How To Appreciate What Life Gives Us And Stop Taking People For Granted

Surreal photography by Oleg Oprisco

Surreal photography by Oleg Oprisco

“Where have you been all my life?” you asked me when we first met and I felt like asking you the same thing. A useless question really, what answer could I ever give to that? But I knew the kind of feeling that made you ask it because I was experiencing it too. Where was this person that can make my life so much better until now? I have spent so many years that could have been so much better had she already been in my life.

That question is a true manifestation of appreciation. I appreciate you so much that I wish you entered my life earlier because you are so special that I think you actually make my life better. A little, bizarre question with a beautiful message: I value you so much that I think your impact on my life is massive. Voltaire said that appreciation is a wonderful thing because it makes what is excellent in others become ours as well.

But then time passes and all the people you wished came into your life earlier have been in it for a while and there is nothing special anymore. That laughter that used to be the most soothing sound in the world is now mundane and, sometimes when you try to focus on your work and she is watching TV, a little annoying. Why can’t she be a little quieter for a few minutes?

Those long conversations that have a cathartic effect on you are now a given. What does she mean when she says she does not have time to listen you? Does she know how much you need her and a conversation like that? Who is she to take away your right of having that conversation?

There is nothing special in her nakedness anymore, there is nothing new to find now. The smell of her skin is so familiar that you can’t really feel it anymore. The way her eyes change colour depending on light is not fascinating anymore; it’s something that simply happens, why make a big deal out of it?

There is a tendency to appreciate things less as time goes by. It is related to our passion for the new, which is completely normal. We all share it. Whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with being attracted to the new, I think we must not forget to appreciate what we have whilst continuously seeking it.

It takes a voluntary effort to see how special something that you are used to is. It’s a silly example but it proves the point very well: you know those moments when your nose is congested and you think, “How could I not appreciate how great it is to breathe normally? When I will be able to do so again, I will appreciate it more.” But then you feel better and forget those thoughts.

Something that you are so used to, like breathing, is very special if you look at it from the right perspective. To move back to inter-personal examples, those old friends you can always call regardless of the hour, they are very special too and deserve appreciation.

I’ve seen many friendships breaking apart because of a lack of appreciation. Being taken for granted is painful and appreciation is the cure for that. It’s true that it takes a voluntary effort but it works magic. Many of us need to feel appreciation because we feel like we are doing a lot for our friends, our lovers, and our families. We do everything because we want to, it’s true, but that does not make us any less demanding of appreciation. “I do this for you, and I’ll keep on doing it because I love you, but I would be so happy and I would do it with so much more passion if I felt that you appreciated me for it.”

A sad phenomenon occurs when two friends or lovers are driven apart by a lack of appreciation. After a while, one of them starts feeling the void left by the other’s leaving and learns, the hard way, what role that other truly had. Just like with breathing, being used to something tends to make us oblivious to it, which is helpful in some instances, but not in interpersonal relations. “I miss you, how could I not see how important you are to me?” Painful to write, painful to hear, and many times also too late to write or to read.

The lack of appreciation has a twofold effect. The person that fails to give appreciation experiences a kind of unhappiness and boredom. There is nothing new, nothing special. Your lover does everything she always does, gets happy about the same things, laughs at the same kind of videos; there is just nothing new or fascinating anymore. The person that feels unappreciated is faced with a decline in willingness to do whatever they are doing for his or her partner. Great future plans and ideas die prematurely, without ever being born, because there seems to be no point in working to make them become a reality.

People are magnificent and fascinating. If you pay close attention, you can see that. An everyday conversation becomes such a happy occurrence when you think that the other person took 15 minutes out of their life to listen to you, give the best advice they can give, and laugh with you. You’ll say now, “They are my friends, they better do that for me anyway.” They are and perhaps they should, but what if they did not want to? It’s exactly this type of thought that shows you might be taking them for granted.

“Where was I in this whole relationship for the past few months not to appreciate the magic of your nakedness and the chance to experience it, not to appreciate the uplifting feeling I have after we talk and the sound of your laughter, which, now that I think about it, is still the most soothing sound I know?”

But, by far, what we tend to forget to appreciate most is life itself. It’s so easy to find the ways in which your life is imperfect. Perhaps you still don’t have your dream job, perhaps you are still single seeking the right person, or who knows what other questions left unanswered. But before being so upset about your life not being perfect, why not take a second to appreciate that you have a life? You are alive and what you always wanted might happen tomorrow, or next week, or indeed, never. Nevertheless, whilst you are alive you can hope and you have the chance to go running towards your dream, that thing that would make your life better, whatever that is.

PS: A great side effect of appreciation is that when you appreciate other people they tend to appreciate you back because you make them happy, you make them feel valued and loved, and when we feel enough love we tend to want to share it.

Thank you for appreciating my text enough to reach this point. I appreciate you spent a few minutes of your life reading my work.

William Alec is a full time writer, dreamer and art lover. He took to writing at age 14 and his latest novel is called A hospital for souls.

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