“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.” ~ Henry David Thoreau.
Conversationalists or not, when one is either being introduced to someone unfamiliar, meeting with a long-time-no-see friend, converses with a family member or is even randomly stopped in one’s tracks in the supermarket to ask where the tomato sauce is located spiralling into a conversation of life lessons pertaining an inundation of life pressing questions…
The all-to-common, contrived and non-interested conversation prevails:
– Do you study? What are you studying? How many years is the degree? Do you know how you wish to implement the degree into your lifestyle? Will it provide you with great monetary funds?
– Do you flat or still reside at home?
– How old are you?
– What do you do for employment? How much money do you receive from that job?
– Do your drive your own car?
– Have you been travelling yet or will you embark on travel soon? Where?
– Do you have a boyfriend / girlfriend / partner? Or are you single? How long have you been single for? Aren’t you lonely being single?
– What are your short and long term goals and ambitions?
– Where do you envision yourself in five years?
These questions are overwhelming enough to leave one feeling utterly drained of all energy. Yes, I understand that others are intrigued by others lifestyles, such is human nature.
However, why are we expected to adhere to each of these questions or at least have a reasonable and appropriate answer? Why must we answer for the happiness and reassurance of others? Why do we grant others permission to govern us? Who established these generic and soulless questions?
It is as if society has placed incredibly demanding structures and pressures surrounding us all, that we reside in a bubble that is unable to burst with our minds having become robotically, monotonously and stringently programmed.
I am often asked these questions, if not on a daily basis by others. When I answer these questions honestly, the response is generally an air of confusion. Why? Because I have not adhered to the way in which others desire and do not reach the societal expectations that someone my age should. It is not only others expectations but also my eight year old self’s, of what I would be, look and sound like, now at the current age of twenty three.
Youthful, naive, goal inspired and idealistic Maddie, believed that by the age of twenty three she would have successfully graduated as a Clinical Psychologist, working in the the area of improving mental health within New Zealand. She would be soon to courageously travel the globe with her long term boyfriend or potential fiancé. She would be happy with who she gloriously embodied and all that life offered her. She would be independently flatting with her friends and boyfriend in a cosy, quaint and practically presented abode and that she would be looking forward to the prospect of a wedding and children in five years time.
Being twenty three, the eight year old Maddie’s expectations were completely amiss to what reality is. Our expectations can steer us in a clear direction, yet can simultaneously be soul destroying if we do not reach the envisioned outcome.
I have learned to be my authentic self since the expectations and perceptions imposed by younger self and others have not been established in my life as yet. Discovering and openly utilising my authentic voice has liberated me to accept the young woman that I am and the journey I am traversing.
Using my authentic voice, I proudly present my responses to the posed questions that others and my inner critic ask:
– No, I do not currently study. However, have begun, yet not successfully finished due to ill health, a Bachelor of Arts (Majoring in Psychology) and a Bachelor of Health Science (Majoring in Nursing). I have accomplished an online TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and am contemplating commencing study next year in the realm of nutrition which will take two years to complete full time online. I am not certain about the monetary side of things. However, I have an immense passion for this topic, which is my number one priority. If the employment proves financially sound, such is an additional bonus. Yet I do not seek a means of study or role of employment for the monetary benefits. That simply deprives me of the joy I receive when immersing myself in my life’s pleasures.
– I reside at home and have not left to flat / rent yet. It is more financially secure for me, especially since I live with the constant interloper, Anorexia Nervosa which I have to contend with twenty four hours of the day. Exhausting!
– I am twenty three. Does that matter? Do I look twenty three? Older or younger? Is my age and appearance relevant to what I have and am still accomplishing?
– I am neither studying or working currently due to focusing on returning to optimal health so that I have the adequate energy to invest towards purposeful study, work and relationships. Holistic wellbeing is important to me and my purpose.
– I do proudly drive and own my own car. A 2001 silver Toyota Vitz whom I provided the appellation of Gertie. She simply looked like a Gertie!
