It’s something I have told myself many times over for years. Anytime I have ignored that advice and stayed in my comfort zone, I think I have derailed myself. Years and years of doing what was expected of me. What I was “supposed” to do always felt like paddling upstream.
My life is different than I expected it to be.
For a long time, I felt that fear of missing out. I felt that insane pressure to follow the crowd and dreaded the looks I would get by doing my own thing. Growing up, it was never good to stand out. You were weird. You didn’t get invited to the parties. You didn’t get to date anyone. Being different was bad. Being different was synonomous with being lonely.
I’m trying to voice this thought without sounding bitter, because today, right now, I am anything but. My heart feels light. The world is open to possibilities. So many possibilities that the choices and variety of what comes next feels endless. Like stepping out into infinity.
I’m alone, but I haven’t felt lonely in a while. This morning though, I felt something. Some kind of pull. I felt a sadness. A loss. Like turning and saying goodbye forever to an old friend. I knew that old friend was a version of myself I tried to be. I’ve outgrown him and what he thought he wanted. He had that last vestige of clinging on to an old value. The need to be wanted. Or rather the need to provide for someone else–family, relationships, friendships, his job–to find value in himself. He knew it wasn’t right to see his value through someone else’s eyes, through someone else’s approval, or their need of him. But he did it anyway.
I am moving forward, and that version of myself knows he can’t come along. He knows I won’t write to him anymore, and he’s telling me not to feel guilty about it. We have to grow. He has known it was coming for a while. I am no longer him.
The next steps ahead, leave my head swimming. I feel so light. Unsteady.
I’m not saying that old path was wrong. It just wasn’t right for me. It might be right for someone else. I might have been right for me if I hadn’t kept moving forward. Right now, I feel vulnerable in the way that someone must when they set out on a long journey with no compass and no goal in mind. Whatever I encounter now is directed by only one plan.
To live. To experience what this life has to show me. To savor the things that I experience.
It’s the plan I had when I was seventeen, but the idea of being an explorer in our lives is terrifying, because we are told what we “need.” And as it turns out, most of us drive ourselves crazy chasing those things, when we really never really needed any of that. Security, stability, A then B then C then D (or someone’s perceptions of these things) can turn into a prison. All of my life I have been lazy, because I thought it was easier to just do what was expected of me, rather than what I wanted. Now I’m finding out that the opposite was true, fighting to be someone I wasn’t was much harder. My life has not been easy because I’ve tried to cram myself into a box. Really, it was a cage.
Today, I feel like I have breath in my lungs. I don’t feel like there was one more thing I could have done to fix something. I am no longer haunted by my regrets. I have dug a hole, and now I get to fill it with anything I want. For the rest of my life.
The possibilities of what can come next are so, very frightening. But I no longer feel trapped by a “plan.” I’m no longer fighting to be wanted, I’m no longer settling for a prepackaged life that seemed adequate. And to those who walked away from me, they can wonder one day how life would have been if they had taken a different path. I’m not going to concern myself with it anymore. It is their loss.
I’m seeing my real worth just now, and it has almost nothing to do with anyone else’s approval. It is no longer bound to any sense of injustice or something I “deserved” but didn’t get. I’ve thought what I have wanted and chased after it many times, only to discover it wasn’t what I wanted after all. I’ll be another year older soon, and maybe I still don’t know what I really “want.” I know what I don’t want. And I also know what I’m not willing to settle for.
I’m breathing. I can smell the rain as the next shower is about to begin. And the world I have been living in has been parched for so long.