I’m gonna start out with a bold statement: I lead an inspiring life. But I doubt few agree with me.
I’m the kinda person that once I make up my mind to do something, I do regardless of how hard, or weird, it is. I’m not afraid to take risks, look like an idiot (or a egomaniac–clearly) and put myself in terrible, uncomfortable situations with no escape route.
You could call my life unconventional, but I don’t really see it that way. I’m just not lead by the same things society tells us to be lead by. My values don’t include money, a big house, a good job, stable family or a career.
To me, having adventures, pushing myself, trying new things is what I value. Even if that means I lose a lot. Even if that means I look like an idiot more often than not. Even if it means people laugh at me (behind my back or, as they do, in front.)
Because I know the benefits of what I get. I know the huge amounts of meaning, and gratefulness I feel all the time because of my life. I know that when you lose big, and look the idiot, the opposite happens every now and then and ultimately, even the losses and the embarrassments take on more meaning then a more “comfortable” life.
And with that knowledge, that sureness, comes a bit of cocky confidence. I’m basically bullet-proof. You can’t insult me, truly insult me, because your opinion doesn’t matter to me.
“Even though you dedicate so much time to badminton, why are you still so bad?” “Aren’t you embarrassed that your spelling and grammar is poor, don’t you have any pride in your writing?” “Don’t you feel embarrassed that at the age 40, you still take money from your parents?”
All of those things have been said to me, sometimes often, in the past six months and I’ll mock huff and puff, but I don’t take these insults to heart.
Because you don’t know me. Not like I know myself.
Sure, I’m an average badminton player now, but I was a miserable badminton player one year ago and I’ll be a great one one year later. Sure, I could improve my spelling and grammar, take a class even, but then I would become self-conscious, worry too much about how I was saying things, not what I was saying, and be paralyzed and unable to put anything out in the world.
And yep, I’m a 40-year-old woman who is happily letting my mom pay for my airplane ticket back to America this summer. My dad, who’s not chipping in, said that obviously I’m embarrassed about that because I would never mention it on my blog. Well, no dad, I’m not. (She’s also gonna cover a rental car and, since I’m airing it all out, I use her Netflix too.)
Hell, I feel like I should be embarrassed about this very blog post, because I can’t imagine that I’m coming off as very likable right now. But here’s the thing: I don’t need you to like me.
I love that you (yes YOU) are reading this blog. It makes me really happy. But if you don’t, I don’t care. I write this blog for me and would keep it up if it was the most unpopular blog in the world with the worst grammar you have ever seen.
I also don’t play badminton for you, I don’t look good for you, I don’t have a high paying job, or a house for you. I don’t act my age for you.
Basically, I give very few fucks about your opinion of me. And that’s why I think I’m inspiring. At least to myself.
Because it’s hard. It took a long time for me to get here, including a few near-death experiences, to not care what others think. And yet it is a very fragile place to be. Even with me, and all my positive experiences and hoity-toity attitude to back it up. Even with my clear mind and understanding of myself I feel the pressure of what society wants and expects, and it weighs on me just as much as anyone else.
I binge watch every episode of Gilmore Girls and think “Wow, Lorelei and Luke are perfect for each other, maybe I should have a serious relationship too!” (Even though I know it isn’t suitable for me and doesn’t make me happy.)
I hear a friend lucked out at work and ended up with a huge bonus and I look at them admiringly (even though I don’t care about money, and know money doesn’t make a person great). I see a picture of a friends face, covered in makeup, and I can’t stop but marvel at her skill and beauty and wonder what she could do for me (even though I think makeup is the devil’s tool).
So what do I do? How can I stay on my own track? How do I hear my voice out of the millions of other voices constantly bombarding me? How can any of us do that?
I need to constantly inspire myself. I need to watch movies of unlikely heroes, listen to podcasts about Oprah making her own life, and listen to songs like “To the World.”
I need to not only read poems like “Invictus” I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul, I need to teach them in class partially because I want to share my ideas with my students but I also need to reaffirm it to myself. I need to not only regularly read books like “Man’s Search for Meaning” and “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” but I need to talk about it with others, to really get the ideas soaked into my brain. I need to write blog posts like this one to remind myself at some later date how I feel now.
Because the biggest problem I see with my healthy ego isn’t arrogance. It’s complacency. If I think I got it all figured out now, and forever will, then I will slowly be corrupted by the forces of society. If I don’t constantly question my motives and desires constantly then I will be lead down the dark path of “what everyone else is doing.” Because it’s hard to go against everyone. If I just did things more normal, I wouldn’t have to confront these difficult things again and again. And it would be easier for me to make friends. I’d be normal, cooler, not an apparent narcissistic nut-case.
Yet, despite all my effort at constantly inspiring myself, sometimes I do get complacent. This week is a perfect example of that. Last week I thought everything was perfect and great and I had been as brave as I wanted to, and said everything that needed to be said.
But after randomly listening to a few podcasts, watching a few TED talks and helping a few students with a few life problems I realized that I had grown complacent. There were things I wasn’t addressing in my life because, deep down, I was too scared. Scared of rejection, scared of looking foolish, scared that I would reveal myself to be not at all together as I people thought I was.
So what did I do? I said “fuck it,” screwed up my courage and put myself out there. I decided to not care about my feelings, what was “right” or what I “should” have done. I said what I needed to say, and I made changes in my life.
So what happened? Well, when you do something big, changes don’t happen immediately. The results, and meaning, will come months or years later. But actually the results are meaningless. The meaning, and the value, comes from the fact I did it. I put myself out there and I made myself vulnerable. No matter what the results, I won today’s fight.
That’s why I think I live an inspiring life. Not because I don’t feel shame or embarrassment. I do. It’s there, just as much as much as you feel it, possibly even more (I’m an introvert). But I don’t ignore it or fight it. I feel it but I don’t let it control me. Wherever the shame and embarrassment point, I want to walk towards, not away. And fuck if I’m not proud of myself for doing that.
I heard a question once on a podcast, and it’s one I have repeated to myself, in my diary and in my head, regularly. “Did I use courage over comfort today?” I can’t answer yes everyday, but I can answer yes more days than no, and for me that’s what’s important. How about you?
2016 will go down as a tough year in the world, but personally it will go down as one the the best. Let’s see if we can’t do better next year.
Bring it on, 2017!
I love that you are true to you, while still challenging yourself. I’ve seen a lot of end-of-life stories where the regret was always about the chances someone didn’t take.
Heck, I have some of those stories and I’m not even halfway through my life. If you don’t have a certain amount of confidence (however misplaced), you can’t bear rejection, and you won’t try anything new and gain more confidence. It’s debilitating.
So go enjoy your badminton! Climb your mountains! Your adventures are inspiring, especially because you push beyond your fears. I mean, you’re not really brave if you’re too young and stupid to be scared, right? It’s more courageous if you are aware of the risks you run.