Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.
-Henry David Thoreau
Is your life what you imagined when you were 12 years old, on the cusp of being a teenager and discovering who you are?
Sometimes when I’m walking to work I find myself, like some kind of weirdo or pervert, staring into people’s faces. Some look strained, some have a focused but faraway look in their eyes like they are focusing on something that isn’t physically in front of them, some are talking or laughing, either on the phone or with a companion, some are in a deep conversation and some so vacant you wonder if anyone is home!
Are these people happy? Really happy. Are they living the life they expected when they dreamt of work, of love, and of relationships when they were younger? Call me a pessimist, but I imagine only a few of those walking to work are living the life they thought they would lead.
For many of us it’s a life of make do’s, of ‘she’ll be right’, and ‘I made my bed and now I have to sleep in it’ and there is nothing more I can do. But is this how we should be living?
Can we change our lives and live a life that makes us happy?
A quote by David Morley from The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007) says:
“…We are our own fictions even if most of the time we do not wish to understand ourselves in this way.”
This phrase that we are our own fiction, for me, is a mind-bender. Are we really able to dictate or write our own lives? The more I thought about it, the more I realised that we do, even if this is mostly unconsciously. But what happens if we consciously decide to start writing our own lives, on our own terms.
We can do anything, can’t we? Is there anything stopping me on being a pole dancer (apart from my flabby tummy or dimply thighs)? What about being a lawyer or a doctor? You could tell me that due to my limited intelligence I would never make the grade. But what would happen if I was determined? What if I believed that this was the journey for me? Could I rewrite what others planned or thought best for me?
I like this idea, that we are our own fiction, that we have the means to rewrite our life, to tell our story how we want it. That it’s all up to us. This life we are living is our story and that we have the power to make change and to choose which road to take. It’s about the decisions we make every day. We don’t have to let people/society dictate how our story should be, should we?
Is this easy to do? Of course not, otherwise we would all be happy and living ‘the dream’, but is it possible?
Should we be telling our children that there is nothing stopping them from living the life they dream, that nothing is impossible if this is what desire and believe to be true?
The article, ‘What makes people happy? Is Happiness easy?’ discusses the conditions for happiness based on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, concluding that self-actualisation is the key to what makes people happy. This happens after a range of needs are met. First you need your physiological and safety needs to be met. With these basic needs met you are then capable of achieving love and belonging. Feelings of self-worth, competence and confidence are then needed to reach the next level. The second to last level, your cognitive needs of knowledge and understanding needs to be met before you are capable of reaching self-actualisation.
Self-actualisation is realising your full potential, ‘becoming everything one is capable of becoming’ – basically to be the best that you can be.
This hierarchy of needs for self-fulfilment makes sense, but to reach these levels you need courage and the desire of wanting more from your life.
To follow your dreams and desires isn’t always easy, especially if your loved ones or society itself doesn’t share the same values or desires.
To start rewriting your life you need to work hard and you need to be passionate, determined and persistent. And of course believe it. You can be who you dream. You just have to be.
What did your younger self believe in? Do you still see that image of your future self who your 12 year old self saw and wonder how different you life could have been, if you had been at the steering wheel? Do you dwell in that image with grief or do you now park yourself up, grab a pen and start rewriting?
Do you believe you are capable of choosing your own direction or do you think that this idea is a fantasy?
What can you do today, to start rewriting your own fiction and living the life you desire?