This is What I’m Choosing

Dream big little girl!

When I was a little girl, it was my dream to become a fashion designer, or maybe it was a ballet dancer. It was definitely something creative.

I also dreamt of being a famous choreographer and a film director.

When I was younger, I owned a pair of roller skates. I used to hit play, and blast out Kylie Minogue, Janet Jackson and Tiffany while I whizzed about the driveway making up Olympic worthy roller-skating routines while my little brother held up my score on a piece of paper from the side. From what I recall, it was a lot of fun and I had the time of my life doing it all.

I also filled notebook after notebook with fashion sketches and doodles. Other notebooks were filled with poems, plays and short stories, but then there’s no surprise there…

If you’d asked me back then to describe myself all those years ago, I probably would’ve said something along the lines of “blissful” or “happy”. Or if you happened to get me on a particularly good day, I would’ve chatted to you endlessly and excitedly about all my dreams and ambitions, and all those exciting things I just loved doing.

If you’d asked me that six months ago, as an adult, it would’ve been the complete opposite. I probably would’ve gone on to explain what it was I did for a living and how many long hours I put in week after week. It would’ve been just like another shitty job interview, very formal, quite contrived, and not very genuine.

I’m a Teacher. I work hard. I’m dedicated to my students. My hours are long…yawn!

One day, I’m going to look back on all of this and laugh.

When I compare my younger self to myself not so long ago, I can clearly see that adults aren’t as adept at answering such questions. Or perhaps that was an automatic response to what society expected from me.

Adults are so different, so serious, and I’m tired of solemnity and urgency; there’s no fun in that. I guess this is why I love working in a High School – the students, despite their occasional teenage moodiness, are energetic and genuinely excited about life, and this is refreshing.

There would’ve been no way in hell that I’d have described myself as creative, passionate or inquisitive a year or so back.

Isn’t it strange how we change?

When I was younger, I craved anything that fed and nurtured my spirit, but come adulthood, there was an obvious shift. Instead of looking for and doing things that brought about great happiness, I searched for things that had values on them, such as how much I could potentially earn and save from a specific job and how much prestige I could gain from doing certain things. Instead of taking up new creative things that challenged me, I found myself playing it safe and only really attempting the things that I was already good at.

School, university, and work. Things began to get more serious. I no longer wanted to spend hours on end freestyle ballet dancing in my room; I wanted the prizes. Awards, bursaries, scholarships, recognition, pay rises…

I’m a competitive person by nature, but instead of trying to conjure up ways of getting into the New Zealand Royal Ballet, I was looking at my peers and everyone around me. Test scores, university courses, graduate degree programmes, careers, relationships…

Insecurity kills all that is beautiful. It destroys relationships.

I’ve finally been able to pinpoint where some of my insecurities came from. I talked about being a confident person the other day, but I’d never describe myself as ‘completely’ confident. I mentioned I’m confident with others and the way I hold myself in different situations, however, in the past, as soon as it all came down to my abilities, I began to question and doubt myself.

Inhale confidence, exhale doubt.

Despite being more than capable, I felt like an imposter. I got so caught up in thinking I just wasn’t good enough, and I did see this transfer over to other aspects of my life, especially relationships…sometimes I still get plagued with these ideas, but at least I’ve learnt to recognise it. Now, as soon as I feel myself slipping, I quickly snap myself out of it. “Get a grip!” I tell myself. “Chill out!”

During those early career days, I don’t really think that I noticed I’d simply forgotten about those simple essential things such as joy. I always used the future simple to hypothesise…”I’ll be happy when…I get a promotion…earn X amount of dollars…” Little did I know that these short ‘When’ sentences continued to pop up, one after another…they were always lurking, always plaguing me, always putting more pressure on me…

It was like the protracted pursuit to faux happiness…

I temporarily found joy on numerous occasions, but now, looking back, I realise I didn’t nurture it. I just let it all go. Maybe I thought that it’d just continue without the nurturing. Maybe I believed that I could actually do without it. Who knows?

