Hey guys, and welcome back to my blog!
As some of you are probably aware, I have been taking a break from blogging from the past few weeks as I've been on my first 'proper' clinical placement as part of my course, in the elderly rehabilitation ward in a busy hospital. It's a bit of a deep post, even for me, but one I felt oh-so-compelled to write.
We're told that death is as fundamental a part of a life as birth. Every living creature that has ever walked this earth will one day, pass on. It's an inevitability that will come for each one of us one day regardless of our nationality, wealth, sexual orientation and gender.
You can die at any age of course, but obviously your chance of dying increases the older you get, and this is something that the elderly patients and their spouses are so aware of.
Over the duration of the placement, I frequently worked with patients that were entering or had entered end of life care. Honesty comes to the fore front as there is literally no time left for anything else. Most of the time, the patient will say that they are satisfied with the way their life turned out - they married, they had children, they had a good career, they traveled to exotic parts of the world.
But there is the unsatisfied patients. The laments. The sadness of a life gone by. They spent more time in the office than travelling the world. They didn't get the chance to fall in love and spend the rest of their lives with someone who loved and cared for them. They didn't spend enough time with their children because they were more concerned with making more pounds.
Perhaps it's morbid, but I couldn't walk out of that ward without reflecting on my own mortality; not necessarily about death itself but more about not living while you're still alive.
It's a cliché, but I often see these quotes similar to the one I've posted below on social media about "living life to the fullest" and "not having any regrets". I wonder really how many people actually live by these quotes, or are they just something posted to gain more likes? What really is living life to the fullest and not having any regrets?
I suppose it's difficult when you're still alive and in relatively good health to not really think too much about the inevitability of death; after all, we have what often feels forever left. Tellingly, on the train journey home each day from placement, I noticed the abundance of people glued to their mobiles or laptops, completely disengaging with their companions or even the beautiful breathtaking view of the mountains passing us by, more focused on what was happening on social media sites than in the present moment. But sometimes, it may be a good idea to remind ourselves an odd time that we are not immortal, we are fragile, and human, and as much as we'd like it to be, our lives are not infinite. It's all worth bearing in mind that our lives could end tomorrow. In my opinion, I believe that most people do not live their lives to the fullest due to fear and consequently, reach the end of their lives with regrets and these laments I've mentioned I saw all too often on hospital wards.
I'm a person that doesn't believe in regrets. Perhaps that's something that has come with time. Of course I have little regrets, the ones everyone has, like regretting I ate that massive takeaway or drank too much the other night, but they rarely last more than a day. I don't regret big "life changing" stuff. Sure, I've been in some situations I'd not like to be in again, and made some decisions that probably weren't the best but looking back, they taught me something, and at the time, they made perfect sense to me and if given the chance, I'd probably end up making the same decisions all over again. Even the most awful relationships or the most difficult time in your life teaches you things, and for me personally, I believe difficult times teach you more life lessons than 'good' times in your life, if only to learn from them for future reference (though in reality, that's easier said than done).
For those who may not know me personally, I'd describe myself as being quite a shy person around people I don't know all that well. It's usually down to a fear of embarrassing myself. It usually takes a couple of months before I start becoming very comfortable around people (and let my inner weirdness show). So even though I'm studying to be a health professional, the thought of placement where I'd have to communicate with strangers on a daily basis was enough to send me into a complete tizzy. But I knew it was something I had to do and if I didn't do it, I wouldn't be able to do my dream career and live my life to the fullest. So what if I embarrassed myself in front of the patients? I'd dust myself off, and try again, I was (and still will be everyday) still learning. I certainty didn't want to be that person at the end of my life lamenting I hadn't been able to do the career I wanted to because fear happened to get in the way. Instead, I wanted to be the person that said I took a chance that not only gave me the satisfaction of having achieved my goals of a career but also a career that would help others reach their independence and learn to cope with their fears and their anxieties.
Another example I'll give you is with relationships. So many people are secretly in love with someone else, but afraid to tell them how they truly feel because of the fear of being rejected and possibly being grounds for humiliation. It's not easy, but I always try to be as completely honest as I can about what I'm feeling about someone. If there's even the slightest inkling that I may have feelings for someone, I will act on it. I have a severe case of hopeless romantic which unfortunately means I'm more awkward and more nervous around someone I actually like, and which also means usually the person has sussed I feel something for them before I get the chance to be all gushy about it (usually over text, ah romance in the 21st century). No, not all of my declarations of love have ended up in happily ever after and contrary to what people may think, I have been rejected a bunch of times, but at the very least I was aware of where I stood (sometimes) and what if I brushed my fear aside for a moment and took a chance and it led to really being happy ever after? In that case I think it would be very worth it. Not saying that life is a Disney movie by any means, but it can be in certain areas.
I could give you dozen more examples of fear getting in the way of truly living your life, and these range from as something as simple as swimming in the sea to not wearing that beautiful dress. In each of these situations, place a hand on your heart and think to yourself: "I only have one life. It's simply now or never." Think of yourself at the end of your life, you certainty don't want to be having regrets of any sort attributed to fear.
Thank you for reading xx