It is extremely easy, when you are young, to allow all the wrong things to define who you are. I suspect the same is true even for older people, but luckily I’m not quite old enough to confirm that. Then again, I’m 25. That’s old relative to some, isn’t it?
By now I “should” know certain things. Things like: what I want to be now that I’m grown up (because OMG I am grown up), where I stand on touchy issues (gay marriage, the migrant crisis, to be or not to be a Belieber), how I like to have my coffee (any self-respecting adult knows this, k), who I’m voting for in 2016 (yikes), and even who I want to spend the rest of my life with (double yikes).
I don’t have “answers” for more than half of those things. And I won’t waste time in making a rather obvious point here: Even if I had the answers, they wouldn’t define me. My opinions and desires count for a lot, but they don’t constitute my entire being. They are not (and will never be) static. I am not static.
What sucks is that society seeks — almost demands— certainty. Certainty makes others feel comfortable. It allows them to place you in the world. It’s an I know what you do therefore I know who you are way of thinking; grossly oversimplified of course, but you get what I mean.
As a largely uncertain teen, I created imagined certainties for myself long ago. I envied others who knew what they wanted with such ease. My insecurities (already on steroids for the mere fact of my being a teenager) and an intense desire for love and approval (also a very stereotypical teenage need) drove me to choose the easiest and most obvious future to “want”: a sickeningly normal one. Choosing something — anything — was the easiest route to go down to escape the pressures I thought society was imposing on me (wether they were real or not).
I chose to want that near-perfect life with all the “usual” features: an impressive-but-fit-for-a-woman career (whatever that is), a healthy social (i.e. sosyal) life, the perfect husband and kids by a certain age, and to never ever upset my parents because that’s not normal. It just isn’t. (I’m not sure where I got my early ideas of normal, honestly.)
I chose my path and I was going to stick to it come hell or high water because to my mind, certainty meant a no-fail, secure future. A secure future meant happy parents and appeasing society in general. Appeasing others meant an overall happy life.
As it turns out, crafting the appearance of “normal” is easy work. All you have to do is look the part (80% of the battle), make it appear that you give half a flying fuck about what others think of you, pick a half-respectable career, and keep up a happy image on Facebook and/or Instagram.
Can you see where this is heading yet? That life was doomed to crash and burn from the start.
I was 21 or 22 when I first veered off the planned path leading to all the things that were meant to make me happy — away from all the things that I convinced myself to want with such certainty that I couldn’t possibly fail in achieving them. Except that I did. And at this point I feel that it’s necessary to make it clear that there is nothing wrong with wanting any part of what I called sickeningly normal and near-perfect. Where I went wrong was in convincing myself that those things were for me when they were not… I was the square peg jamming itself into a round hole (of its own volition, mind you).
And so when I discovered what I think of as my First Truth, I felt a peace wash over me that I never really knew existed before. I call it my First Truth not because it is the most important one, but simply because it was realisation number one in the slew of realisations that were to follow and eventually make clear to me that my imagined certainties were precisely that — imaginary.
My First Truth was this: that I don’t believe in a god or any higher power. For someone raised in a Roman Catholic family and educated in Catholic institutions their entire life, that was a difficult declaration to make. It wasn’t even so much of a public declaration as it was a declaration to myself — of myself — but it was probably even more meaningful precisely because of that. I am an atheist and knowing and accepting that has brought me so much peace within myself and with this universe.
From that point on it was easier to be honest with myself, but not so easy that I could come off the planned path overnight. Little Truths and bigger Truths trickled out of me slowly, sometimes of my own volition and other times because life decided to get a little rough and shake me up.
Failing out of law school was probably one of the more difficult things I went through to lead me to a single Truth — but it turns out that that one (the Truth that I am a creative personality and that I was stifling myself in law school) is one of my favourites. Shifting towards a career that will very likely suit me better and nurture my soul brings me that deep peace I have come to be more familiar with in recent months.
