“If you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” ~ Albert Einstein
I’ve talked before about the traditional environment that I grew up in, and the way I was taught to expect my life to be. It’s a way a lot of people want their life to be, ticking off the boxes of education, followed by reasonably stable job, followed by partner who looks good on paper, followed by a suburban house, followed by children.
The only problem with that is that I spent the first twenty years of my life being told by everyone around me that the things that I was actually interested in doing with my life, like travel, writing, politics, helping people, were frivolous and wouldn’t be possible unless I’d made enough money to afford to do them when I retired.
In the mean time I was supposed to knuckle down, fit in, and be exactly the same as everyone else.
I’m estranged from my family, I decided to opt out of the high-flying corporate career path I started out on to work for a charity, and I spend almost every summer out of the country visiting as many places as I can fit in.
But I still feel like there are things that I’m supposed to like about my life, that are supposed to make me happy, that don’t. Some of that is down to my depression, some of it isn’t.
I’ve been talking about this a lot recently with friends I studied with at university. Friends who stuck with the program, who have great jobs in London, city apartments, and supposedly glamorous lifestyles – that they hate. Everything that they’re supposed to love about their lives makes them miserable. But they’re paralysed with fear at the thought of giving any of it up because they’re supposed to be living the dream.
Never mind that it isn’t their dream, someone would willing perform the seven labours of Hercules to be in their place, and so they stick it out in the vain hope that it will eventually become their nirvana.
It’s a pitiful waste of their ambition, passion, and talents.
Too many people are basically handing over control of the decisions about their lives to some sort of hive-mind that they don’t seem to have that much in common with.
And it almost makes me grateful for my illness.
One of the, admittedly well hidden, blessings of my battle with suicidal thinking is that it has forced me to try to create a life that I actually want to live. A life I’m supposed to want just won’t cut it because it still doesn’t give me anything to cling on to and live for.
So if I find that what I really want to do is sell off all my worldly possessions, cut all ties with everyone I know, and go and become a hooker in Timbuktu, that is exactly what I have to do.
Otherwise I’ll be unwell forever.
Or until this stupid illness kills me.
And I think we might all be a little happier if we spent less time trying to fit in with who we think each other are, and more time being honest about what we really want, think, and feel. Being true to ourselves by pursuing the things that interest us, concentrating on doing the things that we’re good at, and judging our success or failure by our own measures.
Leaving other people’s ambitions alone so that they’re there for other people to pursue, and not wasting time, our own and everyone else’s, on projects and relationships that we have no interest in.