Existential Lifehack #6
People like to say it’s about the journey, not the destination.
It’s a nice sentiment, depending on what you want it to mean. Enjoy your time here. Stay in the moment. Don’t let life pass you by on the way to success or death or whatever else the “destination” might be.
Yet, there’s an unfortunate implication: that wherever “there” is…whatever “making it” means…whatever the answer is…how we get there MATTERS.
I’d like to respectfully argue for the reverse. While I absolutely mean to enjoy the journey, it’s almost never been what I expected. Yet, I somehow always reach the endings that I was meant to. What’s that other saying? God laughs at your plans. Or as some of the new age-y thinkers explain, manifestation works best when visualizing what you want without clinging so tightly to the details that you miss opportunities, lower your vibes (and therefore the ability to manifest the people and things with high vibes) by getting upset when things don’t go your way, and give up and turn around because the path doesn’t look like it did in the Yelp pictures when it’s cloudy outside and there’s no filter.
Whether in school, serving/bartending, acting, modeling, writing, friendships, or romance, I’ve had to take completely unorthodox routes to accomplish nearly anything. My “destinations” might be a little bit different, too. I’m not engaged, I’ve never had- and am not sure I want- kids. Or a wedding. Or a medal for reaching the finish line in a 5K. Still, there are things that are as important to me as any one that I have either been INCAPABLE of grasping in the usual way or learned that I didn’t WANT to do it in the usually way. If I had clung to the steps, this weird little life (where despite the pain, I have somehow done and am doing so many of the things I want to) might not have ever come to be, Or I wouldn’t be able to accept it-yet here I am, grateful to be staying fed, sheltered, somewhat stylishly clothed, making beautiful things, and seeing the world a little bit at a time.
Whether it’s one of my editors, a manager at a restaurant, my parents, teacher, or a writing client, they could all tell you that working with me wasn’t and isn’t typical-but the results are almost always positive.
I skipped 7th grade despite the faculty of my school at the time thinking it would cause me some kind of developmental distress.
Then, I more than lost the time I gained when it took me 8 years to get my 4-year degree amidst trauma and loss.
I’ve only worked full time for brief intervals, which usually sent me spiraling into a hospital visit or desperate need for a long hiatus from working at all. Instead, I’ve worked part time at places most didn’t and booked well over 20 types of sporadic gigs ranging from blackjack dealing to mermaiding.
I’ve lived with my parents, on friend’s couches, and practically out of my car between stretches of living on my own in a real apartment and paying every bill on time-avoiding the social activities and outings most of 20-something friends were engaging in to do it.
I’ve also tried focusing almost entirely my social life to see if it had any positive effect on my health when doctors didn’t know what was wrong and told me to get out more. That was weird.
These are just snippets, but if my life’s trajectory were somehow represented on a piece of paper, it would look like a lot of stops and starts, times of being well ahead of the pack or way behind it. It would look like the blueprint for a rollercoaster that’s unfit for human riding except in the case of assisted suicides. It would look like the heart monitor printout of the lone survivor in a horror film. It would look less like a discernible graph and more like Jackson Pollok painting.
I just couldn’t seem to operate on a standard setting in nearly any area of my life. Sometimes it meant appearing to struggle more than my peers, and others, I appear to be thriving more. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember if I was mid falling or flying when I was suspended by some outside-the-norm life event or opportunity-but, I’ve rarely found myself WITH the pack for a number of reasons. This isn’t a weird humble brag about not fitting into the world neatly because I’m some alien goddess whose way of thinking transcends the trivial things earthling life has to offer. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. The point is, there’s one truth about my existence, that isn’t necessarily different than what a ton of people on our planet feel: I’ve always kind of marched to my own beat. And it wasn’t always graceful.
Before it sounds like I’m trying to convey how “extraordinary” I am (despite the CLEAR downs I’m laying out), I’m not sure how much choice I had. I’m not sure if I chose it or was forced into it. Of course, by a lot of teachings, we’re actually always choosing what happens “to us”. Whether I was dealing with illness, deaths in the family, odd home life dynamics, or just being myself, marching to my own beat was not necessarily bravery, but a necessity. Even though the weirdness started when I was little-getting yelled at for not being able to take a nap at school or staying up all night contemplating the meaning of life, other seemingly extenuating circumstances-like getting terribly ill-helped really solidify my place as a weirdo. I have trouble differentiating how much of this is due to years of illness and a lessened capability. It’s hard to remember what it was like before I was sick, but either way: I don’t, won’t, and possibly CAN’T afford to march to the beat of someone’s else’s drum.
