company (that one hurt more than I thought it would); and did I mention that my granny just died?
I cried a lot. I felt lonely and isolated. I did the ‘No one’s ever going to love me, I’m going to be alone forever’, ‘How many more takeaways are going to be eaten unshared?’, ‘Where is my life going?! This is too hard!’ routine. We’ve all been there.
Uh oh, I thought. This looked like a job for the Leaver’s Book.
My Leaver’s Book is the most precious book I own. I got it just before I left Sixth Form after spending ten happy years at the same school. Students and teachers each took a page of this notebook and wrote about what their relationship with me meant to them. It’s full of photos, memories and bucket loads of pure love.
As I tearfully leafed through the pages and read each message in turn, it moved me how, when I had asked each person to write in my Leaver’s Book all those years ago, they took five or ten minutes of their busy break time to sit and think about me, themselves and the moments we shared together:
‘Do you memba when you broke ur arm and then you picked me to read with you? Thank you, it meant a lot.’
‘I’ll remember all your advice-giving on MSN and me telling you my looooong stories…’
‘I’ll never forget our Year 6 trip to France and the long coach journey where we dressed up as John Lennon and you with your long black hair!’
Every single one of those girls had a tender, personal and loving message for me.
But the thing that resonates most with me is that all of them used the exact same words to describe me.
Passionate. Determined. Talented. Ambitious. You will go far in life. You know yourself. You always say what you think. Don’t ever change.
This is not an opportunity for me to blow my own horn here. This is me wondering, where did that person go? Where is that person who everyone saw as talented, ambitious and who would go far in life? Because it doesn’t seem like I’m that person now.
I’m 26 and I feel like I’m going nowhere. Everyone else is getting engaged, married, buying houses, having children, moving forwards… Except me. There was once a time when everyone believed I would go far.
But at that moment with my Leaver’s Book on my lap, I didn’t feel it. I felt like a failure.
But then, like Mufasa moving through the clouds above Africa, the book’s messages all became one that said, ‘Remember who you are’.
Now, I may not be the One True King, but I know what that means for me. It means that I was once all of those things that everyone I grew up with admired me for. A total of 50 people expressed their love for me in that book, and they all believed in me.
I have to believe in myself again. I will not let a few setbacks stop me from being determined, ambitious and passionate. I will still say what I think. I will get what I want from life and I will go far.
Rafiki says, ‘Ah, yes, the past can hurt…’ I’d like to mix up the ending of his sentence by saying, ‘but it can also help you remember your best self, which will give you the strength to get that person back’.
Perhaps it’s not as catchy as the original, but it works for me. Even if I do have to dress in drag and do the Hula.
If you enjoyed this article, why not check out: ‘4 Reasons, whatever you are going through, you are STILL the hero of your life‘?