How to Ruin Your Life (Without Even Noticing That You Are)
By Bianca Sparacino on Thought Catalog
"You are allowed to figure out what inspires you. You are allowed time, and I think we often forget that. We take the next step, and the next step, and the next step, thinking that we are fulfilling some checklist for life, and one day we wake up depressed. What is it with our need to fast-track relationships? Why are we so enamored with the idea of first becoming somebody’s rather than somebodies?"
I've blogged about this, but I've never said it in these exact words. I wanted to respond to this post that resonated so deeply in hopes others hear Bianca's words, and my words. What she writes about in the blog above is exactly what I would tell my younger self. I regret nothing, as it made me who I am, but with that I can now help someone else learn these lessons earlier than I did, or find comfort or inspiration in these words.
I got caught up living the checklist and not my truth.
If I go back and read over old journal entries I am blown away by the girl in the pages. She wants acting school in NYC to hurry and be done. She wants to be a success and she wants people to know her name now. She wants love. She wants to be married. She feels like the clock is ticking and there is a deadline and she is panicked. She needs these things to happen and she needs it now. I'm not sure she understands the why behind the wants, but nevertheless, she feels she must hurry. She has her checklist and as she begins to knock each one off, she feels a bit more successful. She is getting it done. She is getting what she wants, right? And by the way, she is so so terribly young. Of course she doesn't know this. She just knows that time is never on anyone's side. She even lists age she is sure she needs to be married by! And by the way, this age is so, so terribly young.
I knew nothing back then of self awareness. I hadn't dug deep, gotten to know truly and deeply who I was or what I wanted. I had yet to find out what city felt like home, what "success" meant to me in this career, my strengths and my shortcomings, let alone what kind of partner would best serve me. I simply hadn't experienced enough. I hadn't lived enough life. But there is no time to explore the world, your mind, or your heart when you have tunnel vision and only see the list in front of you.
But I had a list. The list gave me a purpose and a focus and I knocked the items off, more often than not so desperate for it that I lived almost always in the future. All that mattered was what came next.
Fast forward a number of years later. Checklist completed. And you know what was most surprising? I felt young. So, so terribly young. I was. I am. I'd completed my list. I was done.
I had nothing left on it and I was at the very beginning of the rest of my life.
Oh shit. And it's in the moments of the biggest "oh shits" we learn and grow the most. I was only starting to dig, to uncover who I was, and what I wanted. I reflected on the choices I had made and I realized that each time I said yes to the next step, I said yes to the checklist, but not always to what was true for me. I'd led myself right down the most unsatisfied, stagnant, and small path I could have.
Suddenly, I had never felt so convoluted in my whole life. It was the scariest, and messiest time. For a couple of years I stayed bound to the checklist. The funny thing was, from the outside, I had it all. But nobody knew my internal journey. Nobody knew what had governed me inside up to this point. I had made a string of choices based on fear. Fear of running out of time, and now I was trapped. I had no plan, no list, to guide me through what happens next. Yet there I was. The boat had been cruising along at a high speed, when suddenly the motor gave out. I was stuck. Still. Feeling the weight of the waves and water now upon me.
I know I'm not the only one. I know I am describing a lot of people. This is the crucial point. Where you stay bound, or you leave to find what truly aligns with your soul. It took me some time to make the leap, but I chose to do it. I chose to live completely differently. No guidelines, lists, or rules. I jumped. I only knew I had to follow my gut. What I'd done before wasn't working, so I went the other way. The way of the unknown. I started be patient with myself. I started saying yes to the things and the people that lit me up. That made me feel like me. That felt like passion, and joy.
Everything changed. My relationship status, my home, my car, my jobs, you name it and it was shaken up in all kinds of ways.
I said yes to the right things for me for once. I tuned in. I finally realized there is no rushing anything, just like there is no forcing a fit. I spent time with men who hurt me, who I hurt, who were mean to me, who were good to me, but who were not it no matter how much I tried to tell myself they were. When I did meet the love of my life (and now husband), it happened much later than my old diary would have liked, but that's ok when you know there is no deadline. Do you hear me? There is no deadline. Hold out. Hold out for anything that you are still looking for to fuel your soul if you haven't found it yet. It's there, and you won't get a chance to see it or live it if you are filling your life with what "should" be, or settling for mediocrity because it's good enough, and you're afraid great isn't out there.
It is. I promise that it is. Make the space in your mind, life, and heart for it so you can find it. Don't give yourself to the job or relationship that is only okay, because you're scared that its as good as it gets. That doesn't make you an ideal partner, employee, or person, nor is it fair to those around you. Nobody grows up excited to only get so far, only so happy, to choose to live life at half mass. And are you drawn to the people who do live at half mass? Do they inspire you? Do they bring you to life? No.
This is everything I would have told my younger self. While she was stubborn and wouldn't have listened, maybe now I needed to write this simply as my love letter to her in order to forgive her. To tell her I now understand, and it's going to be okay.
Going forward all I can say is that fear is so often not real, and it passes. All is temporary. Good and bad. And time is both endless and fleeting. And there is no reason to be in this world other than to live your truth. No one else can do it. You are here, and that is your one job. That's it. Whatever it means, whatever it looks like, whenever it happens. You don't have to look like, or do, or be anything. And you can change your mind. And change it again. Be many things and anything that makes you happy.
There are no rules.
Only the boundaries you learn to set for yourself over time. The ones that are authentic to your soul. What kinds of things and people you should learn to say yes to, and should learn to say no to.
Life didn't begin for me until I set myself free,
and released the "should be's".
The world cracked open, and it turned out she loved me.
I loved her back, and I soared.
You are here to live, and thrive, and shine.
The more you do, the easier things get.
Free yourself, the world needs you to.