I reflect a lot about the value of now, as in, this moment, right now. There is so much that can be achieved, accomplished, said, felt, thought, decided, experienced….but it was specific things and all things which happened up until right now, which have lead to this moment, shaped this moment, determined everything within this moment, including the way of thought and the perception chosen.
I have always felt an incredible appreciation for life and living, and although one of my favourite songs has served as a reminder of this, my true understanding of trying to make the most out of this lifetime, really came about through experiences during my childhood.
I grew up in Bosnia. My family went through poverty, discrimination and many hardships as a result of the war in the early 1990s. Although I am glad not to have been in the war zone where the fighting happened, what I did experience was being a refugee in part of former Yugoslavia which at the time was the same country. (I still don’t understand how we were refugees in our own country although I was aware that religion played a big role in the war, and was interchanged with nationality.) There is something about having that status of a “refugee” which makes you feel like an outcast. We didn’t have the nicest clothes, or the best quality of food, provided we actually had something to eat. (I remember one day my mom was crying over the stove because she had no food to cook.) We definitely couldn’t afford to buy very many things and it was a struggle to maintain what little we did have.
We were able to receive help after obtaining our “refugee” status. The people at Red Cross were amazing and I’ll be forever grateful to them for all of their help. The trips to Red Cross, to get staples of flour, oil, Spam, sugar, salt, and if luck was on your side, perhaps a ‘new’ used piece of clothing, often left me feeling grateful but small. My parents usually spared us those trips but one visit is enough to stay with you forever.
One thing I remember from the times we went to Red Cross was the crowd – other refugees, in similar or worse situations than my family’s, waiting in line, sweating in the summer months, shivering in the winter months, always asking for a little bit more this time out of need, but unable to get more from the limited supply Red Cross had to ration out. Then there was the walk ‘home’ (for some reason I don’t remember the walk to Red Cross), loaded with precious heavy cargo, with many breaks along the way to catch our breath or rest for a few minutes. I remember holding my head upright and looking straight ahead as I did not want to meet the eyes and gazes of the onlookers (locals) for the fear of seeing pity or anger in their eyes. (Refugees were seen as a burden to some in the parts of former Yugoslavia we were in – from Montenegro to northern Serbia.) I avoided those common looks of judgement because silently they picked at my spirit and jaded my views of the world, lessening the height of my dreams and thoughts. It’s incredible that discrimination causes a 10 year old girl to feel all of that, don’t you think? I doubt that discrimination based on race, religion or sex is any different, and I’m always amazed that it still exists. But I digress…
When my parents moved us to Canada, I felt lost in the beginning. It is a country of people with many different cultural backgrounds and races of which I knew nothing about. (The first time I ever saw a non-white person and interacted with someone in English was a month before leaving for Canada and it was a black man, in a UN vehicle, who was asking for directions.) With time, I realized that I had more in common with people of non-Canadian origin as many of them experienced some type of discrimination either prior to or after moving here.
Very quickly, I also realized that moving to Canada gave us a chance at a new life, a better life, however different it might be. I learned about different cultures, foods, customs and have continued to do so in the last 17 (almost 18) years we’ve lived here. And through the examples set forth by my parents (see my last blog “Be One of My Heroes”), I realized that life truly is what you make it. It is about taking a chance in following your dreams, working on your goals, following your heart, doing what makes you happy and making the most out of each moment (by being and living in the moment). Of course all of this is achieved through very hard work, taking chances, making mistakes, living in this lifetime. Perhaps the very ambitious nature of my character, stems from my very experience, feelings and memories of war.
After moving to Canada, the little girl from Bosnia, who lives in me forever, after experiencing poverty, and discrimination based on a social status, chose to always follow her heart, stay true to it and not limit herself or any of her dreams. But most importantly, that little girl decided to face all of her fears and make the most out of each and every moment, as each moment is a blessing in itself.
Some of the things I’ve done to date: I’ve competed as a fitness model and a figure competitor, modeled, traveled (and will continue to do more), worked different jobs through last few years of high school and all through the 8 years of university (including a retail clothing store, sold knives, worked as a personal trainer, ran a small part of a gym for a little while, worked as a pharmacy technician for many years, helped run a marketing company and a fitness organization, coordinated fashion shows (and did make-up)), completed two university degrees, tried painting, learned how to play alto saxophone, wrote poems, started a blog (!), made many mistakes, got into and out of bad situations, learned from all of those experiences, and took chances!
I wrote all this to make a point – no matter what you’ve gone through in life, no matter how hard it gets or how much it gets you down if you want to do something so long as YOU believe you can, you really can! Remember that being ‘special’ isn’t exclusive to anyone – everyone has a story. I just chose to share mine. Now let’s get back to the music and my reminder….
Anyone who knows me personally, works with me, is friends with me on Facebook or follows me on twitter* knows that I LOVE music. I listen to any music with realness and a soulful feel. I’m talking about music you can relate to through lyrics which sometimes help with how you’re feeling at the moment or even gives you a different point of view on something you’re struggling with. Of course the actual music – notes, melodies, beats, composition – from which the song and lyrics are born is what speaks to our hearts through our ears and has the ability to lift us and carry us on emotional and spiritual journeys if we listen and feel it. I’ve been very blessed over the years and have accumulated quite a large collection of CDs of soulful, real goodness. (Yes, I still buy CDs!)
Although I loved music since I was very young, I think I really allowed music to take me wherever I needed to go – mentally, emotionally, spiritually – ever since the war and it remains a big part of my life, especially my many growth journeys (that’s another blog topic ;)).
I believe I was formally introduced to the music of Maxwell by my best friend, E. It might have been late 1990s, early 2000 when I REALLY listened to his work. It was soulful, meaningful, and often had me thinking or reflecting on the topic of the song or lyric(s).
I have a very deep appreciation for all of Maxwell’s released work, however, my ALL-TIME favourite is actually a song from the Now album called “Lifetime”. On my portable CD player (I know some of you will remember those – they came out after Walkmans and before mp3 players and iPods!) I used to listen to “Lifetime” over and over on the bus and subway to and from university and before I went to bed.
For those who aren’t familiar, here are some of the lyrics which I felt and thought of as important, but self-explanatory:
“I was reborn when I was broken
I wouldn’t believe I wouldn’t believe,
been thru a storm no use in hopin’
that you would come rescue me
somehow your love set me free. And now“
“ I can let my life pass me by
or I can get down and try
work it all out this lifetime“…
“There was a time when love was unchosen
and now I’m just hopin’ for more
and now I’m just reachin’ out for something better
than I had before“….
“I can let it all pass me by
or I can just try and try
I can move to the light
oh if I take it one day at a time
oh spread my love out and fly
I can move to the light
ooh I can just make you understand
that love is not a fairytale in a melody
if you want it you can have it girl
maybe you will see? maybe you will see?”…
I am sure that my interprertation of this song doesn’t match what it was originally written about, but I think that is okay. Every time I listen to “Lifetime”, I let it remind me of what I had learned and believed before hearing it – you really only have this short life to do what you want to do, to be who you want to be, to make the most of your life. THIS LIFE!
Out of nothing, we can create something and we can always do more, do better, if we believe and simply try. I think it’s easier going through life ‘living’ in fear and not trying but I also think that that is the very thing which hurts us. I chose a song as my reminder of this, but a reminder can be someone you look up to, or a poem, a story, a book, a picture, a movie….it could be anything really. My hope for everyone is to remember those reminders for always and make the most out of THIS lifetime.
Here is the Youtube link for the video “Lifetime” by Maxwell: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMAHTZ2nBvk
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