I’m lucky. Really lucky. I have a place at a good university, I’m allowed an education, I have a loving family. I feel safe when walking down the street, I’m allowed to learn to drive, I have access to food, water, clothes, and pretty much anything else I need.
I don’t appreciate these things enough. I often take them for granted and forget that others don’t have the same privileges as I do. #FirstWorldProblems is often used ironically, but in truth it can be good to count one’s blessings every once in a while.
Recently I saw a post online which went something along the lines of ‘my Mum is driving me mad right now, I want to scream’. It’s not uncommon to see posts like that, or to hear people complain about their Mum calling or visiting too much or something.
Each time I hear something like that, my immediate reaction is to spark up; to feel angry. To want to shout at them – how could they be so ungrateful. They don’t realise how lucky they are to have a Mum who is alive. They don’t know how important it is to value and cherish every moment they have with their Mum. They haven’t realised how important it could be to hold her just a little bit tighter each time they hug her and remember the warmth of her body and the love and care a hug can contain.
I have to steel myself though, because of course they don’t realise any of that. I know that I didn’t appreciate my Mum enough before she got ill. I never thought about what a fantastic Mum she was. I didn’t notice what a brilliant team my parents were and how well they complimented each other with their different skillsets, outlooks and personalities. I certainly never thought about the fragility of life, never imagined a life without Mum or contemplated the finality of death.
At 21, your life is ahead of you. You’re looking towards your future, thinking about grad. jobs, masters schemes and moving to new places. Worrying about money, housing, grades, essay deadlines, and the price of cheese, or whatever. Absolutely the last thing on most people’s minds at the age of 21 is death.
Having illness and death enter my life grounded me with somewhat of a bump. In some ways, it has set me apart from most of my peers. I have this weird filter on things in life now; I’m all too aware of how fragile and temporary things are. It affects my life in many ways, some positive and some not so positive.
It’s often hard to remember that others don’t have this outlook and that something which can seem so trivial to me can genuinely matter a huge amount to them (and vice versa). It’s hard to remember that it’s normal at 21 to get annoyed with your parents and want to run away from them as fast and as far as you can. That can make it hard to socialise and to chat to my friends, so at the moment I find myself tackling social situations in small bits, because they’re hard work and can be exhausting.
I’m not trying to say that I’m more mature than anyone else or anything (though sometimes I feel like I’m about 50). I don’t think that at all. I just sometimes want to shout at people and wake them up to how lucky they are and how much they should value and notice what they’ve got.
To be honest, despite going through all of what I have for the past few years, I still don’t appreciate the good things in my life enough. I love my Dad and my brothers to pieces, but I feel like I ought to spend more time with them and show them how much I appreciate them more often. Being mindful and grateful for the good things in my life is something I know I need to work on – especially at the moment when things can seem so difficult, and especially in the run-up to Christmas, where being so busy makes it even more vital to stop once in a while and take stock of what matters most.
So drop that family member a text, find time for that coffee date with a friend, get around to replying to that letter or email you’ve been putting off writing; notice how lucky you are and tell your loved ones how much you appreciate them.