We all have out own personal goals, things we would like to achieve by a certain point in our lives. Inevitably there’s a huge sense of failure when we don’t get to where we believe we would have, at the ‘right’ age or time we should have.
Ask anyone around you, and the life objectives are almost all identical. Marriage, career and children. We usually want all these things before we even know ourselves sufficiently enough to think about whether this is our own dream, or that of our parents, our friends, or even that of society. We don’t even understand what these things really mean to us, only that we somehow know this will make us happy.
In the midst of our continuous and desperate efforts to become a well-oiled cog in our culture’s machine, we rarely stop to think if we even want to be part of it in the first place.
In one of my all time favourite books, Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert begins with all these things (apart from children which was something she feels almost persecuted for not wanting). One night she wakes up in her perfect house, white picket fence life, successful career and loving husband, to find she’s been living the hopes and dreams of a completely made-up person; one that she herself created because she was sold the lie.
We are often so driven into wanting that ‘chocolate box’ life that we spend our entire life working towards that exact goal. Without even a second thought as to whether this is the right path for us as an individual, we blindly believe that it will actually result in us feeling fulfilled and happy.
Because isn’t that ultimately what everyone wants? To feel different? To be fulfilled and live with purpose?
And we believe this is the way to achieve it because that’s what we’re told by the media, by the advertising companies. We don’t question their real motives; to mould each and every one of us into a worker ant, a modern day slave.
Somewhere in my mid-twenties I woke up one day and realised I was one of these people. I had this idea of what life should be and how I should be living it. The truth – that this was not what I actually wanted, but simply an image sold to me by some executive in a boardroom trying to make his millions selling ‘the lifestyle’, made me feel like I was suffocating.
The prison that I had built around myself, which I had spent so hard building up in an attempt to feel secure, suddenly encased me. The panic over where I was headed engulfed me like water, and I found I had forgotten how to swim without armbands. I was drowning.
Luckily, it wasn’t too late. I hadn’t thrown away the key that would enable me to escape. I just needed to learn how to swim on my own.
And so a long journey of self-discovery started to unravel. This included travelling half way around the world alone, losing bad friends and gaining brilliant ones, finding out what kind of person I wanted to be, finding my soul-mate, and now last but not least, losing my job.
Sadly not everyone will be as open-minded to this kind of revelation as you, often because it holds a mirror up to their frustrations about their own lives, but mainly because not everyone’s mind has yet been released from the confines of their reality. Most never will.
Elizabeth Gilbert had the courage to go against the grain, to totally lose herself in order to find herself again and she discovered what made her truly happy. I hope to realise that my life can be just as limitless and rewarding! But letting go of the fear is, I think, one of the hardest things you could ever do because it means letting go of security (no matter how much of an illusion it really is), and you are in some ways risking being even more unhappy than you are now. But if there is even the smallest possibility that you could find the one thing that you are looking for, the holy grail of fulfillment, then surely it’s worth the gamble isn’t it?
Swimming against the current is hard work, lonely and rarely feels stable or secure, because you will primarily be going on this journey alone.
But if you persevere and trust yourself enough to know you are headed in the right direction, you might just end up in the most exciting and rewarding place of your life.
Do you truly know what happiness is to you? Or do you feel like you have given someone else the power to decide what your story will be? Please comment below and share your journey. I know how isolated it can feel.
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”