Storybook. A piece inspired by Scotland.
It's safe to say since my time in Scotland, I'm on a different path. Rather, I've always been on this path but now I see it differently, more clearly -- and for exactly what it is: my own. I've stumbled off of it more times than I can remember, but I've thankfully always found my way back. And I've finally discovered the tool to stay on this path, an inner compass to guide me along. One that I can use to sort out all decisions with, and gauge if the direction those decisions will lead me is right. Turns out, I carried it with me all along. It's pulled at me gently when I wavered and stumbled, not so gently when I took a wrong turn -- and held steadfast even when I desperately tried to twist the arrow in the opposite direction. It always leads me back, and for that I am humbled & grateful. But I couldn't have found this compass unless I first learned how to tune out the noise. Noise is everything that tries to drown out your inner voice. It's the pressure and the opinions of others, the unsolicited advice from those you know and sometimes from those you don't, the social 'norms' you think you need to abide by and live your life for. All of these influences can ghostwrite a story of who you are, even if you're not on board with it.
Take social norms. Social norms is a scientific term assigned to activities that many people do. As humans, we tend towards the norm because it appears safe. We can look to others being normal and say - they're doing it, I'm doing it, therefore it is right. Or worse, you think if you're not following the norms, then there's definitely something wrong with you. Maybe this sort of thinking works for you, but it doesn't for me. The beauty of my time in Scotland was the quiet. In the quiet, I discovered that when you break away from the thinking that society imposes, you realize just about everything we do as humans is to organize the chaos. When I let go of seeing my life in comparison to the norm -- once I got comfortable with a bit more chaos -- my inner compass had the freedom to reign again.
Being on my own and unplugging from everything familiar - family, friends, media, and American social norms - allowed me to take a real hard look at how I saw myself in comparison to how the world told me to. What I saw was this, a path of life which I knew was going to be fulfilling - and the one I was currently on. I also realized that I had to stop telling myself old, conventional stories about how to live my life. I do think it's human nature to develop and tell ourselves stories; to protect ourselves, to navigate difficult times, and to help us understand why people hurt us. We create stories about ourselves ("I'm incapable of this...") and about other people ("He's just really focused on his career right now..."). But are these stories true, or are they ways to avoid the truth? How much do we let these stories handcuff us to an idea or a perception of reality? How do those stories prevent us from moving forward, either with our own lives, or from understanding and connecting with someone? Think of a story you tell yourself. Now question it. Why do you tell yourself this story, over and over? Does it put up a wall? Does it ease the anxiety? Here's one of mine -- I need to be in a relationship to be truly, blissfully happy in life. I used to tell myself that for years. Why? Honestly, I didn't know. But what I figured out was when I stopped telling myself that story - a lot of things started to fall into place. I accepted that maybe I was destined for an unconventional path; that I wouldn't have the storybook lifestyle that other girls seemed to relish. It made sense - I had always admired those who were unconventional. I applauded those who were brave and refused to be just one of many -- the creatives, the trailblazers, the quietly confident and independent thinkers. I don't know their individual keys to success, but I don't need to. I know mine - and I finally have the means to listen.
This is my unsolicited and slightly hypocritical advice: shut out the noise and find out what YOU want. While you're at it, identify what stories you could be telling that prevent you from getting there - and just stop. If you're on a path that's not making you happy, you don't have to justify that to anyone. Just get up and go after what you know works for you. Everyone has demons to face. Everyone has dreams to chase. Don't you dare let fear stop you. It's time for a new chapter.