There is something very interesting about how we all choose to live out our lives. I find, that there is always a deeper story behind the choices we make. I am starting to see how much of my actions have been governed by my subconscience. Retrospectively, I’m observing how much I slip in and out of consciousness through my actions. It begs the question, how in control of our decisions are we?
I say this as an observer of my own life because, it dawned on me recently that I have been experiencing the world through somewhat of a linear lens for most of my journey up until now. But, I am seeing more and more how life is anything but linear. The tick box exercise that we tend to live by, and indeed are conditioned to comply with, seems to become quite irrelevant as time goes on – as one matures. As I approach my 35th year, I question what my linear approach to life has taught me, and how I can unlearn the conditions that were set to bring me the greatest of inner satisfaction and happiness, but never did. This is a story about my linear journey.
It all started in Manchester. Born and bred in the northern quarters of the UK. I can remember my first primary school, my first family home, the first time I balanced myself on a bicycle, my first crush. My infant years were very colourful. I remember writing and reading a lot. I loved to watch movies. I fell in love with musical art. Any opportunity to learn a dance routine or perform, I was there. Book-sets, italic pens with separate ink pots – they were the things my heart sang for. But change (also known as disruption when you are super young) was always just a step away.
I was nine years old when I got on my first plane flight. It was quite dramatic in that I was on my way to spend a school year in Jamaica, without my parents. My maternal Grandma would become my temporary parent. Little did I know that I would have a circle of parents when I arrived. My great grandparents were still alive and the experience was golden – their eyes were filled with so much magic, so much love and wonder – I would observe them more than talk.
I have no idea why this trip was agreed. Or perhaps I just don’t agree with the version of truth I am told about it today. But I digress. I’m convinced that this “trip”, shaped a lot of my now, independent characteristics. Equally, it probably contributed to much of my detachment issues in my adolescent and younger adult years. You know, not knowing when to walk away from a bad situation – or holding onto people who were no good for me.
I started writing music and poetry around age 11; completely fascinated by drums, the brass instrument family and the piano. There was something about expression through music that felt right. It stayed with me. It never left. It was my therapy before I even knew what therapy was. Music with no words always caught my attention – in hindsight, they allowed me the freedom to feel and express without constraints. I nurtured these talents and passions in me. It felt like they had always been there – they just needed an ignition.
12 -13 years old – I joined a Fire Cadets scheme, run by the local Fire Brigade. I was fed up of being a brownie / girl guide and saying the “brownie guide law”. Something about respectable routine and discipline was invigorating. Stimulating. Feeling valued and important – that was a thing for me. I was learning the importance of teamwork and techniques used to save lives. These things were credible.
At the age of 14 my family and I left to start a new life in the UK’s capital, London. The equivalent of what was perceived as England’s version of the Big Apple – at the time. New school, new friends, fresh start, I was so ready! My maternal Grandad had passed away earlier that year; the only male figure who seemed to reflect a rich decency and safe haven for the girl that I was; and the only man that taught me that respect and freedom were not dictated by the colour of a persons skin, their gender or class. His departure was more pivotal than what I could ever have imagined at the time. An honourable hero during my childhood.
Sink Or Swim
By my 16th year, I witnessed the death of the 2 parent family that had housed my entire childhood – but what a relief! You see, I had been consumed by traumatic domestic events for over a decade. At last, life was serving me a main course of peace. Dinner would never taste the same. I could sleep easy for the first time in years. I hadn’t known a true peace besides music and writing. To this day, I find it difficult to put into words what turning 16 years of age felt like. It was over! The heavy weight that had moved with me as I grew up, was gone. Yet, I overlooked the underlying grief and disappointment that I would later play out through my life and decisions as a young adult.
Ironically, I began to experience an extended family setting that grew increasingly estranged. Separations and divorces can cause much conflict (for reasons both good and bad). Things and experiences that I had known so well were falling away. My identity was being shifted but I’m not sure I knew how to follow – I didn’t quite know what it was to be free. Family was taking on a new meaning. From cousins to grandparents to Aunts and Uncles, familiarity seemed to be decreasing. Had everything and everybody changed overnight, or was it my perception that had been altered? My reality was shifting.
