A life without limits
Updated: Feb 24, 2019
It's perplexing, to see how fast time flies when you're enjoying yourself. It had been a long time since I felt such a state of bliss; probably the last time I felt like this was when I was a child: with no worries or responsibilities whatsoever. To be honest, I wasn't sure if I was being completely irresponsible by living my life day by day; by not starting to come up with an action plan that would enable me to find a permanent means to make a living. Somehow, the way I was spending my days just felt right, and I didn't want to look beyond that.
My typical day consisted of waking up around 9 - 10 a.m.; having a slow breakfast, and then hitting the pool around noon. Sometimes, when I wouldn't make it to the pool before noon, I would go to yoga in the early evening. It was amazing to see the physical and mental transformation I was undergoing. I started to feel good about myself again; my mind continued slowing down; my senses became sharper. Small details of the world surrounding me, which I would have otherwise overlooked, suddenly popped out literally in every corner: the different tonalities of colors in a flower, the multiple shades of blue in the sky above me; the feeling of the light breeze caressing my skin as I walked under the summer sun. I began to appreciate life by itself; slowly getting rid of the labels I had been accumulating over the years (economist, financial analyst, MBA, you name it!) and that, for some reason, had become attributes sine qua non my worth as a person would be diminished (or at least, that's what I had let my ego believe at some point while being caught up in the rat race that never seemed to end; as I reached one goal after the other).
I became ever more aware of how stupid it is to believe that the milestones we reach will somehow make us automatically happier. I realized this is not necessarily true: yes, they might make us feel proud and good about ourselves (if we are wise enough to make a pause to acknowledge these accomplishments, since there are some people who won't even stop to enjoy them), but if we don't know how to live life; how to appreciate whatever we have at a certain moment (whether it is a bed to sleep in, a roof over our heads, a hot meal, the warmth of the sun against our skin), we will never be happy, no matter how "successful" we become under the eyes of society.
You see, one of the most important lessons I learned during these uncertain times was that happiness begins and ends with ourselves: we must never give any situation/person/circumstance/possession/profession enough power to define our happiness/self-worth. It's like handing over a loaded gun to someone with bipolar disorder and hoping that they will never unload it on us. Because that's the duality of life: sometimes you're up; sometimes you're down, but if you let yourself be dragged by this duality, you will end up crashing and burning every time this wheel of fortune called life decides to make an undetermined stop at the low-end! The key is to look inward every time things don't work out, but always with faith so strong to reassure us that, no matter how strong the winds of change, there will always be a sea of calmness within us that will serve as an anchor to provide us with enough strength/confidence/self-love to face any adversity.
Besides my physical and spiritual transformation, I also pursued my intellectual growth: not the academic kind; reading books that I would be tested on, but rather literature that inspired me and that made me forget about the world around me for a while. I started to pick up the books that had been piling up on my night table for the past couple of years, and the first one I read was an autobiography of Chrissie Wellington, a British triathlete and Ironman world champion, which had been waiting to be finished since I started it (according to Goodreads) for 594 days! (wow, did I really wait that long?). Chrissie's story was very inspirational, and it somehow resonated with me: all her life she had a controlling personality; seeking perfection and pushing herself to her limits. Her desire to control everything made her suffer from bulimia in her early teens, but she was able to overcome her illness by redirecting her energy towards a sport: that's how she started doing triathlons.
I had always been a control freak myself, but now that life was putting me to the test, ironically I found that trying to control every situation is detrimental to our well-being and that, most times, you have no option but to let go. It was as if this book was meant for me to be read at this very precise moment of my life: it became clear to me when I read the poem that Chrissie wrote in all her water bottles and read before every competition. It's called "IF", by Rudyard Kipling:
If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.
"If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same"... this is exactly what I was learning how to do at the moment, and it's also related to that sea of calmness I just told you about, which must always lie within us to serve as a tool to overcome adversity. Ending up jobless in a foreign country was not exactly the idea I had in mind when I moved to Canada, but somehow it ended up being my present situation. However, the choice of accepting it and moving forward, or getting stuck in the moment and endlessly mourning it was entirely mine.
"If you can make one heap of all your winnings, and risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, and lose, and start again at your beginnings, and never breathe a word about your loss"... This is exactly what I did when I decided to leave everything I knew and loved behind me, for the hope of finding a better future abroad. It was never a promise; it was never a certainty. I knew what it entailed; I knew the sacrifices that needed to be made. It was completely and entirely my choice, so I could not blame anyone for that "unfortunate" turn of events. I was starting again at my beginnings, but what was different this time is that I was entirely responsible for my life choices, so I couldn't complain to anyone about what I was going through. I needed to toughen up and eventually find a solution, but in the end, it all started and ended with me.
"If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew, to serve your turn long after they are gone, and so hold on when there is nothing in you, except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”... Oh My God, how many times did I have to dig deep and find that inner strength during the past couple of years when I felt I couldn't go on anymore! Whether it was a failed exam and the negative self-talk that followed, that inner voice telling me I wasn't good enough; the back-to-back rejections I faced from the five biggest Canadian banks when knocking on their doors for a summer internship; and now the final blow of being an unemployed graduate...Shit, that hadn't been a smooth sail at all! But somehow, in the midst of all these "disasters", I felt an inner force so strong that reminded me every time of the reason I pursued this venture in the first place: better opportunities for my life and, eventually, my family's. That was all it took. The image of my little nephew's face calling me "tia" (aunt, in Spanish); all the moments I was missing by being far away from my family. I hadn't come this far to only come this far. No way! And then a renewed will power kicked in and I was back in the saddle. It was not going to be different this time. Again, I had no promise; no certainty; no action plan.. I remembered this quote I had read many times before: "I survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me". This fiery Latina would eventually find her way, of that she was 100% certain. She was determined to live her life without limits.