On the more positive end of things, my yoga practice helped me actively seek Truths. The full impact that yoga has had on my life deserves an entire story of its own, but with respect to finding Truths it showed me how much being kind to oneself can make a difference.
I have faced more of myself on my yoga mat than I have anywhere else in my life. Sometimes — fine: a lot of the time — I faced aspects of myself that I didn’t like at all; I was inflexible, easily stressed out, impatient, and incredibly hard on myself for not always being the strongest person in the room. I was all of those things both on and off the mat. Yoga taught me acknowledge those things in order to let go of them, surpass them in time, or to come to peaceful terms with them. My practice taught me to see myself not only with eyes wide open but with an open heart, too.
It is liberating to be able to see myself more clearly these days — it feels amazing to live my Truths, and I am lucky to have failed at achieving the life I thought I wanted before it was “too late.” I’m happy (at this point) to let it crash and burn, honestly… but there have also been real lamentable losses sustained in this process of becoming more of who I really am.
Three weeks ago I ended a relationship with a person who, over most of the past six years, was my best friend.
My now-ex boyfriend and I broke up at a point in our relationship where it all seemed to be going according to plan. All signs pointed to the certainty of marriage and a future together: we knew each others’ families, loved and respected one another, cultivated a strong friendship based on those six full years of ups and downs, and we even ended up in the same foreign country in pursuit of our master’s degrees.
What happened? Obviously, I’ve changed. Talk about a cliché reason for a break up, eh? “I’m just not the same person anymore.” Cringe.
Isn’t love a choice that you make every day regardless of change? Aren’t people meant to build upon strong foundations of friendship to forge a future together? Who lets go of a stability like the kind I had locked down? Why not just ride it out because nothing was technically very wrong anyway?
Did you catch that? I hope you did. You see, you’re not meant to just ride out relationships. And no, this isn’t a message I’ve been force-fed by the media and am regurgitating back out at you. To me, in a very personal sense, individual relationships are everything. I don’t function well in large groups and I’ve always made connections one-on-one much more easily. The people closest to me fuel my life. There might not be too many of them, but they fuel my life.
And so it is extremely painful when Truth leads you away not just from things you thought you wanted (a positive consequence of growth, all things considered) but also from the people you forged real relationships with. Truth liberates, but it can also separate. When it comes to relationships, letting go is extra difficult (and painful and emotional and damaging) to do even when you know it is right.
It’s worth emphasising: I let go. I did not give up. The latter suggests a near-careless throwing away of something valuable. The former, in the case of two people leaving a relationship behind when it is proper and when it is necessary, means giving us both the best chance we deserve. (Please see Ingrid Nilsen’s YouTube video on coming out, where she shares one of her Truths with the world. Her experiences don’t mirror mine exactly, but they are surprisingly similar and you will get the sense of relief she feels at being open with the world, and it is the same sense of relief I feel now that I have learned to be honest with myself. The concept of “best chances” is borrowed from her.)
I let go because both my ex-boyfriend and I both deserve our best chances. I am lucky (what an understatement) to have been with someone who never hindered my growth or ever got in the way of my becoming. I let go because he deserves the same generosity he has shown me, even though he might not see it as such just yet.
At 25, I am becoming. At 50, should I be lucky enough to make it so far in life, I hope to still be in the process of becoming.
Who I am is an amalgam of Truths, certainties, uncertainties, revelations, losses, experiences, bursts of joy, and times of struggle. But I am becoming actively, and if I ever definitively say that “I am” — full stop, without room for growth or change — do feel free to slap me in the face. I was trapped by myself once before and I sure as hell never want that to happen again.
If I may repeat myself to make a point: Truth liberates, but it also separates. There is no going back — to so many things. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you have read this far, I want you to know that you’ve seen a little bit into my soul. It says hello, and from my soul to yours: Please — be kind to yourself. Live your Truths unapologetically. Give yourself your best chance. Know that you deserve it.