This is not as simple as it sounds. What if you’re not an easily bought list of ingredients? What about unknowns, voids, personality sections you’ve repressed or not discovered? What if you still don’t know, decades in, exactly who you are?
I’m into evolution. I enjoyed all the church stories about gods planting fossils in cliffs and sediment, for shits and giggles, that really the earth was created, like, 6000 years ago, and dinosaurs were a creation blink, a foil, a tale told to gullible recipients. But I dig evolution. I like that once we were something quite different and now we’re this. And what we are now: unsatisfied consumers sucked in by any club offering rewards (buy 50 drinks and we’ll be your friend for a year), is that actually any better than how we started?
I used to think life was a game. Get certain ducks in a row and you’re sorted. This was total wishful thinking, and wrong: life’s greatest attribute, plus its suckiest, is surely the unpredictability of it. If you know where you’re going, what your exact journey will be, and all the things that will happen getting you there, how is that in any way satisfying?
Surprises can be shit. 2014 was a roll call of unwanted, unexpected fuckery. And none of that self-help BS about how painful experiences break then make us applies. Some things just break. I lived in a bin and I’m not grateful to the bin for the experience. Which isn’t negativity. I’m just not a fan of denial. Sometimes the things that happen aren’t good and there is no making the best.
Which is not the same as giving up. It’s the opposite of it. You don’t find yourself through the bad stuff, but in spite of it. You cling to any shred of what feels true, to you, and clutch it even when opposition is rife, Hulk-strong and bellowing. You’re forced to be who you are, really, because everything else is exhausting.
So much of life is performance: we’re different characters for different people, and we assume roles, some of which we don’t get to choose. But what happens during a shitfest is, you no longer have the energy for pretence. Playing those roles, keeping that status quo, becomes impossible. This is also not failure. This is so much better than failing. This the best ‘fuck you’ you can ever deliver.
If you’ve a speck, clue, nagging stomach-pit feeling about who you are really, what you’d be if you were the most YOU you could be, listen to it. As someone who has stepped outside of the rigid set of rules they were bound to for about two decades (and this binding felt choiceless at times), I can’t recommend enough letting yourself explore possibilities. Just all possibilities. What if you didn’t listen to the should and shouldn’t instructions, opinions of friends, acquaintances, family? What if you evaluated what you got out of every interaction in your life and were honest about it?
We’re happiest when we get to be the person we want to be. Not the person other people want us to be. This is the scariest, hardest, most difficult to implement, lesson of my life so far. But there’s nothing quite like doing what you want.