I closed my eyes and took a deep breath in. I let go of all that the day entailed with a breath out. Leaving all in the past I awaited for the new profound meaning — I sat still following further instructions, acknowledging noises in the room; the air conditioner, a woman’s voice echoing from the street, the occasional chair squeaks.
I found my mind running through snapshots of potential “it” moments. “Go back to the time you accomplished something - a proud moment, the moment you felt most you.” New job, anniversary with my boyfriend, presentation to investors, basketball team – no, no, not it.
Suddenly my eyes began to tear. I found myself alone, on my way to Spain, where I would meet my childhood friend and spend two most liberating weeks of my life.
“There”, she said, “label this moment of who you are and come back to it when you’re unsure.”
Unsure. I have been unsure so much lately that when asked what I want for dinner I couldn’t find an answer. I’ve been looking to others to make that decision for me – how did I expect myself to love, to get the dream job, to live my own life when I couldn’t make a simple decision between chicken and fish?
I looked around the room, at women much older than I – some nodding, others in shock. Living through others’s lens is not so uncommon — most of us live our lives based on opinions, approval and decisions that are not our own We lose that inner mojo somewhere along the parental expectations, peer pressure, magazines telling us how we should look and love. We lose our authentic selves in the popular opinion and society’s standards because we want to be accepted and loved.
But the ingredient to happiness we often overlook is love for ourselves — the longest relationship of our lives, with ourselves.
I teared when I thought about my trip to Spain because I was my true self then. Away from family, friends, work, boys – far away from home is where I found the inner comfort. I thrived in the unknown. There, alongside of my best girl friend with whom I grew up and haven’t seen in 14 years. I revisited the child who didn’t care to please anyone, I revisited the ego. The child who recited poems and spent a lot of time in casts trying to prove a point that girls can jump further than boys.
I leaped the furthest again, but this time back to myself, and this time without an injury.
Once we were able to speak again, a woman cleared her throat and announced her defining moment was when she fled for an airport instead of her own wedding ceremony. Everyone in the room grasped and clapped their hands in amusement. As if leaving a groom at the altar was a heroic step. Only after did I realize it wasn’t her fearless action I admired, but rather the loud and clear voice she told the story with. The acceptance in her voice justified that she made the right choice for herself, even if it disappointed many others.
Do we stop ourselves from doing or saying what we feel is right out of fear we may be perceived the wrong way? The thing is - we are always going to disappoint people’s expectations merely by being alive. But how soon they forget what we did, and how long do we remember?
This is why I’m stopping the express train for a moment to enjoy the sight. Maybe going locally from here. And this is not some spiritual bullshit of finding oneself – no – this is me going back to Spain where we got lost a lot, but with every wrong turn found a hidden surprise. Where we sometimes walked in circles, but each time saw something new we didn’t see in previous rounds.
I want to nail that headstand in yoga class, I want to start working for myself, I want to live on my own, I want to travel more with my best friend. I want to make my own decisions and know I’ve made the right choice not because I read it in a magazine or got a nod of approval from someone. But because of what feels right to me, even if it’s wrong to someone else. Because I’d rather live my wrong life than someone’s right one.
And so it begins, the unlearning curve.