It’s hard to know who you really are. Down to the very core of yourself, words can’t be of any use. Trying to label or categorise yourself is like trying to squish and elephant into a shoe box – although I’ve never tried it, I can imagine it’s near impossible (never say never). The wordless essence of you, although it cannot be explained, has very certain ideas. It is your intuition, and knows the truth about you – even if you don’t know it yourself. It knows what you love and despise, what you dream to do, what makes you zing with joy, and what inspires you. Often we’re unable to access this oasis of truth because it is blocked by walls we have unknowingly built (or had built for us) – walls constructed of societal expectations, gender norms, obligations, fears, insecurities, cynicism, a lack of hope. These obstructions have been developing alongside the true you that is buried very deep inside, and there is no way to grow as a person without having these walls built up too. However, the important thing to know is that we don’t have to live behind these walls. We can be free.
Here’s a little interlude, a half-time fairy tale.
Once there was a girl who grew up very self-conscious and insecure. Although she was smart and very often the top of her class, although she was quite fun to be around and funny at times, although she was slim and had a perfectly nice face, she always saw herself as stupid, boring and ugly. Her parents were ever supportive of her, but were somewhat baffled by the sudden plunge into self-hatred she had when she became a teenager. She never considered self-harm, but in a way her mind was doing that anyway as it berated her every day.
Time passed, and the girl grew out of her hormonal teenage years and into her early twenties. She got a boyfriend, went to university, and moved out of home. Things started to look up, although she could barely instigate a conversation with a stranger without her heart pounding in fear. As the years went by, a bud of courage that had no doubt always been there, began to blossom. She took baby steps at first, ending a relationship that needed to end, moving to a new city by herself, and getting to know what she liked and disliked – her inner essence – ever so slowly. She traveled overseas with her next boyfriend, trekked to Everest Base Camp with him, and was broken up with at the summit of the trek. The next day she took a long bus trip away from him, and a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the country. Alone, single, and in shock, the girl had to heal herself. Now stripped of many fears that had possessed her throughout her life, she traveled to Vietnam alone, moved to Scotland, and moved back to Australia when she was ready to finish her degree. She studied hard and got good marks. She volunteered at her favourite music festival then drove down the east coast by herself, not scared of being alone one bit.
Throughout her years of journeying she saw beautiful things, and crossed paths with many special people who showed her their way of seeing life. As she was exposed to these diverse world-views, the walls she had built began to crumble, brick by brick. Slowly she came to understand how amazing she was as a person – how amazing every one of us is – and how her insecurity had been built on falsities she told herself. She realised that nobody is ever paying as much attention to you as you think they are, because they are caught up in their own lives. She learnt that life is not a test to be passed, a checklist to tick with each milestone; it is evolving, organic, and exactly what you want to make of it.
She traveled on her own and did things alone and wasn’t afraid because she knew she had her head screwed on right and could use her intuition as a compass. The girl, now a woman, knew that the most important thing was to do what her heart yearned to do, even if it went against the rules society had laid out for her, even if the world saw her as crazy, because she listened to the essence inside herself.
She found other people who also paid attention to this vital part of themselves and admired them endlessly for the way they lived. Like the friend who quit his job and surrendered everything to his music, living out of his van and travelling up and down Australia, just so he could be a part of nature and sing about it with his guitar. When she saw and heard him play, she could recognise the sound of the essence inside him singing with joy. And when she was around people who had released themselves like this, she found their bounding joy and freedom infectious. She followed their brave footsteps.
This story, as you guessed, is about me. A real-life fairy tale about finding courage within myself to battle my demons, emerging victorious, free, strong, and not disillusioned anymore. You have the seed of courage inside yourself too. Let it grow. Smash down those walls. Free yourself and live the life you really want to live.