How wonderful it has been to spend my twenties online, finding myself, building up, breaking down, changing and changing, all over again, in front of everyone. Just rebranding, if you will.
The first half of my twenties were undeniably spent looking outward. Looking outward for guidance, looking outward for an example, looking outward for the standard. A smear of time littered with things, ideas, jobs, relationships, what have you, that certainly used my time and energy to the fullest extent I allowed, but without much fulfillment coming out of the other side.
Over and over again, I indefinitely arrived at a familiar place where I was defeated, lost and resentful of all the time spent, all the personal investments I’d made. My way of handling this was to reinvent myself in each dark in-between, hoping to re emerge as…. Myself, I guess. I recall my life in distinct, chunky sections. I realize now, this is why. I would try on a new self every couple years. I decided a thousand times what it is that I “really want,” and I have frantically undone many of those decisions when I realized what I “wanted” was just another pursuit far off the mark, (wherever that was,) to which I arrived aching, empty handed, and hungrier than ever.
I desperately desired the inner clarity it seemed so many others had. I watched my peers go straight into career paths that seemed to suit their talents, light them aglow, or at the very least, handsomely compensate them. Yet, here I was still not knowing what I wanted to do. I saw others collecting wealths of friendships, experiences, and landmarks of success that I had only dreamed of having. But where was I going, and would I eventually find my own version of those things, too?
So I perked up my ears and kept my eyes open, waiting to catch the moment I would find my own calling. When someone told me I was good at something, or if they suggested something I should do, or asked me to join them in what they do, I often listened. Or I at least gave it my consideration. Because at that time, I didn’t feel as though I was good at much—maybe they saw something in me that I didn’t. Plus, it felt good to do what others wanted me to do, it meant I had their support, right?
If it wasn’t a friend, acquaintance or colleague offering their suggestions, it was the world. It was the internet. It was anyone and everything. I looked into countless faces and screens—thinking, maybe, hopefully, eventually, I might find my own reflection in them. I never did, though I fooled myself a few times. I kept missing that mark.
It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I had a sudden awareness of what had been happening for so long. I had been searching for myself outside of myself. No wonder nothing felt like “me,” none of it was. With that awareness, that thankfully has been rooting itself stronger in me with time, I understand how difficult it can be to grasp and maintain that awareness, considering the overwhelming outside influence we are in the constant presence of.
Take a scroll on your social media, yeah, you’ve heard it all before—but really take into consideration the way your mind is endlessly consuming and categorizing these images and information for reference, even when you don’t fully realize it. We see someone with an item, and next thing we know, we want the item too. We see someone somewhere, and next thing we know, we want to go there too. We see someone doing something, and next thing we know, we want to do it too. Do we ever question this?
Someone gives us advice— either directly or indirectly, and we want to listen. Maybe we want to show respect, maybe we’re hoping to earn a place in their group, or maybe, we just listen because it’s easier than making a difficult decision on our own.
If you don’t have a solid idea of what truly gives you joy, contentment and peace, you will be ping-ponged around on everyone else’s idea of those things. It’s absolutely draining, and it’s a race you will never win.
When you’re starting to feel uninspired, clouded or lost, it’s almost automatic to begin searching outward for answers. What I have been doing more recently is making a rule to look inward during those times. I quiet the external noise and I step away for however long I need to get back in touch with myself. This means I take social media breaks. I meditate imperfectly, sporadically, as needed. I make an effort to strip away and distance those outside influences when their voices become louder than my own.
I am the one who has to live with myself and my decisions. It is important that I make them from a place of brutal honesty. Not from outside conditioning, not from a place of people pleasing, not from a place of ego, and especially not from a place of instant gratification. Yes, it sounds like effort because it is. It has been.
This has meant I have accepted that I’m not always the coolest person in a room. This has meant that I go ahead with personal goals that I know will get less outside support, or may even turn away support I’ve had. This means I understand I am never owed anyone’s support in the first place, and that’s okay. This has meant I divert from common ideals if they just don’t suit me. Even though it’d be much easier to just agree and go along with them for the sake of being part of the group. It means having the courage to do hard things for myself, for no other reasons but the desire to grow and become better— not only to earn the next announceable reward.
It means trusting that my genuine efforts will bring genuine fruit, just my taste, and in just my time.
It has taken the most evolved version of myself to have the courage to back my own goals, speak in my own voice, and move to my own rhythm, despite external influence and pressure. In some moments, choosing to be entirely myself seems like the scariest thing to do, and yet, every time I do, I have the innate warmth and knowing that I am taking one more rightful step towards that mark; my mark.
And in the meantime, I cheer for everyone well on their way to and meeting their own.