What do you want out of life?
No really. What do you want?
Sounds like a trick question doesn’t it. Maybe it is. Have you ever done that exercise? The one where you imagine yourself standing on that threshold between the dawn of a new adventure and the ending of a weary, wrinkled, aching body; you know that line between life and death and then you think: what do I want to look back on?
Sometimes I get so frustrated with myself. I look at myself and think: what have I been doing all this time? What a waste.
I have no career. I’m not a mother, I don’t have a house, or earn enough to fully support myself. What happened to all those lofty ideals? I was supposed to DO something with my life. I had the potential—at least that was what I was told—the potential for what?
Here’s the thing: sometimes when I get so angry about my progress (or lack of) I want to scream at myself; What have you done with your life?! Seriously, what did you do with all these years that matters at all?!
Nothing. You have NOTHING!
And then I think about that border. I see myself at the edge of the cliff looking down at thick veil of the unknown, behind me the life I created for myself and I remember that I have been here before. I looked out at the edge and I had answered that question.
What do you want out of life?
I’d said: I want to live, to live my own life as my own person. I want to know what it’s like to take that risk and to actually truly exist.
It was in 2013, my grandma had only days left. My heart hurt, but I was so numb by all the choices I’d made that I could hardly feel it. I was thinking about how amazing she was. Her eyes were always laughing, she didn’t take life too seriously. It was simple, so simple. She was herself and she was loved, and she was perfect in her own being.
I looked at where I was then in my life. I was miserable. So desperately miserable, and not even a ghost of my true self.
This is the trajectory I’m on, I’d told myself, one that gets harder to live with each year and if I stay married, if I have kids, if I pursue a career—then what? I’ll get to my deathbed and say, what? That I never actually had the chance to be myself. That no one in my life knew a thing about who I was; what I wanted? I’d have squandered it all and maybe I would reach that threshold with all the outward signs of success (though not likely based on the increasing difficulty of getting through each day) and I’d say, “So what? I missed the point. I went through my whole life without living it.”
What a waste. What a damn waste.
When I get frustrated now I think back to that point in time. That decision I made to let go of the story that had been written for me. I threw the script in the abyss and I ran as fast as I could into the embrace of all my fears.
So now, what? Did it matter after all? What did I accomplish, really?
Well, for one thing: I’ve survived over a decade battling schizophrenia, anxiety and depression (and that is not an easy feat).
I’ve fallen at least a hundred times, but I’ve always gotten back up.
I’ve loved, I’ve been loved—I have had my heart broken.
I’ve found that it only broke to expand its capacity to love deeper.
I’ve gotten in arguments,
I’ve felt despair,
I’ve broken promises,
I’ve hoped for success…I’ve failed. I’ve failed and failed and tried again.
I’ve learned to paint,
I’ve learned to rock climb,
I almost broke my neck trying to do a handstand and then laughed uncontrollably at the absurdity of it all.
I’ve given days to projects that never made it fruition and I’ve given months to projects that I did complete and then left sitting in the garage to get covered in dust.
I had a son. He was too small to bury.
I laid on the couch all day listening to the rain with no motivation to ever get up again..
and then I got up.
I had a niece and nephews. We played. I took them to the park, I threw them in the air and taught them the different colors.
I did the things I never thought I’d be brave enough to do:
Like declare my love for another woman and reveal my desire to be an artist.
I’ve embraced a belief system I’ve always believed in but was
taught was evil.
I read tarot cards now and look for animal spirit guides.
I’m reconciling and working on keeping promises and commitments to myself and to others.
In short, I lived! And I wouldn’t trade a second of it for a career, a house, a family—success.
Maybe that’s stupid of me. Maybe it’s irresponsible. I think that sometimes.
I feel bad. Why do I get to live an amazing life free from the mind-numbing, submission to work?
I don’t know the answer to that. I’m lucky, I guess. Do I deserve it? I don’t know that either.
But I have learned to live with the unknown and make the best of what I have and I will try to be the kind of person who deserves the freedom I’ve been given.
Maybe one day I’ll actually be able to make a living. Maybe I’ll be able to work without having a nervous breakdown. I hope so (not to work in the traditional sense but to be financially independent).
Last summer I heard a voice (maybe it was psychosis—but I don’t think so). It was actually more of an impression pushed gently into my brain: Live, It said, Create a life and the living will come.
So, that’s why I ask you this now: what do you want? What do you really, really want? It might not be what I want and that’s okay. Live, Love, Create, Succeed, Fail, Cry… But take the path that will get you to that threshold with pride. We have this experience once, make the most of it.
As for me… Well, I just got rejected from an art competition AGAIN. But there will be more chances, more practice, more entries.
I don’t know exactly where I am going but I know I will get to where I need to be, even if it is not what I’d expected. I will stand on that ledge, look proudly into the abyss and know that the life I lived for all the pain, the fear, the risks that didn’t pay off—I have succeeded.
I am doing the thing I set out to do: I am living. I will keep living. I am becoming a fuller version of my true self and everyday is a chance to stretch further, love deeper and learn more.
And if this is cliché… Well.. Sometimes clichés are there for a reason 😉