“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” – Rumi
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what being satisfied means, thinking about the stories we tell ourselves and the paths that seem to unwind before us. Without judgement, I’ve been wondering if the people around me who are getting married and having babies are doing so because they want to, or if they feel like they should because it’s the “logical” next step. I wholeheartedly support the endeavor if it’s what someone wants to do, but I also question if a lot of people my age are following the paths that they think they have to follow. How do we know?
To simplify a complicated question, we know the path we are heading down is the one for us if we find that we are happy, that we are walking down a path because we are following our happiness. Our own happiness, not the happiness of whoever else we wish to please. Of course we wish to please the people whom are close to us, but the person who should be closest to us, the person we should most wish to please, is ourselves. At the end of the day, we are all we have.
This life is rich and beautiful because we have the opportunity to forget the aloneness of our existence. We are born alone, we die alone, but while we are here we get to love. This love is valuable, no question, but what enables us to forge these connections with others is when we realize that the love we have for ourselves is the most important relationship we can create. Beyond looking in the mirror and loving what you see, what do you see when you look within?
For a long time, when I looked in the mirror I didn’t like who I saw, let alone love the person who I’d become. I saw a person who didn’t know herself, a person who was afraid, a person who wanted to please others but always seemed to fail. I failed because I didn’t know who I was, let alone love who I was. And looking within? I saw nothing. My vision was clouded, my outline was hazy. I couldn’t figure out why this was. I couldn’t figure out why it was that I loved other people but always seemed to hurt them. The answer, which would seem obvious to someone looking from the outside, was too impossible to comprehend. But eventually, the answer became clear. I needed to get out of my own way to find out who I was, to begin to love what was there.
The only way for me, personally, to get out of my own way, was to stop drinking. I had considered it at different times in my life, times when I was hungover or listless, times when I felt anxious or out of control. But I always felt like this would make me stand out more than I already did, that I would be missing out on moments of fun, that it would make me strange. But as you get older, you (hopefully) get to the point where the idea of standing out, the desire to fit in, and the fear of missing out, become much less important than discovering who you are and what makes you happy. I knew it was time to stop drinking when I realized that drinking wasn’t making me happy, that I wasn’t happy. And that was enough for me.
This life is too short to not be happy. To not actively be cultivating as much joy and love as you possibly can. This life is too short to be afraid of standing out or missing out, to wishing and hoping that you’ll fit in, to actually be missing out on a relationship that could be the greatest of all. This is what’s really scary. Not the fear of being seen as a weirdo because you don’t drink, not the fear of what others will think if you don’t get married, if you don’t really want children, if you’re still a barista when your mom thinks you should be a doctor, whatever. Please, for the love of god, as long as you’re not hurting anyone, just do what makes the person within happy.
And when this person is happy, or you’re working on making this person happy, you will find that that’s when you get the opportunity to make other people happy as well. You’re not going to please everyone, but you’ll be coming from a place that enables you to do your best. And doing our best is all that we can do. As long as we are always aspiring to improve, to get better, be better, that’s when we can finally rest easy. Not resting like taking a nap, but resting like surfers do in between waves, when they’re looking to the horizon with excitement, in anticipation of what’s next.
I wish you a wild, free life.