On Passion, Principles and Changing the World

Last weekend, I met a very interesting guy, a philosopher. We connected over a few beers in the pub, and when I walked him home, he offered me another drink at his place. There, we talked the night away. Or should I say, he talked the night away and I listened (mostly). Which I might add, is quit the accomplishment. As my friends and family will happily tell you, it’s not easy to shut me up, and only a few succeed.

He talked about his view on the world, and how he thinks we should live our lives. What fascinated me the most is his passion and in your face dedication to his principles. It made me rethink my own life. There was a spark of recognition. I used to be that girl: strong principles, highly opinionated, and very passionate about making the world a better place. And somehow, somewhere along the line, that changed. I became more moderate, less left-wing, and less passionate about changing the world.

So, he made me wonder: “What happened?”. What happened to the girl who forced her parents to start separating trash from recyclables; who refused to run her bicycle through a red light, even in the middle of the night when there’s no other traffic around, because rules are rules; who believed in a caring society in which the less fortunate don’t fall through the cracks; who marched to Den Haag together with her dad and uncle to protest against unfair and unsociable politics; and who stood up against bullies in school.

Well, let me tell you what happened, life happened. Over the last two decades, I have battled with (chronic) depression. It took most of my energy to stay afloat. When so much energy goes towards keeping your head above the water, making the world a better place just doesn’t make it to the top of your priority list. Almost three years ago, I realized I couldn’t live like that anymore. I had to stop fighting myself. It was do or die, and I finally had the guts to face my problems. It was a long and slow road to recovery, but I made it and I’m feeling better than ever.

I have learned to appreciate the little things in life and slowly passion is making its way back into my life. I’ve always loved traveling. First as an escape from my life, now to discover other parts of this beautiful world. And look at me now, I’m living abroad, in the beautiful city of Washington DC, doing a job that requires me to travel around the world. During my therapy, I rediscovered my creative side. I love loosing track of time when I’m designing my own jewelry, and seeing a smile on someone’s face when she wears one of my designs.

Since my recovery, I have come to realize that many people suffer from mental health problems, and it’s still considered a taboo in today’s society. Not many people talk openly about their mental struggles, making it harder for those suffering to admit their problems, to others but also to themselves. All the years I was secretly struggling with my depression – I would not call it a depression back then-, I stuck my head in the sand and pretended to be fine; trying to fool the people around me, but only fooling myself. Looking back, I wish I had excepted the fact that I had problems a lot sooner in my life, and reached out for help earlier. It would have made my life so much easier.

I have made a very conscious decision on speaking very openly about my struggles with depression. It’s my honest conviction that by speaking up, I might help those who are struggling now. I hope by having one-on-one conversations with people, and by blogging about it, I might change someones life, by being the light at the dark tunnel of depression, a shimmer of hope that you can beat depression and come out on top, or by creating a more understanding environment by talking to bystanders. It might be naive, it might be horribly optimistic, but I do believe I can and have made a difference in people’s lives. I hope I can contribute, if only a little, to getting rid of this taboo. And to the people who think it won’t matter whatever I do, I say, “I don’t give a shit! This is something I believe in and will fight for!”.

You know what, I guess there is still some of that little girl with her principles left in me. The principles that I will passionately fight for might just have shifted over time from making the world a better place to changing the life of people around me.

How about the philosopher, you might ask. Well, the jury isn’t out on that one yet. I love how he inspired me to have a good look at my life and my role in this world.


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