There is a comically small difference between thriving and existing. As humans, we can easily be codded into thinking we are doing one or the other without understanding how we are truly using our precious few years on this earth.
Days pass in units of years where we might be working, studying, laughing, dancing, crying, eating – all underpinned by the most logical of actions – breathing.
That is existing.
Maybe we exist well and better than others. Our day job doesn’t annoy us too much and our personal lives are comfortable, albeit with a touch of drama. We get older and our lives continue.
Maybe we exist poorly. Our day job is the source of our unhappiness and our personal lives are a muddle of confusion and complications. We get older and our lives continue.
Most likely we’re a mixture of both.
But what is thriving? Adverts for energy drinks and coffee beans would tell us that it is energetically waking up to each new day and meeting it head-on, whatever ‘head-on’ truly means. University prospectuses would tell us that it is being successful in our careers, which, according to their brochure images will give us both clear skin and the ability to wear a pantsuit with pride.
Recently, I think I got a realistic impression of thriving. Thriving in life falls into categories. Our health can be thriving when our wallets aren’t. Or our careers may be on track when our personal lives are a stewing mess of poor choices.
As of April 2018, I am still living in a world in which I am in my first year as a graduate. 23 and standing on Bambi legs in the so-called ‘real world’. My glory days, apparently, if my older family members are the be believed. While Harry Potter may have had the Mirror of Erised, I seemed to be looking at the world through a lens of other people’s definitions of thriving.
After all, that’s what we all put on social media, right?
No one writes a Facebook status, sends a Tweet or posts an Instagram caption about their recent breakdown or financial insecurity. No, when we’re at our least authentic online we showcase to the world our definition of thriving. So, I’ve been sitting on my bed in my small apartment, feet crossed and flicking through my newsfeeds and timelines without the faintest inkling of what my definition of ‘thriving’ was.
A permanent job straight out of college, financial independence, freedom in a county I love – but I’m still not convinced. If I was to take the version of thriving everyone was selling to be on Instagram I’d be traveling Thailand right now, running a marathon, being nominated for some blogging award or becoming an MUA.
But just like when I’m told that these are my glory days, these suggestions of thriving taste stale in my mouth. Days pass. Months grow. And I still didn’t have a definition. If this was a movie, here is where the producer would insert a montage of the same day being lived every day, with the only distinguishing feature being my clothes and a camera angle of my alarm clock.
A week or so ago, who knows, I was walking out of work. It was after six and I felt the kind of tired that my mom describes as bone-weary. It had been a long, but uneventful day where it had rained in the morning and rained at lunch and low and behold, it was raining when I left work. I began to pull my body up the hill to my apartment, thinking about all of the good things I had seen that day. A regular ritual I do daily at this time and one I recommend to anyone fighting a negative mindset. It was at this point that the rain stopped, but once I reached the top of the hill, it was my turn to stop.
There was no rainbow. It wasn’t a scene an artist would pick out as being immediately striking. But the sky was the palest blue like my favourite summer top and the sun was so bright that the glint of my watch face made me shut my eyes. But only for a moment. It wasn’t a view I had never seen before, but what mattered was that I was seeing it now.
Hands in my coat pockets, perhaps looking a little odd, I leaned against the closest wall for awhile and just watched the sky. I felt palpably thankful to have seen it. To exist on a planet with a sky, just like that. And that, that right there – that’s my definition of thriving.
The montage in the movie of my year as 23 would be a blur of the same. Success, but the same. But if we zoom in further than we normally would and we find that thriving is happening on a cellular level, every second.
Every good thing that had happened that day: A toddler walked to school in front of me in the morning, hand in hand with his dad, wearing a superman cape over his bag. I discovered a vegan garlic butter in my local shop. My little cousin text me to call me a queen. And this sky, right there.
It is my belief that when those experiences – the most zoomed in, minute experiences – make you feel lighter, you are thriving. We cannot wait until we can run a marathon, travel Thailand or win an award to claim the lightness that we had from the beginning.
Thriving begins when we take stock of what has been visible every day. Thriving is feeling brand new every time we see something mundanely good. Mundane is beautiful, mundane is powerful. If we take this belief as true, then every age is our glory days.
Existing is the foundation of thriving – just as inauthentic ideals are the catalyst for remaining in the waiting room of our lives – waiting the thrive. We should not wait for what is already there. We each need to find our own definition of thriving for ourselves, without the projections of others.
In the meantime, as my own definition is ever changing, I will drink in the sky with the vigour energy drinks promise and wear my acceptance of everyday beauty like a glorious pantsuit. And you can be sure, I will most certainly own it.
– Jennifer x