I’m 21

Every year, I write a post on my birthday which overlooks what has happened in the past year. Since I’m now 21, I decided to be a fashionably late… by a month.

I have a problem with reading dates wrong. And getting things wrong in general. Often times the mistakes make no sense. Here are a few examples:

I thought I needed to move out of my accommodation on the 14th of June. It was actually the 25th. Nothing is significant about the 14th, I just ran with that date for a few weeks.

My neighbour’s girlfriend is called Natalia. For the whole year I was defiant her name was Bailey. They’ve never mentioned the name Bailey to me other than to laugh at my mistake. I’m still convinced they’re lying.

I woke up really excited to go for a talk about sleep (because I don’t do it) only to realise I was two months late. Must have overslept.[1]

Enough of the shit jokes and back to the life of a 21-year-old. In the last two years, I simply went over some of the most important areas of my life. I liked the approach but this time round, I will answer a few question about the values I have, hope to develop and ways I can improve. These questions have come from a few sources: James Clear and Scott H Young.

photo-1456613820599-bfe244172af5.jpg
Credit: David Marcu

Am I being the person I want to be?

I’ll aim to answer the following questions and in the process, I’ll talk about how the year has gone. Please feel free to use this format if you want to do a similar post. I’ve tried to stick to three or four in each section. Should everything be a core value, you defeat the point.

  1. What are the core values that drive my life and work?

Growth

  • Anything worth doing is worth doing well
  • Improve slowly with compassion
  • Exude grit in the face of adversity
  • Examine the world honestly

Well-being

  • Give myself permission to be happy with how I am
  • Make steps to becoming the person I want to be
  • Eat healthily and exercise

Compassion and Contribution

  • Make the world better for others
  • Contribute to the world rather than simply consume it
  • Speak with kindness and leave negative judgement behind

2. Am I sticking to those values?

Growth

It was my dad who instilled the value of “anything worth doing is worth doing well”. From doing my bed properly to completing essays. Of course, not every task is going to be my best attempt but I might as well hold that standard for many of the things do.

I think I kept this in mind when completing my assessments for university and it paid off in the end. I’m graduating with a first class degree in Philosophy from UCL. Thankfully, I developed a much healthier relationship towards my grades at the end of my degree. At the beginning, I would have thought a first class is the be all and end all for me. Not true in the slightest. Now, it’s a pleasant conclusion to the work I put into the degree.

Grit, according to Angela Duckworth, is a key component to success in personal endeavours. She defines it as having a special blend between passion and perseverance.

I can say I kept this quality in my pocket. While, for a lot of my degree, I felt like I was going to be defeated by chronic pain, depression and all those other pesky health problems, I wasn’t. I kept on going by reminding myself that the work I do will be difficult now but pay off. And it did. Much more than I expected.

However, in close proximity to this is going through my degree with compassion. Here is where I fell much more. I wasn’t very kind to myself during the past year. It was full of anger, criticism and vitriol about why I’m not working more or applying for internships, jobs, you name it. Whatever I felt I should have been doing, I wasn’t. In the future, I’ll want to remember that chronic pain doesn’t leave me with much energy and I can’t do everything!

Permission to be happy, self-respect and health

As mentioned before, I didn’t give myself much permission to be happy with regards to work. Everything I submitted was bad, apparently. However, I did allow myself to enjoy time with friends and family. Man, I have such good friends. Not a single person has been an asshole about me being in pain or even accidentally said “but you look fine”. I don’t think I would have enjoyed my degree nearly as much without their support. Some people like Doris can’t handle my spicy food but that’s alright, she’ll come around eventually.

In some respects, I have been true to the values I want to hold. Throughout my degree, one of them was to help people and focus on tasks completely without distraction. I did both and developed really good systems to keep to it. In many other respects, I haven’t been “true” to the person I’d like to be. Far too much of my day has been empty consumption rather than creating and contributing to the world (as evidenced by my extremely excited and frequent blogging).

Health… let me tell you a story. God told Lucifer “bow down to me” and Lucifer stood there saying “I can’t sir, I have bad joints”. Obviously, God misheard this as “I won’t sir, your hairline is not on point.”

Infinitely offensive statement.

God banished Lucifer to Hell and every other terrible barber ruins hair for a living.

Lucifer noticed that hell was quite hot and could do some stretches down here since he’d be there forever. Over the next few thousand years, he created a program of 26 stretches and 3 breathing exercises. He called it Bikram yoga.

Once I started Bikram yoga and the back story made complete sense. Every class I feel like I’m being punished for a sin I committed. It sucks. But its exercise so there’s something.

I also began walking much more which is cool… unlike yoga.[2]

Compassion and contribution

These are some of the most important values and a place where I think I’m falling behind the most.

I haven’t created much of anything recently. Throughout the year there are some pockets where I write a lot and many long periods where I produce nothing. It’s a bother not only because I can help other people but it’s not fulfilling at all to simply consume the world and hope that something interesting pops up. It’s one thing to learn by reading and another to mindlessly browse the internet all day.

However, as said before, I can’t be too harsh on myself. I work on a Saturday school with a range of year groups and a year eight student came up to me and said:

“Sir, you remind me of one of my favourite teachers!”

“Why do I look like him?”

“No, you make learning fun!”

My heart melted and I’m pretty sure I still haven’t recovered. That’s a positive contribution and I like to remind myself of that. Still able to add value to other people’s lives. Pretty cool.

  1. How can I set a higher standard in the future?

So what can I do over the next 12 (now 11) months to improve?

Stay in for the long haul: Whatever area of life I’d like to improve, it’s not going to happen quickly if it’s going to be sustainable. It helps to remind myself of that when I don’t see the changes I want straight away. Grit. Perseverance. Persistence. These keep you going.

Write consistently: Holy moly this has consistently been something I want but I’ve never been really consistent about it. One of the most fulfilling things I did throughout the past 3 years was writing and helping people but I didn’t stick to it.

Be more proactive: One source of frustration for me was just seeing life pass me by and not feeling like I’m engaging with each day as it comes. When I have energy, I’d like to utilise it more.

Continue meditating and writing: Despite my disappearance from the blog, I still meditate near enough every day and write in my journal daily (streak is at 881 days). Maintaining these habits will make everything else easier.

Express more gratitude: Yes, however soppy it sounds, I want to be more thankful for the people and things I have in my life. In the depths of sadness, I’m still lucky to have friends and family who are sometimes funny.

The end

I thought the integrity report was interesting to do for it gave me a chance to see who I’m trying to be. I wasn’t sure for a long time and I’m still not but I have slightly more direction now. If you want, try the same whether in a blog, Facebook post or privately.

All the health woes I’ve complained about are still very present unfortunately. I didn’t reach the goal of not using my walking stick by the age of 21 but I can happily say that isn’t for lack of trying. Anyone who knows me has seen my progress so it isn’t something I must be pessimistic about.

What are some of your core values? Do you think you’re living in accordance with them?

As always, thanks for reading.


Previous annual posts:

I’m 19

I’m 20

[1] ayyyyyyyyy

[2] lmao

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