I was ungrateful, self-pitying, proud, conceited and inconsiderate. It was plastered over by a wonderful, big smile. I had lost humility. It been lost for a really long time. I had even fooled myself with my own facade. I was prideful and arrogant; in my position, my beliefs, my lifestyle.
I turned 18 and the pride kicked in (this helps me to stem where and when it started). Moving to London inflated my Ego hugely, even when I was kicked and humiliated and mocked by own foolishness =/= naivety. I had a huge zest for my opportunities and abilities to take the world by storm and to live out my fantasies and dreams (which later I came to find weren’t even my own). I had a huge starry-eyed conception of the world and of the glitz and glamour of city life. London was a dream come true, it was the reality of fantasy and years of idealising how I’d live and where I’d live and what I’d live as. Whilst at University, I had the safety net to be what I had envisioned, which sadly, as I look back, was filtered through the teenager I wanted to be recognised as at college, the young girl who wanted to be attractive to white* guys back in Swindon, the popular, outgoing personality I was sometimes framed as (but I am inherently a relaxed introvert) and a person intent on being better than her upbringing; in the prideful sense.
What was missing in my vision of my life? Humility, gentleness and contentment. These are, by no means, ways of settling (because sadly, they are framed to be indicators of a person ‘settling’) but admirable attributes of a person. It’s not something self-sought, it’s something self-recognised and taught.
For whatever reason, I felt that I had to be a suspicious, contending, spiteful person who was out for themselves because everyone was – right? Yet, this wasn’t reality. It was a form of reality that existed for me; it wasn’t everyone else’s. It wasn’t most people’s reality at all, actually.
I’ve struggled all my life with the ability to be humble, content and gentle. I’ve been abrasive, brash, aggressive and extremely proud. Even though I haven’t pin-pointed how this has happened, I do know that it’s very much integrated into human nature, which means it’s a part of me I can’t source. It’s not something I can fight, but I can out-balance. But, why am I mentioning this all?
When I graduated, I realised I was no longer excused to be these things; even though it was never really acceptable in the first place. I realised looking back I’d lost friends, opportunities, ambition and good things out of being this way. The way I had been, was my own doing, whether years of programming from school, or home, or family, or friends; it was still a choice of mine, I had been blindly making. Upon graduation, I realised it had taken me five years to live out that person and force them die out. (University is a strange place because it can create more imbalance of this person; it can make our selfishness come out greatly, as we healthily compete against our peers and lectures.) When I graduating I felt real, true pride from commitment, perseverance and humility. These were: returning back to a course I was a year behind on, a course I’d have to make totally new friends on, a course that was heavy essay-based (without me writing an essay for almost 1 year and a half) and a course that I had chosen to finish despite being almost two years behind my peers. My friends had jobs now, some married and others in further education; I wasn’t caught up with them.
But in my own journey, setbacks were necessary because they forced me to die to the person who was incredibly selfish, bordering on severely immature and self-centred. Setbacks brought me here, to my actual starting point, where I’ve finished one sector of my life better than I could’ve imagined. I used to believe the world was mine – but its not. It’s everyone’s because we share it. I used to believe I was entitled to success but, we all are because success doesn’t pick out of entitlement; its for people who work hard, in humility. I used to believe my universe had been set up for me and I was just existing in it, unable to change anything but that was wrong, I am in the middle of it, capable of creating in it and changing it. I used to believe my friends were my enemies, but actually, they care a lot, more than I imagine that they do. I was certain my family hated me and begrudgingly carried me through life but they have a lot of love and desire for my success and happiness.
This doesn’t make me naive, it makes me realistic. I had demonised my world very easily but it just… it isn’t true. Humility, gentleness and contentment are traits I think bring me the greatest honour and the greatest pride, because these are attributes that remove glory from my self; it shows that the human nature can be tamed to be and do good for others, not just the self. I am a small-town girl, who grew up learning that hard work creates opportunity, wealth and possibility. I moved to London and lost that all, but at least from graduation I’ve seen that it’s not all hopeless; I can still return to that girl and mould her up to the woman she’s meant to be, not this figure I’d sloppily made myself.
People can cloud your mind with the idea that you’re this glorious being, absolutely fabulous, one-of-a-kind, better than everyone and destined for greatness. Well, that’s not true. Sure, I am fearfully and wonderfully made but someone made me. I am destined, as human kind is, for greatness because it’s part of our DNA; our ability to create, resolve, enterprise and endure. Greatness isn’t the glamour of recognition from the world, it’s the understanding of what the world is and what it needs, then acting on that for others to see. Humility forces me to look at what life I have and what life I want to have. Gentleness reminds me that not everything is forced and contentment gives me the present joy of being.
So, starting with humility for this next phase is important. Whatever false judgement and hidden embarrassment is on the way, it’ll come, but ‘exalted are those who make themselves the least, and a humbled are those who make themselves great.’
*white guys: this is basically because I grew up in a working-class town where everyone was white and they were seen as attractive, conventionally, so in a way I wanted to be accepted by my peer group and subconsciously, the town I lived in.