It’s all very well for me to sit here and tell you the things I do, about lessons and purpose and stories. But of course, you don’t know how I got to this place – where the passion to see people embracing all of the best of life, pursuing the best of who they can be, surpasses most other interests. The Dude says I have too high expectations of people. I try to live an example, and hope to inspire people to live big lives, like I do. It doesn’t always work, because people don’t always know where I’m coming from.
I grew up hiding in my writing. It became the conversations I would have with myself, because there was nobody else to have these conversations with. I was bullied at home, and picked on at school (except at exam time. People liked me at exam time. I used to let them use me like that, until I realised that was pointless. I learnt to stand up for my beliefs). I could tell this story as a victim, but I would rather tell it to you this way. I know what it feels like to think that you don’t matter, that nobody will miss you when you’re gone, that life is not worth all the bother. And I know what it is to come out the other side of that. I know what it is to stand on my own two feet, and assert my right to be myself, to find my independence, to finally do something to break the cycle.
That is why people matter. That is why I will always do my utmost to support and encourage the marginalised, the depressed and the different among us. People don’t just matter when they are happy. People don’t just matter when they look and act like us. People matter.
Let’s skip a few years. I met a bloke. After some years, we got engaged. He accused me of emotional blackmail. We got disengaged. (I call it my great escape). I don’t tell this part of my story very often out of respect for The Dude. But without this experience, I would never have realised that when people accuse you falsely, it often says more about them than it does about you. And sometimes you have no other choice but to walk away. And if the choice is between a toxic relationship and no relationship at all, no relationship can be the better option. (Also, it meant that when The Dude finally did come along and treat me with the love and respect I deserve, I could truly appreciate it.)
Following right on the heels of that little misadventure, I contracted glandular fever. Six weeks in bed. So tired I could barely find the energy to walk to the bathroom. I suspect my body never fully recovered. I didn’t learn anything from that experience then, as I was too ill. But it did lead to…
Epilepsy. Two years of uncontrolled seizures, interesting side effects to medicine and other consequences. I really don’t remember much (I suspect between the drugs and the seizures my brain was fairly fried). I know that I lost my job, my friends, my self-respect, my ability to read, and a fair chunk of my short term memory skills. The reading thing was more to do with not being able to control my eye movements – it took some practice to get it solved. The short term memory skills was interesting, because I didn’t realise how much stuff I was forgetting until I started writing things down. But I’m distracted. Because I don’t want to write the next paragraph.
The epilepsy, and its aftermath, are probably what taught me most of what drives me today. It taught me about God’s faithfulness, but also about the fickleness of people. It showed me that I had been arrogant, conceited and more interested in being right than anything else. And it showed me that I needed to live my life by a different standard. People have judged me and condemned me because of my epilepsy. I have lost relationships, job opportunities and I don’t even know what else because people weren’t able to look beyond the epilepsy. And that was after it had become well-controlled.
But here’s the thing. I learnt that I can choose how I live my life, how I build my life. Who I have in my life. Who I am in other people’s lives. From those days until today, I have aimed to consciously to accept people wherever they may be, to support people who may be going through the long term troubles that I endured, to make a practical difference where that is required. In short, to do for others what I wished was done for me.
And that has always been the right thing for me to do. To help people turn their epilepsy into epiphany – to take a situation that could grind you into nothingness, define you and consign you to a life of misery, and help you rewrite the story. Help you to a place where you can look back at the lessons and choose the way that your troubles contribute to your identity.
Your problems inform your purpose, as I have said in previous posts. Perhaps, in the way that we choose to respond to our problems, we begin to see how we may meet our purpose, how we may make a difference in the lives of those around us.
I continue to go through challenges in my life, and I continue to use the challenges to drive me forward. I continue to choose to use whatever happens to me to make me a better version of myself. I hope that you can join me on that journey.