I used to love playing netball. While I loved to win even back when I was a little kid, I still got a lot of enjoyment out of it. There was no better feeling than running around the court, successfully intercepting balls, and just being outside in the fresh air playing a sport that you love. That quickly changed. It quickly became all about the win and beating the opponents by even more points the next time round. It became about getting into the best team, representing the region, and captaining.

Drama and dance were the same. I used to find a lot of joy and freedom bouncing around on the stage, slipping in and out of numerous roles. Again, that changed. It moved away from expressing myself on stage to wanting to get the lead or something similar.

I accomplished a lot growing up, and of course I’m proud of everything I’ve achieved, who wouldn’t be? But this has nothing to do with accomplishments per se, it’s about thriving.

And I wasn’t thriving at all. I’d somehow made myself incredibly small in my pursuit for over-achieving that I failed to recognise everything else. I purposefully closed the door to many things because they were getting in the way of my success and drive.

I stopped doing many things that I once loved…

Sketching…

Designing…

Acting…

Drawing…

Dancing…

Writing…

My early adult years were textbook. I did pretty much everything that I thought you were ‘supposed’ to do’. Private fancy boarding school, top university, career, marriage…(some worked out others were a complete car crash!)

It was all about ‘getting it right’; we’re conditioned by society to think this way. And while I became wholly fixated on being a hard worker and getting where I wanted to be, I lost myself…

Be grateful for small things, big things and everything in between.

I sound really ungrateful, but I can assure you I wasn’t, and I’m not.

Throughout those more serious years (as I like to refer to them) that image of the joyful little girl would often pop into my head. I’d see myself dancing away on stage or happily hitting the keys as I performed in piano recitals. I’d always push them out of my mind just as fast as they’d entered …because those were things that could potentially lead me off track and distract me.

One of the most exciting phrases is ‘Eureka!’

That ‘eureka moment’ didn’t come too long ago. Better late than never I guess!

“You’re really talented, why don’t you write?”

“Why don’t you start your own wine business?”

Again, I quickly brushed off these suggestions, but the words played on my mind for the following week or so.

It was almost as if I suddenly knew what I wanted to do with myself.

“Do it!”

“I’ll help you?”

“Why not?”

“What have you got to lose?”

Of course, these things involve goal-setting and hard work, but they’re two things I genuinely love and feel passionate about. Society hasn’t dictated me to follow these paths, and while someone did help me see the light and recognise my own worth, I’m doing these things for me.

I haven’t given up my day job just yet, perhaps I won’t even do this, and I’m nowhere near opening my own bespoke independent wine bar in Leeds and my script is still just random scribbles on a few loose leafed pages, but that’s not the point…

The point is that I still can’t believe that I temporarily gave up on some of my real dreams and interests, the things that bring joy and excitement to me, not others.

Now that I’ve refocused my priorities and I’m looking after number one (me), I can’t believe that I was passing the time without these things prominently in my life.

You have just one life to do everything you ever want to do. Act accordingly.

Thank God for some people and a very BIG wake up call.

Maybe my script won’t get anywhere near the Cannes Film Festival. It might not even get snapped up by a production company, but that doesn’t matter, because I’ve revived that simple thing called joy, and I’ve discovered the immense sense of freedom it brings me.

I want to know things. I want to feel excited. I want to love. I want to feel passion. I want to live, because I’ve finally remembered what all of these things feel like, and I’m opening myself up to everything and everyone.

All it takes is a little spark to reignite the passion, and to me this is the most important thing, because after all it’s the people with the passion and joy that can make anything possible…it’s these people who’re truly happy.

Unless I’m madly passionate about something or someone, I’m not going to pursue it. I’m exhausted from being told what I should be doing and what I shouldn’t be doing…surely, I’m the only one who can ever really know this?

Life and love shouldn’t be mediocre, they should be filled with joy and extraordinary excitement.

I choose happiness. I choose love. I choose passion.

And most importantly I also choose me!

Watch this space!

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