Recently, my boyfriend and I were fortunate enough to see a screening of David Attenborough’s new documentary, A Life on Our Planet. Whilst I have always enjoyed the soothing nature of David Attenborough’s means of approaching a topic, I felt that this film touched me on a deeper level. In the early stages of the film, David said a sentence that struck me. Inside in the busy cinema screen, in the utter darkness, goosebumps rose along my arms.
David was reminiscing on a life lived travelling and seeing all corners and far-flung and rarely reached spaces on the earth. I found myself feeling oddly jealous of this ninety-four-year-old man who has seen so much of the now-vanished world. This envy was stunted almost immediately when David acknowledged this by saying; “I was born at the exact right moment and time in history.”
At first, I was unsure what it was about this statement that truly struck me as unique and thought-provoking. Then I realised that if we all were to believe that we were at the exact right time in the world, then we would live our lives led by our potential, rather than our disadvantages.
I am finding it hard, whilst writing this, to imagine a world where we believe that the universe conspired to help us exist at the exact right moment – or better yet, that we had a hand in the timing of our own creation.
I understand how easy it might be to initially reject this thought. After all, if everything is meant to be, then aren’t we responsible for each and every grievance we’ve ever experienced? How would we not be crushed entirely under the weight of this knowledge?
The answer is, of course, yes. If we choose to view these experiences as grievances, rather than opportunities.
For example, on one of my very first nights out in college, I felt hideously unhappy. Now that I understand my personality better, I see that I was overwhelmed by the closeness of the nightclub, the loud noises and the alcohol consumption that was expected of me. So, I sat on the cold, concrete step outside of the nightclub, with a hoodie tugged over my head to shelter me from the drizzling rain. I had decided to wait until my friends were done, believing it was wiser to remove myself from the situation rather than being honest about how I was feeling.
As I sat outside in the rain, arms wrapped around myself, a boy stopped and looked at me, his expression was rather pitying. I was mentally preparing myself to be told that I should try smiling once in a while, when he asked me if I was okay. When I, a smidge too honestly, told him that I most certainly was not okay, he told me that there was a reason I was experiencing this in the moment.
Our interaction lasted no more than a minute and at the time, I left the conversation frustrated. How dare he insinuate that my present suffering was part of a long-term plan that somehow made it worth it? (Side note: Truly, nineteen-year-old me would find twenty-six-year-old me insufferable. I consider that personal growth.)
As it turned out, rather annoyingly, he was correct. After the bulk of my mental health journey was over and during my final year of college, I met that boy again. He worked for the student newspaper, SIN, where I had been given my own column as a chance to write about my experiences with illness on campus. I was no longer that girl who sat outside of the nightclub. Instead I had grown into the vivacious, creative and enigmatic person I had always hoped I would have the strength to become.
At the time, the concept of pain being an opportunity would have, perhaps rightly, angered me. Yet if I had accepted it as part of a divine, perhaps even perfect and ever-changing process, I would have resisted my own life path less so and enjoyed the softer, quieter moments of everyday existence.
I do not invite the world to agree with me. In truth, it’s probably more progressive for humanity if you do not immediately agree with me. Yet this is how I will be living my life and have been for some time; believing that I was born at the exact right time. Yes, even to live in 2020. I see none of my life as a mistake and all of it as a lesson in empathy, self-love and what truly matters. After all, amidst all of the pain we will all have experienced, we will all have laughed and felt joy, if only it was a just a spark. This is proof enough that we can find the brevity of life within the heavier moments.
Here is what I acknowledge; nothing matters save for the meaning you give it. I have chosen to give my pain a purpose – a higher meaning beyond the suffering. Each peak and pit is an opportunity to evolve, to inform my choices and to lean into kindness.
I cannot help but hope that if that the world adopted this belief, we would not have such misgivings about being alive in the world at its’ current state.
Feel free to let me know your thoughts, even (and especially) the disagreements.