Letting go of who you are supposed to be and living who you are meant to be.
I had two aspirations in life. The first was being a paleontologist. I imagined myself on sandy plains, picking delicately away at ancient dinosaur bones while the sun poured down. I even had an outfit I would wear—denim overall shorts, a white sleeveless shirt that tied at the neck, and my arrowhead necklace. And sturdy boots of course. Quite a fashion statement for an 8-year old carrying a home-made book of dinosaur classifications (one section for carnivores, and another separate section for herbivores).
My other aspiration was to be a marine biologist. I wanted to work at Sea World, specifically, and spend my days water bound with the dolphins and whales, moving as if weightless and aerial in the blue dyed water.
I spent my childhood days studying various species, drawing them with accuracy to the best of my abilities. When I visited Sea World I dreamed of being the one in the wetsuits on stage. When I watched Jurassic Park I was preoccupied with how the bones of centuries-old animals were brought to life in skin and flesh. Did I mention I would also be an artist, too?
As I grew older I started growing out of my clothes, my shoes, and my childhood dreams. More practical voices, both in reality and in my head, were saying, “You won’t make any money at that.” “You should chose to be something like a doctor or nurse.” “You shouldn’t expect to get a job doing that.” “You should be going to school at X.” Vivid dreams of interacting with animals and paintbrushes started to fade, and practical mental intrusions like “nurse” or “surgeon” started taking their places. These were also the days I felt least like myself; an awkward teenager who hated how she looked but desperately tried to fit in with all the kids, and not knowing what to do with her future, only vaguely knowing what I should be doing. I had adopted the monologue internally: “You should be doing it this way. You shouldn’t feel like that. You should be this person.” This went on for years. And years. And years.
I let others dictate my formative years of what I wanted to do with my life and what I should be doing. So instead of pursuing something like art or marine biology, I pursued nothing, and finally picked a major because I had to, and because it was what I already had the most credits toward. My interest in it never caught fire. I regret those decisions, looking back, but looking backwards never helped anything. I might not be where—or who—I am today without those years of mental wandering and self-purpose struggles.
Today I decide to be a different person. Well actually, I decided to be myself. I stopped should-ing on myself. I decided to be the artist and now paint canvases with whatever comes to mind in whatever colors I choose. I plan to eventually enter myself in an art fair, once I work up the courage for it. I decided to be the jewelry maker, and will be making my best friend’s head piece for her wedding in October. I decided that my retirement dream is to live on the beach, and volunteer at a marine rehabilitation center where I could help marine life live better lives. I’ve even gone swimming with dolphins twice. No dinosaur bone discoveries yet though…
I didn’t quit my day job (yet). I’m not that gutsy. One day I hope to be. My plan is to create a life where family and independence come first, and the typical 8-5 is non-existent. I am aware this will have its drawbacks, just like the career I have now has. Nothing is perfect.
But I feel free.
I feel free when I imagine this life. I feel complete when I imagine this life. I feel right when I imagine this life.
It might take a while to accomplish, but nothing ever worth doing is easy or simple. I feel solace in knowing that I am working toward the path that still has (much) smaller footprints of my childhood self. It feels good to know the bold and sassy girl inside again. It feels good to be me.