What happened after this point seems to be a period of extreme auto pilot in the direction of needing to create a structure for myself. Perhaps this was my attempt to feel some sort of security or sanity, or both. Perhaps I was missing the constraints I had grown to accept during my childhood. Perhaps I had no idea what it meant to live without external validation, whether toxic or not.
So, amidst the odds of going undiagnosed with a serious condition of post traumatic stress, my linear journey took an identifiable hike.
I was 16 and ready – I passed over 9 GCSEs and got into my first choice college. Tick.
At 17 – I met my first love. hid within him; within our connection. Everything about our “getting together” both on paper and apparent to observers, was so misaligned – but that didn’t matter to me at seventeen. At that point, any sense of security was a tick. So, tick.
Turning 18 felt like it had already been hijacked. I knew what it felt like to see the things that only adults are supposed to see. There were no bright lights. It wasn’t a celebration. Perhaps it felt more like a premature goodbye to my childhood. But I was on a mission: the mission of being the best “adult” I could be – you know, like all of the other “great and successful” adults in the spotlight, looking happy, looking successful. Tick.
With this in mind, I decided I wanted to be a fully fledged Christian and joined quite an “extreme” denomination that saw me being trained for leadership. It looked good. It provided me with validation. It gave me a new family and new friends. It gave me a sense of righteousness. It also challenged, with good reason, my connection to a “first love” that was no longer a reflection of loving myself. Or God (which were two separate things to me at the time). So, tick.
I also got the right amount of UCAS points to get into my first choice university. I had decided to study Politics over Law, Psychology and Music. I’d spend the day debating about controversial government led obscenities, and spend my downtime in a small neglected music room with a piano and drum kit. Or you could find me in an empty lecture hall writing lyrics to a composition that had yet to be written. When I wasn’t doing that, I was reading about all things “psychology”. I had so many passions and I had no idea which one of them to honour. But a degree in Politics would (presumably) prove my intelligence and guarantee me career success and longevity. Besides, I somewhat enjoyed analysing and debating on topics that ordinarily wouldn’t ever be discussed so provocatively. So, tick!
During my 19th year, I decided that it was important to be as much of my true self as possible. At the time I chose to do this through growing out all chemicals from my hair. No more straight perms. No more death by scalp burning. It was a new day and although most people couldn’t understand why I was (comparatively) choosing to downgrade my prior polished exterior, I felt like I was breathing in a bit of fresh air again. Tick.
I had arrived at 21 and I had saved up enough money to secure my first apartment; a lot more exciting than 3 years before. Farewell to sharing a space with younger siblings. I was ready for my independence – but was I really? The trauma of my childhood still lingered, but I went with it. It was a seemingly great achievement to move out of the family home at 21. So, big tick.
Fighting For Life
Later that year, I contacted a publishing house about publishing my first book. I needed guidance. I wasn’t sure how to position this book. I had a story to tell, trauma to release…..but instead I reunited with my “first love” and focused on building a budding career and family. Two ticks.
22 – the year of much change. I became a mother and a wife. I was running towards greatness (surely). I had achieved huge milestones earlier than most my age. I have myself the equivalent of four ticks. Double honours. I had cut many corners and gone against many inner truth – ones that I would be forced to revisit. But who cared? I was on track and that was all that mattered…..at the time. Heaven ahoy. Tick.
By 25 I had landed in the world of banking feeling like Neil Armstrong. The only way was up from here. Tick with a capital T.
At 28 I created a blog site to start housing my writing material. I guess it was a call to a deep seated part of myself to wake up and not give up on what matters. I just didn’t know how to integrate it into my linear lifestyle. Do I have an audience? Am I really that good. I wasn’t sold on this “non-tick” exercise.
Around 29 I felt well corporately acquainted enough to begin branding my skills at company level. I quit my permanent job and set up my own limited company, becoming a freelance consultant in Project Management and Business Analysis. I was travelling globally on business. Tick.
Ressusitation; The Break Up
30 walked in with mixed emotions: I decided that I finally wanted to hand in the towel and file for a divorce. After a celebratory trip to Miami and a couple of weeks in Jamaica, of course. But, I still didn’t own a home. I hadn’t felt the happiness I expected to feel at this age and quite frankly, I was a little nervous about the linear approach and all that it had failed to deliver. I had become suspicious. However, my career was going well and I had a financial security which made me extremely happy. I guess that deserved another tick.
