Sharing our struggles… is it a sign of weakness or strength? Most consider it weak, but I think it takes the strongest of people to put aside their pride and find the courage to share and show their weakness either in an attempt to help others in times of need or to allow others to help them when they are in need of support. The most profound thing is how much you can learn when opening yourself up to others and accepting their openness in return, whether it hurts or heals - it definitely helps.
I feel there is not enough openness and deep honest conversations these days, especially with social media only blasting the superficial highlights of people’s lives. You rarely see the downs, the hiccups, the struggles, especially internally. I suppose you don’t necessarily want to either, aren’t we all on social media to escape from reality? Who wants to hear or see the negatives when we’re specifically on these platforms solely for the purpose of lifting our moods? There’s nothing wrong with that either. But I think it’s refreshing, every once in a while to remind ourselves that there doesn’t exist a perfect life where people are happy all the time. We have to remind ourselves to separate reality from virtual reality.
Happiness is the opposite of suffering and the two go hand in hand, like the push and pull of tides, the peaks and troughs of waves. Both would cease to exist if the wind didn’t blow or the moon’s gravity didn’t pull and force change upon the cycles. Happiness and suffering are not tangible feelings, they are an intangible by product of all the experiences we’ve encountered, which we subjectively allocate into two opposing, contrasting ends to the spectrum.
If you were content all the time and lived a life others perceived to be rather privileged, but you never really left that comfort, never had it rough or tough, and the people you surround yourself with are just as privileged, if not more so than you. Then you delude yourself to thinking this is normal, that you need and want more in order to be happy. You take things for granted because you have no trough to compare your peaks to. The lower the trough, the more amplified the peak. It’s simple physics.
It is always the contrast that fuels appreciation. Without it, you easily fall into the trap of taking things for granted and never being fully satisfied. For example, I never fully appreciated the beauty of New Zealand, always dreaming about the charming streets and castles of Europe - I never thought to seek out those raw, untouched places my own country had to offer until I left and came back with fresh eyes. But I fell in love with both, namely I fell in love with the contrast and the appreciation of how vastly different the cultures and landscapes were because I had something to contrast it to. I will be forever torn in this push and pull in most aspects of my life, especially relationships, work and travel.
Most people take having a ‘home’ for granted. It’s one of those simple basic needs we think everyone has or should have. It was my choice to live the volatile life of long term travel over having a stable fixed home base - and I don’t regret it for a second, especially because it’s made me so grateful for the simple things in life like how wonderful it is to have family (even if they’re scattered around the world), to be reunited with loved ones and close friends, to have a roof over my head without worrying where and how I’ll spend the next night, to have a hot shower with no time limit is a jolly miracle!! To be able to cook in a fully functional kitchen is a blessing for me after months of camp food, to cook with fresh produce and eat as I please is simply heaven. Now don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been living the bogan life all this time!! The longest I have gone without the comfort and certainty of where I’ll be spending the night is about 5 months, during my time in Stockholm. I knew I couldn’t afford the high rent prices there, but I had a car! So I lived out of my car for almost three months whilst studying at the very prestigious business school there. Very glam. But I made it work and if it wasn’t for all the beautiful kind souls who periodically gave me shelter in those cold autumn months, I’d have struggled a lot more. But I survived and I actually loved the freedom of living in my car, going where I pleased and not having the distraction that comes with wifi! And the main lesson I took away is how much I came to appreciate the simple necessities in life that so many of us (myself included) take for granted - and that you will never know how much you’re really capable of, if you stay in the plushiness of your comfort zone.
Money is another example. To have been in a constant financial struggle these last few years has made me take a hard look at the way I used to spend money. You realise how little you actually need to survive and to be happy. How much unnecessary shit we buy because we’re bored and shopping is something to do to spike that brief high. But to be honest, I’m much happier compared to 3-4 years ago when I had heaps more stuff, a bank account with high savings, a stable home and future plans. I feel alive at the thought of not knowing where the wind will take me. Yes, it’s a constant struggle, almost every day to figure out what I should do next, where I should go next, how I’m going to afford my living, what I’m willing to sacrifice…but you know what? It’s the everyday struggle that makes me feel alive and appreciative of everything I do have. It’s the contrast that pulls the spectrum of happiness and suffering even further apart so that more is able to fall in between for me to be grateful for.
I think it’s healthy for the mind, to reflect on the struggles and embrace how they change that spectrum of yours. Be open about your struggles to those who are willing to listen and actually understand you. Bonding with another human being is the best remedy when you’re feeling lost in that trough phase, we all have them - let’s just be honest about it and we might learn a thing or two from open dialogue.