A flower in a field full of flowers will blossom, and regardless of how beautiful the flowers around it are, it’ll grow to be as beautiful as it can be. We too are designed to grow into our full selves. We learn with time and experience how important it is not to focus on pleasing others, but to become our own source of motivation.
All too often, I’ve fallen into a trap, believing that those people who use their talents to accomplish great things are of a different breed than myself. In the past, I’ve found myself using phrases such as, “It’s easy for them because…” or “I wish I could do that.” The truth is that I was either too frightened to take a risk, or I was intimidated by the accomplishments of others, believing that successful people were superhumans who didn’t have the same worries as I did.
This lack of self-belief kept me trapped within myself, and I found myself living a life less than that of which I was capable. I’d hide in the excuses created by fear, and avoid taking the risks that I knew were required to live the life I desired.
It isn’t security, but the illusion of security, that robs us of ambition. The biggest risk we can take is no risk at all.
This year, I finally made the decision my heart had always desired, and I left the life, culture and routine I knew to jump into the unknown. I bought a one-way ticket to Nepal.
17 Days in a Nepali jail
During my time in Nepal, I found myself facing many uncertainties and overcoming challenges almost daily. I was building strength and growing constantly. However, everything I believed in was put to the test when I found myself locked up in a Nepali jail for 17 days.
I was thrown into my personal worst-case scenario. I had my freedom taken away from me, and found myself in conditions I’d only ever read about.
I was kept in a cell that measured about 1.7 by 3 metres. It was occupied by six to 14 people, and an assortment of insects that would happily crawl over my face during the late hours of the night. I couldn’t understand what was happening around me, as the only English-speaking person in there, and I quickly learned about the minimal human rights conditions that exist in these scenarios.
We were kept in the cell for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no exposure to natural light or exercise. Being 7,000 kilometres from home, I was also unable to speak to anybody about my situation.
The strength of the human spirit
It was during this time that I had to really dig deep and harness my inner strength to remain calm and sane. I learned how strong the human spirit really can be, as I had no choice but to be calm and remain resolute in my beliefs.
This was a time during which I was confronted by fear and uncertainty; it was a discovery moment. I learned lessons of the self, of empathy, of faith, of perseverance and of hope. The first few days were the scariest ones I’d ever faced, as the guards would use force, but I learned how to use empathy.
I had to go deep within and understand that the guards themselves were also trapped behind bars every day. They’d have to witness the suffering of their fellow human beings, and even inflict it, regardless of their beliefs. The system is constructed in such a way. I had to remember that they might also be unhappy.
With this understanding, I was able to dispel any anger or hate that I could possibly harbour against them, and harness empathy to relate to them on a human level. Eventually, I was able to use this compassion to create positive relationships with some of the guards, which also positively changed the treatment I received.
Bringing light to others
I leaned on my faith for the strength to see each day through, and to understand why I found myself in this scenario, as well as how I could use it to bring some light to those around me.
I prayed, every day, that my friends and family were holding themselves together. I prayed for the return of my freedom, and I prayed for the wisdom to learn from the experience. Each day, I wrote about how I was feeling, the gifts I was receiving and the growth I was going through. I tried to form relationships with the other inmates through an understanding and connection deeper than language, and find ways to share and contribute to their lives while I was there. I formed a brotherhood with my fellow inmates, and we shared everything with each other and ensured that we were all kept safe.
Everything in life is temporary
Although I wasn’t sure how long I was going to be locked up for, I knew it was a temporary situation. I wouldn’t allow myself to feel like a victim of circumstances by dwelling on the past, but instead, I decided to be fully present and feel every moment. I formed some deep connections and relationships and even learned some Nepali phrases.
The experience gave me more perspective on what’s important in life, along with where to place my energy, what to value and the beauty of the people in my life. I now have a better understanding of the value of time and of the freedom of making decisions.
We spend so much time worrying about the little things that don’t matter, that we hinder our potential to reach the great things we’re capable of. I harbour no ill will, no anger and no hate, just love and appreciation for having been given this great gift to propel me forward in life.
I’ve also had my values and character tested, and I hope that I’ve been able to come through stronger and more humbled. I’ve had my faith strengthened, and I truly believe in the power that’s guiding and looking after me as I pursue this uncertain path.
Staying in Nepal
After being released, I had a choice. Many of my friends and family wanted me to return home. I had to explain that this choice wasn’t meant for me, and that the gift of perspective I’d gained wasn’t something I wanted to let go of. I’ve remained in Nepal to contribute to society, working with several projects to help maximize their impact, while taking with me the lessons I’ve learned.
Situations like mine are the very situations that could serve as fertile breeding ground for the seeds of self-doubt or fear to grow. What happened is personal to me, but we can all relate to feelings of fear or inadequacy that can lead to us making decisions we feel we need to, rather than those we want to.
We’ll all face moments in life that push us to our limits—physically, mentally and emotionally—and these are the perfect moments for us to realize that we’re in charge of our own destiny.
What I learned
We must stay true to ourselves
I learned that, during this time of extreme trauma, losing myself and my beliefs would’ve been detrimental to my physical and mental health. It would’ve been easy and understandable to become filled with anger and hate towards the police or Nepal.
I showed gratitude for the food from a bucket that came twice a day. I showed gratitude for cleaning the toilets when asked to, or taking the rubbish out to the bin in the courtyard.
By showing compassion and gratitude, however, I was able to secure my physical well-being. I showed gratitude for the food from a bucket that came twice a day. I showed gratitude for cleaning the toilets when asked to, or taking the rubbish out to the bin in the courtyard. It was in these small moments of appreciation that I understood that I still had it better than others in this world, and the guards were no longer inclined to physically push me around.
During the dark times, when my mind would see no hope, I’d recite mantras. To sleep at night, I practiced meditation techniques. This stopped my mind from running away with its thoughts and creating scenarios that didn’t exist, and thereby allowed me to step back from the trauma and show compassion and understanding.
Know it will be difficult
Whatever we desire—a dream job, to travel the world or to increase our confidence—new relationships will be difficult. If we prepare for this, though, we’ll be preparing ourselves to succeed.
I came to Nepal knowing that I’d left all the personal and professional security I had behind in London, England. This has allowed me to embrace the joy of the journey, including all the new connections, experiences and moments that have come with it. It’s also allowed me to appreciate small victories and pleasures, and live each day to the fullest. Days were once a procession, as I waited for the weekend to come around, but each one is now an adventure full of new opportunities for me to take.
Happiness is in the pursuit
Sometimes, life’s journey is long and difficult. We face obstacles that might break us, scare us or make us feel weak. Sometimes, it can be difficult to see the gift or the reason why we’re faced with certain situations. So many of us stop ourselves from pursuing something we love or desire due to worry.
Once we worry, we play out the worst-case scenario in our heads and don’t take on anything. We stop ourselves from reaching what we’re capable of. Sure, there are moments when things become uncomfortable, but this will happen regardless of whether we seek safety or risk.
If we’re pursuing something we love, we’ll find ourselves motivated beyond comprehension. We’ll attract people who will help us along on the journey, and we’ll find ourselves in situations that we’d once only dreamed about.
Self-doubt truly is a terrorist living within our souls.