I am in a dimmed almost dark space. On my left there’s a lady in her mid 40s and possibly her daughter. On my right a friend. I am starring ahead and really I don’t know what to expect. I bought a ticket for a presentation about Africa (or that’s as much as I remembered from the description). It sounded interesting and a good way to relax that evening.
After a short introduction the presenter came on the stage, she received the microphone and introduced herself – Antoniya Hubancheva. I’ve never heard of her, but most of the people in the hall seemed to know her work and applauded. She moved onto the first slide. “Kircho” (Bulgarian boy’s name) written on the black background. Antoniya suddenly exploded in laughter that almost got her out of breath. She jumped off the stage and came back with a little boy in her arms who was in fact Kircho. She explained that the slide should have had his photo but instead we got to see the real living Kircho.
At that point I was certain it won’t be the typical presentation you get to see. And I was right. Anotoniya continued with the same personal and quite improvised style. She was telling us the story of her work in Africa, in the jungles of Malawi studying bats. Yes, the flying mammals.
The presentation brought a lot of laughter, sometimes sadness but for me the strongest moment was at the end. She finished the presentation with a story. She was gravely ill from malaria, thinking she would die. In that moment when there was a storm outside the tent, rhynos were running and crashing trees around, while her fever was above 40 C degrees she remembered this video and the quote below.
Anotniya said that in that moment she saw all the people that she ever knew and met. She felt that those people and knowing them were the best part of her life.
“If you must die, know that your life…. was my life’s best part.”
Life is about people – full stop
No matter how hard we work, create, push ourselves, the best parts of our lives are the experiences we create with people. “Work” at the end of the day/week/year/life will be a big blob of “work” in our memory, but what is highlighted are the memories we have with other people.
Think about it, pushing every day at the office or wherever you work when Friday “suddenly” comes what do you remember? Mainly the feeling of hustling all week and not realising how it all flew by. When even more time separates us from the hours of hustling the whole experience is blurred even more.
However, the moments we share with others have a very different texture. As soon as you meet a person that you know or not and exchange the first words or even just meet each other’s eyes something magical happens. The experience is unique, the connection. Even if you hate or are angered, if you love and are compelled there is a flow between the two that is different to our relationships with anything else in the world.
I am not saying we shouldn’t work, hell I love to work, I can’t deal without it. But, I am suggesting we be more conscious about appreciation of our time spent in the company of others. Not necessarily because it is something we need to tell those people, but for our own benefit, so that we may be happier and more grateful for the time passing.
A friend, your family or just an acquaintance – why not leave the phone for a bit and actually pay attention to what is happening? In fact, another creature with their free will has decided to spend focus and time (the most precious resources we have) on you. Even if they don’t realise it or don’t value them, you can still do it for them. Stop, listen, observe and try to be a side viewer (not taking whatever is happening personally). See yourself as the alien on earth and then look at the situation. Pretty cool, isn’t it? What is that sitting in front of you, where do its intentions come from? What is it trying to communicate?
Weird, yes, but I do that sometimes and find it greatly refreshing and also inexhaustibly unique.
There will be situations where your emotions are bubbling and you can’t think, when you would just want to be as far away from people as you can. That’s ok, I get that too. However, it is still about people, think about it.
I almost cried at the end of the presentation. I don’t know why. I didn’t though, I kept it in, however many around me did cry. It is probably because Antoniya managed to reach into everyone in that hall with her personal stories and bring us to that moment when she was lying on the bed. It really made sense, the best parts of my life are the lives of the people I meet. I depend on you. Thank you.