I present to you a tale of two women.
The first one is 30. She’s single, and has been for a long time. She doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. She was supposed to enroll into grad school in September, but had to defer due to lack of money. She’s poor - of course she’s poor; she lives in one of the most expensive cities in the U.K.
She spends a lot of time alone. She doesn’t own a house or a car. She’s nowhere near having children. She’s a little round around the edges. She’s scared she’s failing. She’s stuck.
The second one is also 30. After a string of bad relationships, she’s single by choice. She’s independent. She has friends all around the world. She’s sensible enough to know her own mind - and her own finances. She pays her own bills. She’s got lots of options ahead of her, and knows she has time to decide.
She’s got a healthy, working body. Her stomach is round because she can afford to feed herself well - and she has the confidence to treat herself well, too. She lives in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. She hasn’t tied herself to a house or a car, meaning she isn’t burdened in a certain place. She travels regularly. She’s grateful. She’s free.
Both of these stories are mine, and both of these women are me.
I wasted years and years of my twenties obsessing over the first version of myself. She wasn’t good enough, she wasn’t wanted enough, she wasn’t getting anywhere. The more I worried, the worse I felt.
One day, I quietly turned 30 - and I had had enough of feeling sorry for myself. I was tired, and she was tired too. And so I started to focus on the things I did have over what I didn’t. Nothing particularly changed in my life. And yet, at the same time, everything changed too.
It wasn’t easy to focus on the positives. It’s still not. Self-worth and being thankful both take effort, and work needs to be put in every single day. But slowly, slowly, the second version of myself started to wake up. The version that is grateful for everything she has. The version that focuses on the haves, not the have nots.
You get to control the narration of your story.
There are always two sides to every coin. And so, whilst I may not be where I want as yet: I am thankful for my job.
I am thankful for my health.
I am thankful for the air I breathe, and the ground beneath my feet.
And I am thankful for the freedom I have to choose my life, every single day.
Life isn’t easy. We can’t control it. But we can control the thanks we give - and the gratitude we feel - for what we do have. So the next time you tell the first, unhappy story of your one and only life, stop.
Take a step back and think of one thing you are grateful for. Start working towards that second story. You are made up of everything that you both have and haven’t got in your life. But you get to choose what defines you.
By: Alex Pendleton
I am 29 and based in Oxford, England, where I work in Higher Education. I have previously lived and worked in Germany and Italy, and travel whenever I get the chance. An introvert at heart, I love reading, baking and listening to other people's stories. I share my own via my blog, Season Changes City Streets.