The real badge of honour was waltzing into a dealership a few days after my 30th birthday, and pointing at the newest series of my favourite car, with the same year registration plate and saying, “that one please!” What a huge tick. A very big and overpriced £45k tick – but still, a tick nonetheless.
I remember taking a moment to consider that my tick box exercise wasn’t having the same effect on me as it had in my late teens, early 20’s. The rush of adrenaline just wasn’t the same. I wasn’t sure anymore. But I knew I didn’t want to get left behind. So, there began a wave of tick and non-tick events:
- I divorced at 31 – in an attempt to stop committing insanity i.e. doing the same things and expecting a different outcome
- Ditched religion completely at 32 and explored my first same sex relationship the same year (which didn’t feel as related as it does now)
- Decided to embark on contracts within Government / Law – which has gone better than I expected
- Cut my 14 year old locs off at 34 and decided to create a modelling portfolio (something I’d always wanted to do)
….and so, here I am on the brink of 35, questioning what a linear approach to life has gained me, and what it has cost me.
It is safe to say that my tick box exercise has become less and less external. It has become more of a conversation with myself, as opposed to one with the world and everybody in it. That might be partly because I also experienced one of my most challenging / soul destroying financial, property and career phases at 33. Something that was out of my control in some ways. But ultimately, I have experienced much change, extreme variation.
“They” say that we choose this life before we enter into it and I guess I am questioning why anybody would choose my version of a highly changing chain of events. What happened to successful, blissful and rich? What happened to “happily ever after” – the love story?
“They” also say, that in order to know where you’re heading, in order to know who you are, you must go back and understand your roots, your past.
Well, this is a snapshot of my past…and I’m inclined to ditch the approach, the running, the rushing, the external pleasing, the dependency on everything else but myself. Because the truth is, I have no idea what or to whom to pay homage. Is it a city or a country to which I should feel patriotic? or is it an experience or person that I should attach extra sentiment to? Do these things dictate my current identity? Do I have to keep going in the illusionary “straight line” that I was conditioned to believe in?
With all of this variation, I have no idea what or whom really raised me or where my real home is. With each event, each experience, each change, my roots have changed. The blueprint of who I am has been altered, updated.
So, I wonder, is “change” the real teacher, the real parent, the real family, the real first love, the real friend? Because with each change, my teachers have changed, my family have changed, my relationships have changed…
So is “change” the point?
Did I “choose” change?
Do we “choose” change?
A friend recently shared with me that, “life is not linear, and so we must honour ourselves in each moment”. It was like a penny had dropped in the very deep ocean of questions I have to start answering for myself. This is one of the truest things that resonate with me, right now.
So from here on in, I am making a conscious decision to slow down. I’d like to start focusing on each moment, giving myself fully to each one.
Here it goes. Wish me luck.
I love you….and I’m ready for my new life of moments. Because the point is, I don’t think it matters what happens in the linear space. I am starting to believe that it matters most what is going on in my internal space, internal mind, internal spirit, highest self.
Today is my most truest thing.
Today is the “me” I choose to focus on.
The lessons of yesterday are my helpers for my choices of today. So, let’s choose well. Please help me to choose well; to be authentic; to be truthful to myself first, BEFORE everything and everybody else.
My greatest experiences are those I once deemed were mistakes. But they weren’t mistakes at all. They are all a reflection of me stepping out on what I thought I knew, and taking a risk to find out if they were my truth or not. Without trying, how would I ever have arrived at this point of reflection? And so, I am grateful.
I’m excited to ignite more courage in myself; to find and explore a deeper existence in myself; to connect more with the things that hold meaning in my eyes; to explore the root of my wanting and desires, unconditioning each one, step by step.
I wonder what choices I’ll make with each link of past programming that I undo. I’m excited to know who I really am when I am not rushing, not ticking a box, not satisfying a version of somebody else’s truth.
And so I say, “Farewell Linear”, I’m breaking up with you. Thank you for being my home for as long as I have needed you to be. Perhaps you were my therapy after all. I think I am ready to create the home I deserve now. I appreciate your lessons. I will always remember. And should I ever come knocking again, do NOT answer.