I’ve never had one of those 5 – 10 year plans. Maybe 5 – 10 months at most. And even then, how I feel can change every 5 – 10 days. What I do have – and what I’ve always relied on – is a sense of general direction. I don’t know exactly how each step is going to look; I just trust that little voice that whispers “that way.”
This might be terrifying to some as they stand trembling at the top of a diving board looking into the unknown.
I’m thinking of someone close to me who’s been in the same job, overworked and tired for 12 years. After one of our routine conversations – of complaining without changing – they surprised me by taking the plunge and quitting without another job lined up. Having been in that position many times, I provide my assurance that they’ll find something to land on. Especially since quitting; they have no other choice.
“If you want to take the island, burn the boat” – Tony Robbins
Sometimes we just have to push ourselves out of our comfort zones. Whenever I’ve praised my adventurous life, starting with my move to Tonga in 2014, I’m quick to state I was ‘forced’ out by the lack of opportunities in my small city. I did have an ember of curiosity about the world. But I also feared letting go of everything that was familiar and comfortable. Joseph Cambell outlines this in The Hero’s Journey.
I’m not exactly sure which stage I’m at now. I recognise I’ve covered a lot of ground – the evidence is in my surroundings. But the honest truth is that no matter where I stand, I’m still carrying this feeling of “not enough.” And I’m starting to understand why…
Especially as I go to take a photo of the view, but I end up on social media looking at the peaks that others stand on.
Having a healthy relationship with social media is a serious challenge. And my experience last year really illustrates this. I was in the paper – which was amazing. I initially felt great – until I felt worse.
After those few minutes of fame I only wanted more. I started checking my post analytics and comparing myself to those with a bigger online presence. It’s sad. From that initial boost I ended up slowing down and I haven’t been writing as much since.
The needed pick-me-up came through a conversation with Bree (I was a guest on her podcast, Feelz) where we spoke about creativity as a “way of being.” This is in reference to tapping into one’s own wellspring of internal motivation rather than chasing those metrics of validation like pacman. Gobble, gobble, gobble. These metrics – shares, likes, tik tok’s toks and whatever is next – are junk food. They’re tasty and addictive, yet are never truly satisfying.
Of course, I’m saying all this while still using social media. Because again, love-hate. The engagement, feedback, community and inspiration is great. But ultimately I want to be self-validating. I want to forget the world and lose myself in the moment – like when I’d stay up late recording raps in my bedroom closet or dance outside under the moonlight. I want to dip into the creative ether and emerge having transmuted my feelings into an artistic expression.
(This experience is shared by creatives I know. Including my talented friend and one-man-band, James who made this album you should listen to.)
The project I feel the muse is currently calling me to is a hardcover photo book of my poetry snippets (the working title is The Texture of Words). After the recognition I received last year, I felt called to make this my focus rather than Home which is my follow up to my first title Living in Cream.
Creating Living in Cream was one of the best experiences of my life. Initially it was an ebook, but three years later I went through the process of self-publishing hard copies. Holding it in my hands meant it existed in a way that it didn’t before. I felt like I had crossed a line. And it didn’t matter if anyone was there to cheer me on (or buy the books) because I was still going to celebrate what I had achieved.
To move forward, we need a finish line to cross; a destination in mind. And I’m saying this from the bottom of one my deepest runts in a long time. I’m not sure if it’s the onset of Winter or just the result of getting older. At 33, I’ve been at this for a while. Step by step. Forwards, backwards. It’s exhausting. And I’m finding myself looking at the world without the sense of enchantment I had when I was younger.
Antidepressants helped lighten the load of 2020 so going back on them is a possibility. But I have my resistance. Partly because of my desire to see depression as something that can help me to develop; something I can work with.
“Over the course of your lifetime, parts of you will grow and blossom, some will rot. To be sad, grieving, struggling, lost, or hopeless is part of natural human life. By riding the wave of your dark night, you are more yourself, moving toward who you are meant to be.” – Thomas Moore
So the question is if this is a stage of metamorphosis? Is the darkness due to being in a cocoon that I’m soon to emerge from? It is said that it’s always darkest just before dawn.
I currently feel there’s truth to these words. I’m at a stage of disorientation and reorientation. One area is my relationship with fitness. I’ve always felt the need to have a lean muscular appearance. But lately, I’ve been letting that go and working towards just feeling comfortable as I am. The other area is my career. I’m nearing the end of my counselling studies and will soon step into a completely new world.
The idea of finally finding my place in the world is exciting, but I’m also terrified – trembling at the top of the driving board. My past hasn’t left me with the greatest sense of confidence in my decisions. Which, in fairness, is a common trait of those with ADHD. Especially those diagnosed as adults.
The remedy has been to return to my mantra that this is my “way of being.” Which challenges the idea of choice. Suggesting that we don’t choose what to be; we choose whether or not to be who we’re meant to be.
“Fate” and “destiny” might be a bit too “out there” – which I understand. But we can’t deny we all have a natural inclination to be a certain way. This “pull” towards our strengths and authenticity is what I’m trying to describe. And as I reflect on my journey to be a counsellor, I can follow the threads as far back, even before I started this blog in 2013, to 2010 when I was helping strangers on anonymous internet forums.
Bree kindly said I’ve “got a lot coming my way – even if I don’t realise it.” And I’m holding on that, tightly. Along with a story that was shared during a recent workshop. It was from someone who had been married unhappily for 30 years in a controlling relationship. After her husband passing away and meeting someone new, she is now happier than she’s ever been. Than she ever thought possible.
Possibility means keeping the doors open that depression closes along with the blinds. It stands in contrast to probability which is grounded in the past. If someone can experience their time in the sun at 60 then it’s ridiculous to believe 33 is too late for me – regardless of how tired I feel. (Thanks Verity for helping me recognise this.)
Staying grounded in possibility requires managing our expectations. I’ve started recognising this as part of stepping into a new stage of life. It’s embarrassing to speak about – but I had big dreams for myself. In highschool, I’d daydream about being a rap artist on stage. Heck – even when I was writing Living in Cream I felt this was where I “make it.”
Now, you could say I’m coming to terms with my ordinariness. This isn’t a case of tragically throwing my dreams into the trash. It’s recognising how f*king awesome an “ordinary life” is. Returning to my early sh*t on social media, I blame it along with conventional media for filling our heads with ideas and inflating our egos.
I don’t have to be a celebrity. I’m already the lead star in my own story – as you do in yours. We are all at the centre of our own unique universes. And we’re surrounded by people who love and appreciate us.
“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” – Aldous Huxley
I’ll add to this that our work on ourselves always has a spillover effect. Which is also a segue into my close… A dear friend referred to me as a “light hole” – in reference to the light I bring into the world. So if I were to describe my “way of being” I’d say this is it. I feel it’s important to note that I’ve been learning from Carl Jung that we all have shadows. However, we’re still left with a conscious choice of how we orient ourselves in the world. And I choose to show up in the world in a way that brings some much needed light.