Today is the day. Gee it snuck up on me quickly. Ten years ago today is when I drew a line in the metaphorical sand, and decided to live my life as me. Seems weird I know, after all, how can you not be you when you are you? Well think of it this way; Ever been to a black tie event? You know, something where there is a dress code, and you have to present yourself a certain way, and it made you feel uncomfortable? You knew it wasn’t you, but you did it because it was expected of you.
Well that was my whole life.
So a change had to happen, and a change did happen. It was both the best and worst thing I could have done with my life, and it’s very interesting when you look at the standpoint of who is deciding if it was the best or worst. For me it was the best, but for everyone else in my life at the time, it was considered the worse.
You see, everyone puts expectations on other people as to the way they should be. Sometimes with reason, sometimes for nothing more than self vanity. If you’re the coach of a sporting team, putting expectations on people to perform or be a certain way is justifiable, to a certain extent. You can set a minimum standard for while they are on the field, set goals for them to achieve, even get players to aim for the stars. Off the field you can say how you would like them to be, but you have no real control over it. Sure there are consequences of off the field indiscretions that lead to on field penalties, but at the end of the day people get to make their own choices.
You may the be boss of someone in a workplace, and you can set the standard for what they have to achieve in order to keep their job. You have a little bit of say in their out of work activities (don’t turn up to work drunk), but no real control until they get into the workplace.
I was raised in a family that had certain beliefs. Nothing unusual there. But it was more a case of an existence without individuality than a life. I couldn’t be me, because it didn’t suit their image of me. If I had wanted to be me, then obviously I wasn’t doing it in my own best interests, I was doing it as a way to punish and hurt those around me. My core beliefs were not in alignment with theirs, and because of that mine were wrong. There was no discussing the matter, as I already had two options. I could tow the line and do what I was told, or I could be me, and I could be punished for the rest of my life for that.
So I towed the line.
The problem with towing the line is, over the years the line gets heavier. It picks up added bits and pieces along the way, and it becomes more and more difficult. It is also rather pointless towing a line that gives you no benefit at all. It is like saying to someone “You can live forever, but only if you never take another breath”. Everyone knows you have to breath to stay alive, so to do otherwise is pointless.
Then one day, snap.
The actual snap wasn’t a sudden decision. I had made up my mind years earlier to be me, but I kept it hidden. After all, I had a line to tow, and it was more than enough weight on my shoulders with out being me at the same time. There was no way the two could co-exist. Instead “me” was more of a pot of water on simmer, just gently bubbling away with the lid on. Every now and then there had been a little bit of boil over, but the lid stayed on, the mess was wiped away, and back to towing the line I went.
When the snap happened, it was an amazing experience. I felt like for the first time in my life (at that stage 29 years) that I was seeing clearly. It was like going from having only ever seen in black and white, to suddenly realising there are colours. While at the time I was still attached to the rope I had been towing, I was at least seeing a clear path to get away from it. All the fears I had had were gone, now there was only purpose and direction in my life. Finally I could see a life and not an existence in my future. But this all came at a cost.
To dislike is easy, to hate takes commitment.
The people in my life didn’t like me one little bit. Over the coming months as more and more people found out that I am now me, they turned. They turned nasty. They turned away. They turned hateful. They turned others against me. They turned the reality into a warped pseudo reality that this was all about them and not me.
It was an interesting time in my life. At the time I could have used a bit of support and understanding, but it was not to be. People don’t like it when they lose control of something they have always had, and so they fight it. This wasn’t a fight over an inanimate object, or money, or anything like that, no. Instead they were fighting against me being me, instead of their opinion of how I should be. It all seems rather silly doesn’t it.
Unfortunately instead of enjoying my life, and learning more about me, instead I was having to fight for the mere right to exist as me. The punishment dealt out by those around me certainly wasn’t fitting of the crime, not that a crime had been committed in the slightest. No instead of agreeing to disagree, or even just walk away, those around me decided they had to do everything possible to get me to tow the line again, and make sure the load was heavier for me even thinking that my life was my own. What the hell gave them the right to do that, other than their own self appointment?
So I did the only thing I could. I got on with living in reality, and making the best of things the best I could. The funny thing is, I have gotten out of life what I expected I would get out of it, despite their song and dance carry on.
The unfortunate thing is, all but one of the people in my life at that time who tried to control me, are still living in that pseudo existence, denying reality and recreating history so that in their own minds they won. It’s a shame because there was never anything to win, but they still live that way, even now.
