You Aren’t Wasting Your Life

Everything you’ve been doing up to now serves a purpose

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Photo by Cristofer Jeschke on Unsplash

If you see your life as unsatisfactory in every way then you either need better parameters to assess it with, or more self-compassion.

Capitalism takes a dim view of those who prefer to go with the flow and see where it may take them rather than seek to achieve at all cost.

If drifting is some people’s preferred method of progression, it’s neither good nor bad. We don’t all have a calling, we don’t all have clarity on what it is we want out of life, we’re not all driven or indeed competitive.

Some of us take longer to figure things out than others. Some of us care nothing for traditional career paths, kudos, or the many milestones our social conditioning tells us to reach.

And some of us prefer to forge our own path rather than follow in the footsteps of anyone else. Often, this is because we value experimentation, originality, and creative freedom above all else. And when we set out to make the impossible possible, it is only to prove to ourselves rather than to others that it can be done.

There isn’t one single way of doing or being human.

Not one of those above, be it clearly laid out, haphazard, or the result of happenstance is more valuable than any other.

We’re not carbon copies of one another so why should we approach life as if we were?

Declaring we are or have been wasting our life is tantamount to dismissing everything that came before the present moment. When you say your life to date has been a waste, you’re throwing away the most valuable part of your past, i.e. experience.

No matter what you’ve been up to and even if you have failed time and again, you’ve learned something, you’ve grown, and you’ve evolved.

When you refuse to acknowledge this, you’re letting yourself down by belittling all that you have been, all that led you to today. This is hardly a proactive or empowering way of approaching a life that you get to choose, design, and shape to your liking.

How will you ever believe in yourself when you write off everything that came before and declare it null and void?

Regardless of circumstances, academic, or professional credentials, we all have one thing in common: life experience. Even if you do not have a traditional education and never held down a traditional job, you have lived. It is in this past life and the many trials you encountered that you will find experience you can transfer to different areas.

And carrying out an audit of what you’ve been up to until now will help you find what you need to move on.

We do not need yet another listicle to tell us who we are or what to do.

To feel capable and in control, you need a mindset shift instead, which in turn will enable you to tap into self-confidence you never knew you had.

For example, what are failures but proof of an adventurous mind who isn’t afraid to take risks, learn, and iterate? What did you learn when you failed? What would you do differently now?

We’re all far more capable than we give ourselves credit for. However, we aren’t always good at parlaying our past endeavors into building blocks for a better future.

And yet, each of us is the sum of our previous experiences, however difficult they may be to convey. For even the hardest ones have something to teach us.

I lost five years of my life to major depressive disorder during which I couldn’t think therefore I couldn’t write. Illness brought my journalism career to a complete standstill.

For a long time, I thought I needed to find a way to conceal this five-year hiatus by passing it off as something it wasn’t, i.e. a sabbatical or some offbeat editorial project. I soon realized how disingenuous this strategy would be in a profession whose backbone is transparency and accountability.

Instead of beating myself up and declaring to anyone who might listen that I wasted five years of my life, I turned the pen on myself and set out to make a dent in mental health stigma. By documenting the many ways depression can destroy a human until sufferers see no other way out than death, I’m shooting for dialogue, not self-pity.

Those five years weren’t wasted. Much as many of us do not choose the obstacles we encounter, I didn’t choose my illness.

What matters most isn’t where you’ve come from but how you got yourself from there to here.

In short, the past will only hold you back if you let it. All experience has value even if it’s not immediately obvious. To find it, look for examples of how you overcame difficulty.

How you transcend hardship and thrive is how you get to write your own story.

On your own terms and in your own words.

I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.

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