Truth: Not everyone will get what you do or who you are (and why’s that’s okay!)
When I was nine, I remember regularly asking my Dad if it was possible to walk down every single street in the world.
“If you spent your whole life walking, would you be able to walk down every street around the world?” I would ask.
For some reason, I was pretty hung up on it.
Surely, if you spent every day you were alive walking down different streets, you could do it.
And I simply couldn’t fathom what he was talking about when he would reply that it wasn’t possible. I just couldn’t get my head around how big the world was.
But something changes when being nine is a distant memory.
We forget that there are almost unlimited number of things to explore and learn.
We forget that there are endless things to find out about, so many choices we could make, so many ways to spend our time and so many people to meet.
Whether directly or indirectly, we’re told to niche down; to find a focus. We’re told to be realistic, and to choose. We’re told to figure out what path we’re on and stick to it.
And we get pressured to put and fit ourselves into a box - or in most cases someone else puts us in a box - and our lives become even smaller still.
We feel pressured to make our lives understandable, to dumb down the more complicated parts of ourselves and present ourselves in a way that people can place us in a box with little more than a second’s notice.
Somewhere in our lives we forget how big the world is.
And the world becomes a whole lot smaller.
Our optimism and hope are brushed aside for the sake of playing by the rules and living a quote, conventional life. Our lives are full of thousands of unwritten rules that we seldom find the time to question because our lives become so busy.
Sometimes, just sometimes, we can hear the whispers and the echoes of our nine year old selves, who questioned EVERYTHING. But when they come back, we dismiss them as childish.
It’s not that our nine-year-old selves were naive or incorrectly interpreting the world, or wrong.
In fact, nine-year-old you was bang on the mark, and more intelligent than we give ourselves credit for and I think we could learn more from our nine-year-old selves than we ever could from somebody who stands on a stage and claims to have it all figured out.
In fact, I think Pablo Picasso was speaking directly from the heart of our nine year old selves when he said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
Something I find comes up again and again, in my client’s lives, in my friend’s lives and in my own life is the self-doubt, the questioning and the frustration that comes with doing your own thing.
And by doing your own thing, I mean choosing to do creative projects that set your heart alive, choosing to live somewhere or in some way that other people don’t necessarily understand, choosing to design your everyday life in a way that feeds your soul, maybe choosing to work in a different way or a mix of all of the above.
While on paper it sounds like a breath of fresh air, I’ve found that in reality, the path to choosing your own path is pretty...different.
There’s so much resistance; so many things we think we should be doing. We measure ourselves against an imaginary stick and we never even come close. There’s so many ways we compare ourselves: to the vision and expectations we have for ourselves, to the expectations other people have for us and the expectations of where we think we should we at this age, or this stage in our lives.
And that’s just the stuff that comes from inside our own heads. That’s not even touching on the unsolicited advice or feedback we receive from others; the well-intended comments that miss the mark completely and the people who plain and simply don’t and never will get us.
We forget that other people’s remarks are often a projection of their own regrets, their own wishes and just their own shit.
We forget that it doesn’t actually matter all that much what other people think because we are the ones living our lives; we are the ones who have to show up every single day and live by our choices.
We forget that we don’t have to fit ourselves into a box and we get to live a messy, imperfect and creative life that doesn’t make sense on paper.
We forget that we don’t live our lives on paper.
And in the process of forgetting, we lose a lot of remembering.
We don’t remember that the reason we live outside of the box is because we never found a box that would be a good fit, and we resented the idea of fitting into one in the first place.
We don’t remember that we chose to do things our own way because the status quo just didn’t work for us and we felt free when we realised that it wasn’t our only option.
We don’t remember that we can choose to define ourselves and follow the things that set our hearts on fire.
And we don’t remember that the world is big.
I’d love to go back and answer my nine-year old self.
I would tell her this:
While you can’t walk down every street in the word, there are so many things you can do in this life which are so much more fulfilling, exciting and surprising than spending your days walking down different streets. There are countless people you will meet, there are endless journeys you will take and every single one of them will take you to places you never expected, and sometimes even places that no one has been before.
I would tell her to keep her eyes wide, to keep an open heart and to write her own rulebook. I would tell her to take other people’s words with a pinch of caution and remember that she has the final say.
And in writing this, I realise I’m not talking to my nine-year old self. I mean, nine year old me was wiser than I could ever give her credit for.
Instead, I’m talking to my twenty-eight year old self who has done her fair share of forgetting and memory.
I’m talking to you, reading this right now, because I know you need to hear it too.
The world is big, and even though it doesn’t always feel like it, it’s full of magic, adventure and surprises.
Remember that not everyone will get what you do and who you are and that’s okay.
And don’t forget that you don’t need to choose.
Follow your curiosity, follow whichever path feels right to you, and dare to forge your own path, unapologetically.
What do you wish you could go back and tell your nine-year-old self? How are you following your curiosity? Let us know in the comments!