Summing up the last decade. Well I can really put it into three parts. The first few years were the hardest. Every time I felt like I was taking a step forward, I was knocked down again. It seemed like my decision to be me was the worst decision I could have made. I attempted suicide during this time, because it doesn’t matter how strong anyone is, you can only take so much. When I made the decision to turn my life around and be me, instead of what I was expected to be, I was already in a bit of a ditch. Getting to the point of attempting suicide really was hitting rock bottom. For anyone who has never attempted it, and failed, you will never really understand how embarrassing that is. When deciding to take your own life, people only see the negative, with out seeing the statement being made. “Taking your own life” is a very profound statement to make indeed. You are not looking to kill yourself, you are looking to take control. There are a variety of reasons as to why you would want to take control, and even though I have been in that situation, I wouldn’t even know where to start with the many reasons someone could be in that mindset. All I know is, for me at that time, it was the most logical and best solution to me taking control of my life, and I failed at it. That’s what makes it so embarrassing. I needed support from those around me, no one had the time to support, only to hate. I was even told to go and do it, to put everyone else out of their misery and to stop wasting their time.
Before I decided to be me, I thought I was already at rock bottom. It certainly was a learning experience. These tough times helped to define the person I am today. I know there is a lot more to life than that I can control. There is more to life than that I can see. There is more to life than I will ever know. What I can do though, is choose to either accept things as they are, to have nothing to do with them and let them go about their business, or I can learn from them, and in return teach them, and together we may find a common ground.
The next few years were the years of the dust settling after the war. Sure the conflict might be over, but there is a lot of cleaning up to do and a lot of redefining of boundaries, while there are still tensions in the air. It was during this time that I really started to enjoy life, or at least learn how to enjoy it. Learning is always a difficult thing to do, and it takes time, making a lot of mistakes along the way. I guess this was the time in my life where I had always dreamed my life would be, but now that I am here, I don’t know what to do. As I write this I think of the line said by Heath Ledger in Dark Knight, where as the Joker he says “I’m like a dog chasing a car…, I wouldn’t actually know what to do if I caught one.”
It was during these years that I think I really started to find myself, and it was also the time where I actually had the freedom to do so. It seems unusual to be in my mid thirties and finally getting the chance to discover myself, but then again, I had to spend a long time searching for myself. It was also a very depressing time, as I looked back on all the years I had wasted in my time, and how if things had been different, if I had only stood up for myself ten years earlier than I did, then life could have been a whole lot different.
The last few years have been an interesting time in my life. I feel like I am finally finding my place in the world, now that I know myself better. It hasn’t necessarily made me a better person, but with understanding comes opportunity. It is much easier to plan things, when you have a clear road ahead of you, and I feel like I am now in the position to start down that road. Sure things may change as I go along, but now I can make decisions and know they are my own to make, with out others having a say in what the outcome will be. This is not to say that I an in the position to be selfish, or to put my interests ahead of others. Nor to even say that I am in the position to be controlling of the direction of someone else’s life, something I would never want to do anyway. It means instead that I am able to accept the decisions I make as being in my own control to make, with out the influence of others, because they believe their self interests come first. It certainly is a nice position to be in. It’s my own little patch in which I can feel safe, in which I can gather my thoughts and energy, in which I can be me.
Having my own little patch is comforting. I can invite others in, to stay for as long as I choose, and while they are here they don’t control me. I am at a stage in my life where I feel like I’ve been in a cage all my life, and now I am walking in the sunshine, on freshly cut grass, for the first time. It’s a new sensation, and I really don’t understand it, but I am enjoying the experience, and no one else is deciding how much of it I can enjoy, or for how long.
For many years I fought to have freedom of my mind. For much of that time I didn’t know what I was fighting for. Then when I did know, I didn’t know how to fight for it. Then when I did know, I needed to fight the battle with other people who wanted to deny I even had a fight at all, despite it being them now throwing the punches. Then I had to fight with myself again to realise what I had achieved.
These days I don’t need to fight at all, but I do still need to keep on my toes. I’ve seen the darker side of life, both internally and externally, and it’s not a good place to be. Being in a place you feel comfortable in, both mentally and physically is a difficult thing to do, when you haven’t only experienced it in your life. You fight to keep it, because for some reason those who have always had it in them, see what you are trying to achieve in yourself as taking away from them, when nothing could be further from the truth.
I wouldn’t say I am happy with what I have achieved over the last decade, but I am at least proud. It doesn’t matter in the slightest what other people think, or how they think what I have done affects them, good or bad. At the end of the day all you can be is yourself, and be the best you that you can be. I had to fight the fight. I had to take the long road. But at the end of it all, I can safely say,
I am proud to be me, and no one can stop that.