Disclaimer: Presenting a story of extraordinary resolve and will power to share midlife inspiration. This story has not been edited and has been posted “as is” as provided by Mr Steven Mitra in his own words. Some representational Images are also used to add visual assistance to the story.
As I stare into oblivion, having reached the biggest crossroad of my life, my mind is engulfed with the only question – “Where to, from here?” Life has taken a dramatic turn and the more I delve into self-exploration, the acceptance of my “new normal” certainly seems to be a daunting task.
A couple of years ago, my life was in full swing. I was in the heart of the financial markets with a reputation to defend, racing towards the pinnacle of an enriched career built over two decades – and then a sudden jerk, and a complete halt. “You are dying and you need an emergency liver transplant”!
Hit with Autoimmune hepatitis (a similar condition that causes Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis amongst other critical illnesses) the words of my senior consultant were concise and clear, as I stared at him lying on my hospital bed. “But surely there must be another way”.
I had been taken ill for the best part of two months, but it seemed manageable with intermittent signs of a kick-start recovery. However, my condition deteriorated exponentially over 2 weeks where I entered the point of no return. “How long do I have?” was met with “You will be put on the National emergency list and we can only hope that we get a match within 10 days.”
Breaking the news to family and friends was hard. The next 10 days were crucial. Physically, my body was changing in appearance as my liver had stopped functioning completely. My skin turned black and I started bloating up with toxic fluid swirling inside me. Morbidity aside, my mind was alert and it was a race against time to ensure financial security for my family post my impending departure.
Consolidating all my finances and getting a “will” done was imperative. My family and friends stood by in quiet desperation as I started tying up all my loose ends.
As you lie in hospital with a cobweb of tubes, staring out into the open sky, you start reflecting on your life like never before. From my birthplace in Kolkata (previously known as Calcutta, the intellectual and cultural hub of India) to the bed at the Royal Free Hospital in London, you create the biggest blockbuster movie of all times – “MY LIFE”.
You try and sketch every detail, however small, every emotion, the highs and lows, people you have loved and despised, events that have shaped your life, your shortcomings, your opportunities missed. Till that point, I had not shed a tear. Life was coming to an end, and with some regrets, I couldn’t put right, I concluded that overall, I had been blessed and accepted my fate.
Fast-forwarding to the point where a benevolent soul left his legacy behind for me to carry within, here I am, two-and-a-half years later. It is an overwhelming feeling as I thank my donor and his family, every moment of my life. I carry a part of him inside me as he gave me the most beautiful gift ever – the gift of LIFE!
At the age of 42, having undergone such a journey, the spirit within rose like a phoenix to fight the greatest battle of all. Being “normal” again was to head straight back to work. Instead of giving my body, mind and soul time to recover properly, I was back on the hot seat within 4 months of my transplant (initially with a tube stapled to my stomach).
Aided with medication and defying all logic, I decided to “up my game” and started working more furiously than before. Mentally, I was unstoppable and the adrenalin rush was immense. Alas! Within 8 months and precisely on the first anniversary of my transplant, I was back at the hospital facing organ rejection!
So, life had given me a second chance and I blew it.
So many promises I had made myself – to rest, read, recover, meditate, travel and do the things I had never done before. But self-denial coupled with the urge to command control of my life had got me right back to the point of no return, yet again.
And that’s when the penny dropped. If I carried on like this, I would keep relapsing time and again – I had failed the “POWER OF CHOICE” and more so, I had failed my donor who wanted me to embark on a more productive, fruitful and joyful journey with my rebirth.
“Third time lucky” is where my journey begins. For the last 12 months, I have managed to get my mind and body aligned (as much as possible) to shape the next phase of my life. I stopped traditional work and took the time to travel a bit (within reason and with necessary precautions). I managed to read a few good books, which I normally wouldn’t have had the time during my busy work schedule.
I started exercising regularly and maintained a relatively healthy lifestyle. My recovery has been good and I think I am both mentally and physically in a much better place – I do have my moments, but the cocktail of medication that I take daily has some part to play, I think.
This has finally reshaped my mind into thinking about how to make my existence a life, which can hopefully be useful to others and humanity in general. I have consolidated my health and some finances, which gives me some time to focus on the future.
I have plans and hopefully, I will action them over time, but this time around, I intend to dedicate my life in helping people. The rest will fall in place, and that is my firm belief.
So, when you reach that crossroad in your life, I am sure you will find that you have spent half your life juggling finances, family, work, stress and health. We live in an ever-increasing materialistic world, which measures success with tangible possessions and hefty bank balances.
You just need to believe in yourself.
In pursuit of a perfect life, have we lost our own identity along the way? We keep worrying about the future and forget to live in the present. Having spoken to most of my peers in a cross-section of industries, the common theme is “we are stuck in a rut”. But how many of us are prepared to change it? There are always ways of enhancing your skillset and embarking on journeys, which will be fruitful in the long run.
I intend to be back with in-depth analysis on how to change your life – your career, money management, health and attaining self-fulfilment. If you, like me, are standing on a crossroad in life, just remember, you are not alone, and half the battle is won. You have recognised that you need a change. The crisis shall soon pass.
Steven S Mitra
Please feel free to get in touch with me for any questions, queries, guidance that I may be able to assist with.