The Insignificance Of Our Significance

After a couple of nights at home with my parents (I was let out of the hospital on Friday night pretty much unable to human), I am back at university. I’ve missed it. I’ve missed the people, I’ve missed the lectures, I’ve missed my independence… I’ve missed everything about it really (I’ve especially missed London, and I was only out of the city for a day and a half) The people that I’ve met here are truly amazing, and throughout my ‘freshers near death experience’ as we now call it, I don’t know what I would have done without any of them.

Sometimes you have to fall to realise that nobody is going to let you. The safety nets that stop you are much stronger than you think. You don’t see them even when they are holding you up, but you can feel that they are there. I haven’t felt that comfort in a long time. Normally the gaps in the net are so great that I fall straight through. Not this time. This time it feels like I have an army behind me willing me on, which is ridiculous but very inspiring. Usually after a couple of days in hospital fear would have dominated my brain and I would have crumbled – fallen to earth with a thud and shattered… This time I never fell, not even when I lost consciousness. My friends literally and metaphorically, physically and emotionally, stopped me falling. How do you pay people back for that? How do you thank people enough? How do you show them how much it means? There is no currency of equal value, there is no amount large enough to quantify this sort of gratitude, and there are no words… I was not forgotten.

My brain has been thinking a lot about significance – about the significance of a lot of things. After weeks like those I’ve just experienced I always tend to re-evaluate my list of priorities. It is always completely ridiculous, and I’m always at the bottom of it. At the top of that list at the moment is gratitude. It is my most overwhelming emotion, and my most dominating thought is how on earth I can show people just how much I appreciate what they’ve done for me, because I can’t believe that people were willing to be so… kind (so far I’ve bought ten packets of strawberry laces for everyone to share, it was the best I could think of at short notice). I woke up this morning at half eleven (my lectures started at nine). I had no intention of going to lectures, seeing as I’m still trying to figure out how to walk properly and can’t really eat, but I still woke up in a panic. Because for the past few days I’ve been stressing about the work that I’ve missed, and the work that I am still missing. It is hugely important to me. And yet, right now, it’s not actually that important at all. The things that are significant to us are often insignificant in the grand scheme of things. In a couple of weeks I won’t be worrying about the work at all, I will be back to studying for eleven hours a day, and functioning like a normal human being. The university are putting no pressure on me at all, but internally the pressure gage is pointing higher and higher. What my brain fails to accept is the insignificance of what it currently regards as a significant issue.

It was nice to be missed, because I thought I would be forgotten. It was so nice to feel like I held some significance in the world that I happy cried multiple times (after every visit, and at pretty much every get well message). I couldn’t believe that people cared so much about me; I was shocked that I mattered so much to people I had only known for three weeks. And that made me think about how we spend out whole lives seeking significance. We want to matter, and we want to be missed, and our own approval is never enough. We seek external recognition, we all want to leave a mark, we don’t want to stand under the spotlight but we don’t like being stuck in the shadows. And even when we matter, we think that we don’t. Because when we can’t accept ourselves, when we don’t live up to our own expectations or match our own visions of who we want to be, we fail to comprehend that anyone else could possibly accept us. When we don’t rank ourselves very highly in our list of priorities, we decide that nobody else does either. We give up on ourselves and assume that everyone else has too. They rarely do, we just become so blinded by our own views that we see a reflection of our own attitude instead of the truth. 

I expected to fade out and be forgotten because that has happened to me before while I was in hospital, because that’s what my brain thinks of me when I become unwell. But my friends didn’t share the view that I told myself they would. I’m still surfing the tidal wave of surprise and happiness that this realisation has sent rampaging through my thoughts. While I was at home a family friend drove 110 miles with a get well card that he had got signed by Frank Turner, and another friend sat with me for hours just talking about life. While I was in hospital so many people visited me (and some even brought me chips even though I couldn’t really eat them, but I still happy cried) I have the most remarkable friends…

We’ve all sat in a room and felt invisible. We’ve all felt inferior to someone else. We’ve all worried about what other people think of us. Most of us have had moments where we think nobody would care if we were wiped off of the planet at that particular moment. We’re told we shouldn’t think these kind of thoughts, we know they aren’t particularly helpful, but it is in our nature. We seek approval. We seek recognition. We don’t realise that we all matter to somebody, even if that somebody happens to have four legs instead of two (pets are great at making you feel loved), even if, for a short while, that person is yourself. Everybody matters to somebody, and despite the fact that it may sometimes feel like it, nobody matters to nobody at all.

Nobody is ever alone (for starters, there are more bacteria in and on your body than there are human cells, so you have billions of friends with you the entire time) and we are all equally insignificant. If I put a picture of the earth on this screen right now, neither you or I or anybody else would take up a single pixel – we are that insignificant. Nobody really matters more or less than anybody else, it is just down to perception. Even after six hospital visits and  twenty six get well texts I couldn’t believe that I mattered. But eventually it sank in and I realised this…

Step 24 to getting out of a rut in life:

It’s ok to give up on yourself sometimes, because there will always be somebody holding on, or somebody willing to catch you. You don’t have to feel like or think that you matter, you just have to know that you do. One day you’ll wake up and your feelings will agree with you. The things that hold great significance to you today probably won’t in a few weeks or months or years. The things that you’re currently stressing over probably won’t even matter this time next week. Your family, yourself, and your health… Look after those three things and everything else just sort of works itself out. Don’t worry about how many people saw you do a good thing – just do it. Don’t worry about what people think of what you’re wearing – if you like it, wear it. If you’re happy with who you are, don’t let anybody else take that away. Battle through the big things and laugh through the small. Don’t ask ‘what if?’ or ‘why me?’, there are no answers except ‘just because’ and that will make you frustrated. Appreciate the things you have before you lose them. Don’t let anybody else change you or shape you or define you. Don’t be the person you think you should be. Do what you want to do, and as long as you have a smile on your face, stick with it. Don’t worry about how much you matter, because trust me, you do. Your significance is insignificant. It doesn’t matter. The things we stress about rarely do. 

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted” Albert Einstein


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