This post starts out seeming like an excerpt from a trainspotter’s blog, then goes off on a bit of a tangent, then the point is made. What a rollercoaster. It’s a long one but I’m sure you’ll enjoy x
Writing this from a Northern Rail train that doesn’t resemble a baked bean can on wheels (if you know, you know), I am pleasantly surprised that after spending the last year travelling between Huddersfield and Nottingham, I no longer have to sit for 2 hours on a seat which makes a park bench feel luxury in comparison.
This blog post isn’t a review of the standard of Northern Rail, although I could quite easily write one of those. This blog post is inspired by my automatic reaction to always want something better, faster, stronger, nicer – and not often taking time to appreciate what I have infront of me
I spent a long time failing driving tests, saving up my part time paycheck and crying at the wheel of a 3 different driving instructor cars to finally pass my test in August 2017 and get my first car. I called him Barry, after my bus driver, who probably wasn’t even called Barry. But he looked like a Barry, and the legacy of the 308 bus driver lived on in my 08 Toyota Aygo.
For the first year and a half of living in Nottingham for university, I had the freedom of shoving my laundry, never-touched-revision books and suitcase into Barry and driving back home whenever I wanted. Despite the M1 often being insufferable, and blowing out the left speaker by playing music too loud – I actually enjoyed driving home and I would do so whenever I could.
I was never ungrateful about having a car. Coming from a family who’s mother cannot drive and living in the center of a field with a half hourly bus that costs about £78 per ticket (£3.70 but same thing), I knew I was fortunate to have a car and I never once took it for granted. However, when Barry popped his clogs in May 2019 (by that, I mean something broke in him which would have cost me £1600 to replace.), I had no idea how I would function.
This rather transport related blog post is actually going to get to the point now. When I lost my car, I resented getting the train home. The 2 hour journey with a 20 minute stop over and then a 20 minute walk up/down a hill in my village with an unnecessarily stuffed suitcase became frustrating, and still is frustrating. Every time I travel home, I think about how much I wish I had a car. Or at least lived in a country where trains don’t make up a new schedule every day.
It’s not often that I think about how fortunate I am to open up the train-line app and spend £20 with a phone that scans my face as payment. It’s not often that I consider the fact that I have the choice between residing in TWO homes. I have the choice between living in a busy city center full of opportunities and friends, or living in a cosy and loving home in my childhood village.
I grew up always wanting more, being unhappy and ashamed about my life. This isn’t coming from a place of a stuck up child – I did have every right to feel disheartened about my life in my younger years, because I dealt with a lot of difficult situations from a small age, and there were times when my home felt about as comforting as a razor blade in your cornflakes.
I would always compare myself to my friends from nuclear families with their oak furniture and cars and internet connection and Tory dogs and parents with favorite wines. I never looked at people who were potentially in a worse situation than me, and I never really stopped to be thankful for the small things I had – like the family who loved me or the warm house or the food (which I clearly ate too much of).
Things got better, and part of that is because I used my situation as motivation to do better. I knew I wanted to do something with my life and I knew that I had a drive and a kick in me. Part of coming from a not-so-perfect background is that you appreciate any improvements and anything that others may take for granted.
I look at my life in the present day, and I know that my brain is automatically trained to spot the flaws or imperfections in my life and want things to be better. Whilst drive and motivation is essential to actually move forward in life, the best changes are made by appreciating what you already have in your life. We never really aknowledge how important things are until they are taken or lost. Like the old saying goes you never appreciate what you had until you’ve lost it
I’ve got myself out of my overdraft, and I now have a part time job which is helping my to budget my student loan and life better. I know this may not be the case forever, therefore I’m doing my best to appreciate it whilst I have it – because I’ve been in cases where I’ve stretched my overdraft to it’s limit and had chance of Mummy and Daddy bailing me out or paying my rent.
I’m grateful for the fact that I have so much freedom and abundance in my life, and this may seem like airy fairy hippy bullshit, but I’m in more or less the exact situation I was 2 months ago – however 2 months ago I was very depressed. Two months ago I had a lot of bad things happening in my life, and that was all I could focus on. I am not one of those people who thinks that waking up in the morning and being grateful for having a flush able toilet or matching pair of socks is the key to curing depression. But shifting my focus to the positive things in my life vs letting the negative situations consume me played a massive part in getting better.
I’m prone to periods of being depressed. This is usually because I let myself get carried away in the rabbit hole of “this isn’t good enough” “you need to do better at XYZ” “you need to do this” “do that now” etc, and I gradually stop doing and thinking about the things that help me to stay on the right track. This often happens in high pressure times and I will be crap at making any decision what-so-ever, so I’ll constantly ask people around me to make choices for me, whether it’s to have toast for my breakfast or to drop out of university.
The way I got out of my depressive period the last few months was to strip everything back to the core. The things I worried about and focused negative attention on were all consuming my life. I would wake up late, skip university and spend all day overthinking, procrastinating and eventually feeling like a failure, so would go out to drown my sorrows and make bad decisions which confirmed I was a bad person. Rinse and repeat.
In the Christmas break, the opportunity to go out and get shitfaced every night stopped. Part of the cycle was taken away, and I was left with so much extra time. At first the extra time was unbarable, as being alone?? with my thoughts????? what was I meant to do???? Honestly it wasn’t even that hard. With the extra time, I started to exercise more, which is something I’ve always loved. Without the hangovers, my brain functioned properly and I could actually work and focus without thinking about all the stupid things I did the night before.
I became more appreciative and grateful for the things that remain constant in my life. I had the ability to wake up everyday and decide what I was going to do with my day, and I almost appreciated all of the horrible things that happened between September and December, as they made me happy to be back living the same old, same old life I lived before. I still spend most days with about an hour or so feeling overwhelmed and like I’m failing at XYZ or not good enough for certain things or people, but I make sure that I can recognize what I’m doing and move past it. I’ve got more people in my life now who uplift me and support me.
If you’ve got this far, congrats. I think the point got lost somewhere between Toyota Aygo and matching socks. But take from this your own interpretation on how to have more gratitude for your life.