In fact, as a natural people pleaser…I was probably dangerously susceptible to living life on some else’s terms. Good grades were important. Making my parents proud was important. At one time, getting into a great college and being a doctor was important. Even when I felt like an outsider, I felt a desire to do what was expected of me and more. But, life/the universe/our own subconscious selves have a funny way of revealing when we are doing that for the wrong reasons.
Even if it’s not making you overtly act out, things like illness and ailments and anxiety can be tell-tale signs that we aren’t being true to ourselves. Things seem to fall apart like we’d built them to do it and obstacles spring up as if we planted their seeds ourselves. For me, getting sick meant I was forced to think both about what I truly wanted and what I would be willing to do differently or sacrifice to get there. Not only do I rarely have the bodily ability or mental energy to do things the way others do…I’m so sensitive to working outside the realm of my heart’s desires due to illness that it just so happens, I physically CAN’T do the things I don’t WANT to do. Doing things that don’t feel good in at my core makes me more ill, and my well-being is more important to me than my wallet or their wishes. Doing the things I want to do is still hard, so I can tell that I want to because I’m doing them anyway.
Despite these disadvantages (or advantages, depending on how you look at it), hearing your own beat is becoming increasingly difficult for anyone…because we are so awfully aware of EVERY ONE ELSE’S BEAT, all over the world-and I’m not just talking about your friend who literally makes trap music. We are keenly, obnoxiously, terrifyingly aware of what most people in our circle or former circles are doing with their lives. All. The. Time.
I’ve felt the pang of guilt and shame as the engagements, medical school graduations, and home ownership posts come crawling across my newsfeed. Yet, there’s somewhere deep inside me that knows that isn’t meant for me, at least not now, yet simultaneously feels 100% happy for them.
There are probably a lot of people who feel content to march to pop music despite the alternatives, so to speak-and that’s not to assume the rhythms of society don’t naturally flow with their own. There are probably people who feel obligated to do as they are expected and told-fit into the mold-regardless of whether or not they’d do something completely different if they only had their own planet. The need to “fit in”, to please others, or to stay safe trumps the desire to live out their deepest wishes. Yet, there are others who really, really enjoy the traditional scenery-the stuff you seen when climbing corporate ladders and buying homes and giving birth.
Mostly due to my authentic affinity for Justin Bieber’s latest album, I think it’s important to differentiate between living life on terms that someone might consider “in the box” because it truly resonates with you, and doing it because you feel you don’t have a choice, the resources, or the guts-all of which may be an illusion.
The latter is the insidious version of a life in the lines, because marching to a beat that doesn’t resonate in your own soul has detrimental effects. You feel depleted (my favorite word for that sensation of crumbling under pressure, overwhelmed and disillusioned with society and the way things are in this way that feels too big to escape). You feel inauthentic. You feel like time is passing you by without meaning.
It’s all so…dramatic. In fact, maybe that’s why people stick to it when they aren’t meant to. It’s weird how fear actually keeps us stuck in fear patterns. It’s what keeps those illusions alive.
And one of our biggest fears is failing-but isn’t that relative? Does failing mean the same thing to you as it does to “them”? Going off the beaten trail-whether voluntarily, seemingly by forces of nature, or some mix of the two-may require a detachment from what others think of us…and that takes a long time to deconstruct. This blog took me over two weeks to post because it was mentioned that people might find my writing self-absorbed, but I’ve found a place of contentment with sharing my story in all of its inconsistencies and errors. I’ve had to learn to take constant hits to my self-esteem. Illness taught me to be humble enough to apologize over and over for being late, behind, less communicative, and having to fight to get through the things I have to do-and fierce enough NOT to say sorry for not being able to do what I can’t or don’t have to do.
There are people who stumble wildly into their purpose. There are people who make their riches by accident. There are people who beat the odds-paraplegic athletes and survivors turned artists and nobodies turned millionaires. Needless to say, they probably HAD to dance to a different rhythm as I did… but who says you can’t dance to a different one if you WANT to. If it feels more natural. If it simply calls your name and appeals to your curiosity. There are people who have 700s credit scores, multiple degrees, a perfect-on-paper life partner, and a house and dehydrate their own fruits who aren’t happy.
The music you sway to never really mattered. All that matters is whether or not you’re dancing.
For more on my unusual lifestyle, check out my interview with S.J. at All Glam No Filter. I was her Fierce Female of the Month in March but the interview is not time sensitive.
Photo by: Bekka Bjorke
Dress: Minnie Opal by Sundari
Jewelry: Bonfire Design
Handmade Tank Drum: Bonfire Drums