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Don’t be afraid of being the person you have become

08 Jan 2013 | Albert Espinosa

The article below is an excerpt from The Yellow World - a book by Albert Espinosa who survived ten years of cancer, from ages 14 to 24, and lost a leg, lung, and part of his liver. His book presents the 23 life lessons he learnt and how we can apply those to our everyday lives to find happiness.

Yellow World title 

'Albert, trust the person you used to be. Respect your past self.'

My doctor always told me that he wanted the best for me, but sometimes what seemed the best ended up not being the best. It's difficult to know how a human body will react to a drug, or a therapy or an operation. But he asked me to trust him, and he emphasized this: 'I've always believed,' he said, 'that if my "past me" took this decision, it was because he believed in it. [Your 'past you' is you a few years, months or days ago.] Respect your past you.'

This was a great piece of advice. Maybe at that exact moment I didn't think of it in that way. I was about to have an operation and I really hoped that his 'present him' wasn't going to make a mistake.

After I left the hospital I reflected on these words. It was a great discovery, not just for medical purposes but for everything. We tend to think that we take the wrong decisions; it's as if we think that we're cleverer now than we used to be, as if our past selves hadn't balanced all the pros and cons of the decisions we make.

Ever since that doctor told me about his past self, I've always believed in my past me. I even think he's cleverer than my future me. So when I sometimes make a wrong decision I don't get annoyed, I remember that I took the decision myself and that it was considered and thought through (one thing is true, I always try to think through and consider my decisions).

You mustn't be upset by the wrong decisions you make. You have to trust your past you. Of course your fifteen-year-old you could have made a mistake not taking that class, or your twenty-three-year-old you shouldn't have gone on that trip, or your twenty-seven-year-old you shouldn't have taken that job. But it was you who took those decisions and you must have dedicated some time to taking them. Why do you think that you've now got the right to judge what he, your past you, decided to do? Accept who you are, don't be afraid of being the person that your decisions have made you into.

Bad decisions crystallize, bad decisions, after a while, turn into good decisions. Accept this and you will be happy in your life and above all happy with yourself.

My doctor made three or four mistakes. I never threw these decisions in his face because I didn't think that his mistakes came from a lack of experience or professionalism. In order to make mistakes, one has to take risks; the result is the least important part of the process.

I am sure that if we got your eight-year-old you, your fifteen-year-old you and your thirty-year-old you together in a room they would have different ideas about almost everything and they would be able to justify every decision they'd taken. I love trusting my past me; I love living with the results of the decisions he took.

I have a huge scar over where my liver is from surgery. The operation wasn't any use in the end because there was nothing wrong with my liver, but my doctor had thought I had cancer and that if I wasn't operated on then I would die. This scar makes me feel very proud, makes me feel a lot of different feelings whenever I see it. Everything that provokes a surge of emotions is positive, extremely positive. So:

  1. Analyse any decisions you've taken that you think were mistakes.
  2. Remember who took them. If it was you, remember the reasons you had. Don't believe that you are cleverer than your past you.
  3. Respect your decisions and live with them.
  4. Eighty per cent of you is the consequence of decisions you've taken. Love yourself for what you are; love yourself for what you have become.
  5. Above all, acknowledge that you sometimes make mistakes. The 20 per cent of you made out of mistakes is something you have to acknowledge and accept. 

Like that doctor told me: acknowledgementis the key word. You have to acknowledge yourself, acknowledge how you became what you are and acknowledge whose fault it is.

They taught us in the hospital to accept that we can make mistakes. My doctor sometimes made mistakes and always accepted the blame. The world would run more smoothly if we all accepted that we make mistakes, that we have made mistakes, that we're not perfect. Lots of people try to find excuses for their mistakes, look for someone else to blame, shift liability for deaths on to other people; they never know the joy of accepting responsibility. There is joy in the knowledge that you have made a wrong decision and that you acknowledge it.

I would love to see more trials where people admit their guilt, or drivers stopped for breaking the speed limit admit that they were going too fast.

We have to acknowledge that we make mistakes in order to see where the mistakes are and not make them any more. Maybe lots of people are afraid of the punishment that will follow from this admission, but the punishment is the least important bit; the only important thing is to give your brain the correct information.


The Yellow World is published by Particular Books and available on Amazon

Yellow World book

Albert Espinosa never wanted to write a book about surviving cancer, so he didn't. He wrote a book instead about the Yellow World. It is the name of a way of living, of seeing life, of nourishing yourself with the lessons that you learn from good moments as well as bad ones. It is the world that makes you happy, the world you like living in. The yellow world has no rules; it is made of discoveries. In these 23 discoveries Albert shows us how to connect daily reality with our most distant dreams. He tells us that 'losses are positive', 'the word "pain" doesn't exist', and 'what you hide the most reveals the most about you'.

Albert has won several battles with death, which is why his stories are full of life. His greatest hope is that after you have read this book you will go off in search of your yellow world. At the age of thirteen, Albert was diagnosed with cancer, an event that changed his life forever. When he was fourteen, his left leg had to be amputated. At sixteen his left lung was removed, and when he was eighteen part of his liver was taken out. After ten years in and out of hospitals, when he was finally told that he had been cured of the disease, he realised that his illness had taught him that what is sad is not dying, but rather not knowing how to live.


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