My birthday is coming up in a few days and I can’t seem to fall asleep. I make hand shadow puppets on the wall and tell myself stories in which I’m a pink flamingo chasing fireflies. It’s always been easier for me to get lost into silly daydreams. I unfold my wings, start flying and never look back. When the stories end, all I’m left with is myself and the thousands of questions that are running through my head : do I do this thing called life right ? Am I a good person ? Should I be an adult by now ? Am I happy ?
My obsession with happiness is both hopeful and destructive. It fills my life with wonder and pushes me towards the biggest of adventures. It’s the reason why I book tickets out of the blue and explore unknown countries. It’s the reason why I fall off my bike absorbing Czech Republic’s beauty. I hurt myself pretty badly but I don’t care and I just keep on riding. Then eventually, I do fall again and stare at my bleeding knees but I just smile. I’m alive and these are experiences that make me human.
I stay at strangers’ houses and feel humbled by their kindness. I listen to their stories so vividly. They’re all breathing human beings. This Greek woman teaching us yoga on the island she calls home. This Croatian old man wearing nothing but a ripped pair of shorts and making us icecream while telling us about his life as a traveler in the 60’s. This beautiful Argentinian girl I met in Vienna, going after her dreams by backpacking on her own. This Cretan boy who waited hours for us at the bus station and picked us up at 2 in the morning with the warmest smile. This Italian woman who had been so busy with life she never got to become a Mother. All these beautiful, unique souls crossing my path and making me feel so grateful I’m still alive to witness such candor.
But if I’m being honest, my love for Life can be hard to handle too. Sometimes, it feels like I won’t ever be fully satisfied because I will always yearn for more. I’ll travel, come home and wish I was back on the road. This makes me look selfish and ungracious, because there are people home who genuinely care about me. My family is coming together again and it’s what I always wanted. My boyfriend is leaving love notes on my car in the morning when he comes home from his night shifts at the hospital and this is the peaceful kind of love I always hoped for. Home feels good. It is good, and it should be enough.
Yet, there’s this infinitely big universe and I want to see it all, breathe it all. I want to pour my heart out and dance in foreign streets. I want to get to know every single soul and shine with them all. I want to hike every mountain and scream at the top of my lungs. I want to go wild swimming in fresh lakes and waterfalls then back to the ocean because I’ll pretend I’m a mermaid. I want to watch every sunset and soak up every last ray of light. I just want to feel remarkably alive.
Working in hospitals, death becomes familiar. One minute you’re laughing with a patient you care for and he tells you he can’t wait for you to meet his family in the afternoon, the next you find yourself in front of a broken family bathed in tears because the patient had a heart attack and died. The first time I experienced death, I locked myself in the bathroom and cried so much I could hardly breathe. Coping with something so unacceptable made no sense. A father’s heart shouldn’t just stop beating. Nobody’s heart should.
Nirrimi’s brother committed suicide a few weeks ago. His name was Zake and he looked like the sweetest soul. I used to read his words and think to myself “If I get to meet Nirrimi someday, then Zake will have to be there too”. I was grateful that he existed. My heart breaks for his family now, and I wish he knew how loved he was. In a way, it resonates with my job as a nurse in a mental health hospital. Depression. Psychosis. Eating disorders. There are so many illnesses that make you so vulnerable you just don’t see a way out. It weighs you down until you feel nothing but constant, soul-wrecking pain.
Each story is different but eventually, it all comes down to love. The love you have for yourself, the love others have for you and the love you have for Life itself. Some of us get so caught up in work and making a living they forget about love. Others get so hurt they’d rather stop believing in love. Most of us just question our ability to love, and be loved in return. We shall never doubt love. We need to feel like we deserve an abundance of love. Because we do. We all do.