– I did travel earlier this year to America and all throughout Europe, as I thought I should since I am young, worked hard to do so and had no attachments at home. Why not when the opportunity presents itself? One must seize every opportunity provided.
– I am single and have been for four and a half years. Yes, such can prove lonely at times, especially when all of my friends have partners, are getting married and or are having beautiful children. Although it would be lovely to have a boyfriend, I do not need another to make me happy or my life content. Do I? It would be nice, but I believe the correct young man will enter my life for all of the right reasons at the correct time.
– Goodness! I am uncertain as to what today will bring let alone contemplate short and long term goals! Should I have goals? I am not exactly a goal orientated person…I prefer to live in and appreciate the given moment. Life is too short. I appreciate those who do live with the prospects of goals.
– Five years…I would love to say that much would have occurred and for the betterment of all, but can I simply survive today first?
These questions that we are often asked are the expectations others have of us. If we respond to these questions in the way others “expect” us to, then happiness ensues. Conversely, if one answers with different comments, or questions the interrogator, such as my answers do, perplexion and silence eventuates. Subsequently leading to the cessation of all conversation.
Society is an upheaval of others expectations and perceptions; exhausting us to the means of working longer hours, multiple jobs, shift work, not eating and drinking a nutritionally balanced diet, studying until we can no longer retain the information, seeking comfort in a partner even if we are not compatible as long as we are seen to be in a relationship, to flat with our friends to present independence, to socialise constantly and be youthful, to have short and long term goals and simply live or live through others according to their incessant pleads.
This pressure negates the manifestation of contentment and enables detrimental behaviour, mindsets, stress, exhaustion, the inability to adequately function and hostility towards ourselves and others.
Is this the true essence of life?
Why do we compete daily for our right to be successful or present in this world?
Why do we feel an obligation to have our lives planned and “sorted” by a certain age?
Why can we not live in the present?
For years I continued in life, to please and conform to others and my eight year old self expectations. I was incredibly preoccupied with studying for ten plus hours everyday, whilst working two part time jobs for minimum wage, attempting to balance my social life and have a boyfriend all whilst establishing short and long term goals which I had to reach. Some may say this was ambitious, in which many others implement the same daily.
But this is precisely my point! Many of us walk this earth, traipsing the same steps day in day out, working and studying tirelessly, being on autopilot because that is all we know. But is this a lifestyle which can be maintained? Are we all truly, entirely happy?
I am finally proud to admit who I am and not adhere to the socially constructed questions. Life is by no means a race, or proceeds in a liner fashion. Rather it is a beautiful journey, whereby all eventuates at the correct time and for a reason; walking at one’s own pace.
If we can live in the moment, embracing ourselves and the path we are walking, not allowing others’ demands or perceptions manipulate us, the essence and joy of why we begun our individual journey initially will appear and enlighten our mind, body and soul.
Remember, you can be dedicated to every aspect of your life, yet these facets do not define who you are. They are merely created by society to inculcate our minds, believing ourselves unworthy if we disobey.
Why do we allow our critical, self analytical and loathing mind dominate us when we would not impose or inflict these barriers onto others?
Live your life how you desire. Live a life for you and written by you. Be present and appreciate what is occurring in the moment as opposed to fixating on what was or what shall be as such promotes an internal suffering and turmoil. Embark on all with whatever allows your soul to loudly sing, your heart to flutter joyously and your mind to be peacefully soothed.
Work, education, money, goals, ambitions, cars, travel and relationship will always be present in life. However, you are your own forever. Nourish your being without the shackles of expectations and perceptions restricting you from living your life desires.
Accomplishing what you truly wish and partaking in self care along the way, is not an act of egocentricity, selfishness or pomp, it is a necessary means to lead an auspicious life.
At the end of the day, all of these questions may be directed towards you in a flurry of immense intrigue, yet does anyone ask you if you are truly happy?
Life is not always about what you look at, but how you view all. This is where the key blissfully lies, in the control, warmth and familiarity of your own hands not in the grips of another.
Be kind to yourselves always.
All of my love, thoughts and hugs,