One year ago today I made a decision to change my life. A cardiology appointment prompted me to think more carefully about my lifestyle choices, and I became motivated to start living according to values of simplicity, humility, and compassion. In an August 2017 post, I saw this condition in the broader context of social and economic inequality:
“In recent years, [a sense of] awareness has grown and developed in my mind. I have become increasingly alert to the hardships faced by peoples and cultures, both locally and internationally. Since the economic crisis of 2008/9, I have witnessed an increase in poverty and inequality throughout the United Kingdom where I live, and particularly in the Welsh Valleys where I was born. I have seen increasing numbers of homeless men and women struggling to survive in the city of Cardiff, where I currently live, and an increase in the number of families and individuals seeking shelter from violence and persecution who are painfully exiled from their homelands. I have also witnessed wealthy institutions and public figures exploit the suffering of the poor and the dispossessed to increase societal divisions for the purpose of pursuing wealth, power, and influence. My reaction to this situation has evolved over time from anger, to profound disappointment, and ultimately to an awareness of the part I play, whether consciously or not. For too long I have been complacent with my own privilege and position, and I have put my own misguided ideas of comfort ahead of other people’s basic needs. I have felt ashamed to be among Christmas shoppers on a city High Street, walking past homeless people forced to beg in ice and rain. Until now, I feel that I have been sleepwalking through a cosy existence where words are worth more than action, and ethics is a philosophical concept rather than a lived practice.”
Six months later, I continued to reflect on the changes:
“I wanted to find a sense of peace and happiness in myself, and to live by my conviction that to enact social, cultural, and political change, it is essential that I change myself. I started following a healthy and balanced diet, stopped drinking alcohol, and began exercising regularly; I began to pursue my vocation as a writer; and I committed myself to getting more involved in my local community. Since that decision, I have attained a healthy bodyweight (having shed fifty-three pounds), am volunteering with local organisations, and write for my own enjoyment. I accept that meaningful change requires ongoing action and sacrifice, and I continue to be humbled by an awareness of my weaknesses and limitations. I am grateful for the understanding of my family and friends, and for their continued enthusiasm and support. I feel that I have found my peace, and I am happier than I have ever been.”
I continue to publish articles and reviews on a freelance basis while pursuing my own writing projects. I now volunteer with the Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team Wales (EYST), which provides pastoral support and educational assistance to teenagers and young adults. I also donate my time to a Cardiff-based group called Sanctuary Meeting (associated with the United Nations Association and Cardiff Quakers), which helps asylum seekers and refugees gain access to essential resources and education. One year later, I continue to be grateful for the ways in which a simple lifestyle has allowed me to pursue the things that are most meaningful to me.