For years, I have been struggling with boxes. Not the physical, cardboard type, but the metaphorical: these are the things I do, this is what I like, therefore, I belong in this box categorization.
Finding my place within the cliques in high school, study groups in college, or the coworkers at my corporate job never really worked for me. I just don't seem to fit the mould, and by "the mould" I mean ANY of them. And that was fine! I got along quite nicely with many different people, making great acquaintances along the way. I'm not friendless, I have been fortunate to have one great friend - my best friend since third grade (yes, that is 25 years of friendship) - a constant confidant in my life. So, the fitting in with people never really bothered me, it was when I started feeling the scrapes and irritation while working at my job, that I really felt... Uncomfortable.
Five years ago. Five, loooooong years ago, I started feeling like it was time to change. Something needed to shift. So, I started looking inside me to learn more about myself; I agreed to run a marathon with my Grandpa when he gifted me the entry for Christmas in 2013, I went within to learn more about the yamas and niyamas of yoga, diving into obtaining my yoga instructor 200hr certificate in 2014, I went on a solo week-long vacation on the side of a canyon outside Sisters, OR, and proceeded to work through The Desire Map Book (seriously helpful to create the shift of perspective) in an effort to find the reasons behind my discontent, and the journey went on and on...
Awareness of my discomfort originated with a intense moment of realization in 2010. A friend and coworker was taking voice lessons, thought I would like the teacher, and highly recommended I attend an upcoming event. I went to an all day workshop where this instructor quickly identified the main reason (unbeknownst to me) I have always held myself back from singing, and after a few lessons in authenticity, I finally began to learn to use my voice. Suddenly, I started chiming in during work discussions, and over time, I was speaking my truth in life in ways I had never experienced. And THAT is when I really noticed the nudge, and the little voice that said:
- "What are you doing here?"
- "Is this really what you want to do with the rest of your life?"
- "How does this work make you feel?"
To which I would immediately reply "What are you talking about? This is a great company! And a good job! Everyone I know tells me so!"
I lived my life to the meet the standards of my perception of what "everyone else" thought was good for me, despite the fact it was slowly tearing the aliveness from my body. You know the drill: graduate high school, go to college, get a corporate career (there's more safety and security in those), find a partner and settle down... I kept ticking the boxes, waiting to feel... content.
But the whispers and scrapings became louder and more painful. They were so loud this summer, I recorded this:
In July I knew, choosing to make a change was no longer a risk: it was a necessity. I was emotionally volatile all the time. A ticking time bomb for joy to spontaneously morph into sorrow, and I simply wanted to be able to rest. I couldn’t get enough sleep, even though I was sleeping more than 8 hours a night on a regular basis.
I was exhausted. Tired of playing the game, turning a blind eye to the politics, pretending to be happy, and finally... started speaking up. I told my manager I was looking for something else, even joked about taking a part-time job so I could quit the commute. Driving for more than two hours a day drained me even more than acting at work. Eventually, I quit acting. I realized I was at a critical impasse, and needed to shift my mindset. I started sharing what was exciting to me with my friends and co-workers, talked about running again, started trying to make time to cook more. I took more days off - simply to work in my yard, or have a long weekend to allow myself a break. I began planning this blog! I started to focus on what I really wanted in my life.
When I finally asked the universe for what I wanted: meaningful work, and got the nudge to work with a lovely friend and mentor (who gently urged me to be authentic, oh, so many years ago), I jumped at the chance and started a new learning journey. Two months later, while on my morning run, for the third time in two weeks, I passed a “Help Wanted” sign. I was finally open enough to pay attention, and found the resolve to apply for an entry level job, freeing myself to make substantial life changes. I chose to move away from comfort (and my eleven year work home) into a world where I walked to work, work four days a week at my day job, am learning to budget like an adult (why don't they teach money management in high school?), and now spend more time at home cooking, learning, or running, writing, and practicing. All things I have been craving for years.
Now, here I am at the beginning of a new journey: stepping out of the box and into my life. The only way to truly "fit in" is to choose to believe in yourself. If nothing else is true, I hope that you choose to be YOU, and follow pursuits that pique your curiosity. Because that is what makes life worth living, and so much more fun.