It’s a beautiful time of year. Spring is in full bloom, and even in this infamously cold and blustery little capital, we’ve been blessed with many incredible days. You know the ones: big blue skies with fluffy white clouds, lots of sun lasting later and later into the evening and ever-increasing daily temperatures. Shorts and t-shirts are back in the stores. Heaters are no longer being run; firewood is being stored away for next year. Last Saturday I enjoyed a midafternoon walk all along the waterfront and out to Oriental Bay and it was an absolute treat. There’s a lot to love about this time of year.
But, for at least the last four years, this has been (and continues to be) one of my least favourite times of the year. Why? Well, everything’s winding up, my courses at university are finishing and I’m slogging my way through the last few deadlines and trying to figure out what courses I’m going to take next year. (This year a lot of my friends are finishing undergrad; I’ve still got a semester to go after this one.) People are going home for the summer: there is the question of paying rent over the break, finding new flatmates, and then there’s the question of summer work – an issue that’s giving me quite some anxiety at the moment.
And that’s not to mention the ever-looming question of What Next? Once uni is all wrapped up and I’ve got my degree, then what? Some things I know I want to do after undergrad is to do a Master’s degree, see some more of the world, and get a job in a field that I actually enjoy and which challenges me creatively and intellectually. But what, and when, and how? These are questions a lot of people my age are facing at the moment, but that doesn’t make them any less daunting or difficult. I’m afraid that if I don’t decide now, I’ll be setting myself back the rest of my life. I’m afraid that if I do decide now, I’ll be stuck with something that might not be a good fit for me in a few years’ time. I’m only twenty one! I don’t know what I’m doing! I don’t even know who I am yet!
So for all those reasons and more combined, I’ve been feeling the pressure lately. And pressure tends to trigger my anxiety. So I’ve been competing with that as well. I’ve been putting on a brave face and getting on with what I can in these last two weeks before I’m done with university for the year, but stress + anxiety usually means I’m not getting to be the person I want to be. I’m slipping on a lot of the little things I like to do to keep myself calm and happy and capable (such as getting an early night, lighting my candles before bed, keeping my room tidy).
What better time, then, to write this – a post in which I talk about some of the things I’m grateful for? In times when I’m not doing so well, whether for internal or external reasons, I find it helps to think of all the things I appreciate about my life, all the things I am lucky to have.
First and foremost, I am grateful that I live in New Zealand, one of the least corrupt countries in the world (and also, incidentally, the first country in the world to grant women the vote). I am grateful that I got to grow up in such a safe and democratic country. I am grateful that I sleep sound at night with a warm soft bed, with a roof over my head and four walls keeping me safe. I am grateful that I hold the right to vote, to be an active participant in the democratic process – a right I got to exercise in a general election for the first time last year. I am grateful for my right to freedom of expression. I am grateful that I have received primary, secondary and now tertiary education. I am grateful for an amazing healthcare system that affords me free, regular consultations with my doctor. I am grateful for subsidized medication, meaning it is very cheap for me to have my contraceptive pill as well as the anti-depressants I need in order to manage my anxiety disorder. I am grateful for clean running water and the fact that I can afford to eat three meals a day.
I am also grateful for my circumstances of birth. I was very lucky to have been born into a middle class family, with two loving parents who cared greatly for my health and for my intellectual growth when I was young. I am very lucky that those parents encouraged me to pursue my dreams, even if those dreams meant I went to university to study history and media, not medicine and engineering. I’m lucky that they gave me such a wonderful childhood – that I had not only the basic necessities, but plenty of toys, books, games, and fun experiences to look back on and cherish. I’m also grateful to have a very kind and caring younger brother who was my first best friend (even if he is brown and I’m white). I feel grateful that my family still supports me even though now that I’m over eighteen they’re not legally obliged to give a shit about me anymore. I am grateful that they care for me so much that they organised the most beautiful 21st dinner I could ever have imagined and got me to Melbourne for the Monash Prize evening on such short notice – as well as the many other generous things they have done for me over my wee life.
I’m also thankful for all the amazing friendships I’ve made along the way. In my short life, I’ve met so many amazing and inspiring people. Thanks to the Internet, some of these friends I’ve made live half a world away. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to get to know me, and who has ever shown me kindness. Thank you to everyone who has ever challenged my values and beliefs, taught me something new or shown me a fresh way of looking at the world. Thank you to everyone who is still friends with me today, some through many years of ups and downs.
I am grateful that I can write this blog. I am lucky to have the time, the drive, and the means (laptop and Internet connection) to create content for other people to read every week. It’s something I love doing. It makes me happy. And I’ve heard back from quite a few of you saying it’s helped you too – which, as I’ve said, makes all the time and effort I devote to this little space worth it. It’s helped keep me sane over the year. I am also grateful for my readers. There are not many of you, but I appreciate every single one of you that reads this blog and lets me know your thoughts.
I am grateful for all the extras I get to have in my life. I am so lucky not only to have the most important things: water, food, clothing and shelter, but to have so many other beautiful luxuries besides. I am grateful for my big cosy bed with my millions of pillows and soft toys. I am lucky to have my lanterns and candles, my makeup and my Lush and my pretty dresses. I am grateful for the outings out with friends, the delicious food, my gym membership which keeps me feeling good about myself, all the movies I’ve seen and the live theatre I’ve attended. I am grateful for Spotify and Netflix, for providing low-cost access to a wealth of music and television. I am grateful for cheap over-the-counter medication such as painkillers, which have been a godsend so many times.
I am so lucky to have been able to attend university for the past three years and to have had the absolute privilege to spend an entire year studying what I love the most, which is early modern European history. I am also grateful for everything else I have learned so far in my degree, and especially for my minor in creative writing, which has led me to meet so many lovely people with beautiful minds, as well as to develop my own craft and to push myself outside of my comfort zone. Between two early modern European history papers, a short fiction paper, a poetry paper and now a paper on writing for stage, study has often been less of an arduous task and more an absolute joy.
Lastly, I am thankful for who I am. That’s purely luck of the draw. I came out an intelligent, precocious and creative child, and through a combination of nature and nurture I have been able to hone some of my talents into real skills. I’m grateful that I was able to develop a strong work ethic, a love of knowledge and learning, and a passion for history and writing. I’m grateful that I have also developed my ability to think critically, to question norms and to second-guess the things I think I know. In a weird way, I’m even grateful for the anxiety disorder that wrecked me for two years of my life, because it has shaped me into a person I can be proud of. Of course, I am still growing and learning to be a better, stronger and more compassionate person. Of course I still have a long way to go and there’s no way I’m letting myself rest on my laurels. But it feels so good – better, maybe, than some of you can imagine – to feel comfortable with the person I have become.
It’s so so important to remember that none of these things are guaranteed. I take them for granted far too often, but not today. Today I am grateful for every single one of these things, and a whole lot more besides.
This was an amazing exercise to do on a day when I was feeling stressed and generally a bit down about life. If you’re having a bad day, I strongly recommend you take a few minutes to think about some of the things you’re grateful for, and some of the reasons you’re lucky to be you. I feel like too often we’re consumed with thoughts of what we don’t have, and envious of people who seem to have more than us, and we can forget to think about all the amazing things we’ve already got in our lives. I honestly felt so happy and light after writing this post, and I would love to hear about some of the things you’re grateful for. Leave me a comment letting me know!
Also, if you’re interested, I uploaded another lil makeup video to my YouTube channel a few days ago. I had a lot of fun filming and editing it, and I feel like it’s a lot better than my first attempt. I’m just gonna leave it here for you to check out if you want to.