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Taking Ownership

New Year is coming. This year I am looking forward to it. That wasn’t always the case. New Year can be a confusing time, yes there’s all the celebrating, the joy, the hope, the ambition… but with it comes painful self-evaluation, assessing achievements or lack of them, the memory of unfulfilled goals and unrealised dreams.

I remember one particular New Year a few years ago. I had had the worst 3 years of my life. 3 years filled with personal problems, professional problems, family problems. It was a bad time. With the increase in problems, came the decrease in my self-esteem and the appearance of a mild depression. I felt unable to do things efficiently, incapable of taking decisions and unwilling to improve my condition.

I had set out many goals that year, and for many reasons, I did not fulfil them. I started many things but never finished any. I was disappointed in myself and disappointed in life for not clearing the way for me. I blamed everyone for my failures. I blamed my parents for handing down certain character faults that I possessed. I blamed the “inadequacy” of a university professor for my having failed that year at university. I blamed my upbringing for my sense of not fitting into society. I was feeling useless, worthless and like a waste of space. I was adding nothing to the world and the world didn’t notice whether I existed or not.

One day I went for a coffee with a friend of mine. My state of nothingness had me going from café to café, injecting caffeine into my weakening mind, not doing anything productive, choked by negativity. That particular day was to be the beginning of something very new for me. This friend changed my life without knowing it.

We talked about many things. We spoke about love and friendship and the role of friends. She had a dilemma and did not know what to do. She spoke to me about a dear friend of hers who was not working, not looking after himself, becoming more and more cynical and had become generally unpleasant to be around. She told me that he was a very talented but lazy man. He started many things and never finished them and he blamed the world for his miserable situation. She wanted to know whether it was her place to talk to him about it, or just let him deal with his own life without interfering. She was describing this man to me (whom I didn’t know) and I felt quite put off by him. He sounded like a lucky person, healthy, young and gifted who did not know how to use what he had.

I’m sure something is clear to you (the reader) that did not become clear to me until the end of my coffee session with this friend: I was exactly the female version of this sad man. My friend ended her story with the statement: “you know, at one point we all become adults. We have to realise that we can’t blame others for our mistakes. At one point, we all become accountable for our own actions. “ This statement sent shivers down my spine. I recognised myself in this man and hated myself for it.

I went home that day and my brain was more alert than ever and I felt a sense of near disgust for myself. How could my laziness have sent me down this horrible road? How did I find myself here? I decided it was time to change. I needed to be motivated again. I once read a great line in a book that said:” sometimes the whole universe will conspire to help you” and that day, the universe was on my side.

After my coffee with my friend, I walked for hours in the cold streets. I entered a bookshop somewhere along the way and picked up a copy of something that I really don’t remember. What I do remember is this story I read about 2 frogs:

Two frogs were in a big bowl of milk, both on the verge of drowning. They were swimming around and around trying to keep their heads in the air. The first frog said “I can’t do it anymore, I’m going to drown”. The second frog said “just keep going, we’ll think of something”. They both swam and swam and swam around in the bowl. They were both panicking. The negative frog (the first one) kept complaining they would never make it while the positive frog (the second one) insisted that they would come up with something to save their lives. The negative frog was slowing down his swimming, he was tired, he was ready to give up. The positive frog was just going faster and faster desperately thinking about a solution. The faster he went the slower the other one went. And then it happened. The negative frog said “ I can’t do this anymore, there’s no point… we’re going to die anyway” and with this he let himself go and sank to the bottom of the bowl. The positive frog refused to believe that this was the end for him too, and increased the speed of his swim. He swam faster and faster and faster and faster…. The faster he went, the more solid the milk became. It was getting harder for him to swim but he kept going. Kept going until…. Slowly but surely,… the milk began to turn into butter. It was solid enough for him to stand on it and easily climb out of the bowl.

That story gave me a burst of inspiration and inspires me still, to this day. I decided that I wanted to be the positive frog from now on. I would make my own decisions and I would bear responsibility for them. The day the universe decided to help me was close to New Year’s eve of that year and I decided that my new year’s resolution was to become happy. I wouldn’t expect happiness to come to me, I would go out and look for it… and I did… and I found it.

Everyone goes through bad times, times where you think you wish your life would end, times where the pressure becomes too much. It is these bad times that shape us, that make us individual and that teach us to appreciate real joy. So it is up to you in the end. When times get rough, you can either be the negative frog or the positive one. Just think of all the wonderful things that could be waiting for you outside of your milk bowl. Happy New Year.

Photo by Marko Klaric from Pexels

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