Build Your Own

By Olivia Chung

Last week I was walking home in the dark after finishing uni late. I was thinking about the way I often compare my life to the lives of creative people I follow on social media/ anyone who isn’t following a conventional study path leading to a 9-5 (or longer) job. I admire and envy their freedom to do whatever they want and can’t help but to feel frustration for the seemingly ‘trapped’ life I live…

Fair to say I was feeling discontent. After a little while I realized that I had been focusing on what I DIDN’T have, and for no good reason, I’d put myself in a low mood. So I started thinking about how I can feel gratitude from what I DO have.

I analyzed my present surroundings. For starters, I have two legs allowing me to actually walk–even if one of my menisci and one of my hips is stuffed. I’m walking home by myself in a peaceful, safe, calm environment, listening to my current favorite song on repeat. I can look up to a clear (non-polluted) sky and see countless stars above me and think about how insanely large the universe is …

Then I started thinking about my current circumstances: I am living back in my hometown, with many of my family and friends surrounding me. At uni I am doing a selective placement in global health, learning about refugee health, climate change, public health–my passions that I might like to make a career of in the future…I still have spare time, even if it’s not much, to do things that I love-whether it’s learning Spanish, playing piano, journalling, or improving my photography. Job interviews are around the corner, but I’m surrounded by so many people who can help and support me to get through it. And no matter how well or badly I do, I’m lucky to be guaranteed a job either way.

So then I thought about the vague prospects my future holds: that I’m studying a degree that will provide me a rewarding, secure, job…That I might not have any money right now (thanks for bailing me out dad), but in the grand scheme of things, there really are very few barriers stopping me from living a life I want to lead…I’m dreaming about destinations around the world I could go to at the end of the year, places I could definitely make a reality if I wanted to. I live in Australia–where I can freely voice my opinion (without serious consequences), where I can access affordable healthcare if I need it, and where there’s an abundance of resources to meet my needs.

And then I stopped thinking. I realized where my thoughts were leading. I realized how happy my current situation made me. I realized how incredibly lucky I am to have all the opportunities that I have.

Even though I don’t have the same life as many other people around the world that I aspire to have, it doesn’t mean I don’t have a good life myself.

It’s just different.

And I’m so glad that I realize that! In a world of social media where I can be constantly comparing myself to others, it’s so easy to be brought down and forget the goodness of my own life, as well as appreciate simple things that can make me happy– whether they be the sun pouring through my curtains and waking me up on a new day, or the rich, warm hues of autumn leaves…Or the microwave in the common room that I can heat my lunch up in. Stopping to notice the little things in everyday life helps me remember how amazing life is. It also helps me to remember the bigger things that are a testament to how truly privileged I am. The fact that I get an education. Or that I was raised by parents who love and support me. Or that anything I want to learn is just a Google search away. There are so many other people out there struggling to survive–for fear of safety, for lack of resources, for lack of their government’s economic stability–let alone actually LIVE…So it’s important for people as lucky as us to make the most of everything we have. To use our opportunities to contribute to something bigger and meaningful. To maybe close that gap and help others live a life that we can.

So I encourage you to take a moment out of your day to pause and reflect. Try not to compare yourself to others and focus on what you don’t have. Instead, focus on what you do have! And use that as positive energy to work towards what you love, maybe helping a few lives along the way. Because I can guarantee you that there are millions, if not BILLIONS, of people out there who would do anything to have just one day in your shoes. Life is crazy, filled with so many ups and downs. Even if we don’t have everything we want in life, we can still find happiness in the smallest places. We should treasure every moment and make every day count–starting from today.

Don’t get so busy watching others build a life that you forget to build your own.

Make sure you create more than you consume.