One day, not too long ago, I found myself sitting in front of a younger version of myself.
It was uncanny.
She was full of enthusiasm and spirit, appetite and zeal. She had a keen eye and a capacity for deep feeling. She was both empathetic and sensitive, expressive and boisterous.
And she was lost.
She was looking for meaning in her life. She was guided by hundreds of shoulds, and a yearning for structure and direction to help her feel her own roots and gravity. She was looking outward in order to determine her interpretation of her inner self.
She was exactly where I was at the same age.
After we met, I felt a strong pull to save her from her own misguided confusion; give her the direction I worked for years to find for myself, and reroute her away from the path she was on, one I believed would’ve moved her even further away from her purpose—as though I were some sort of authority on the topic of her purpose.
Ultimately, I was trying to save my 25-year-old self, through her.
I like to believe I have no regrets, but that moment reminded me that, at some level, I still was not fully reconciled with the absolute perfection of my own path, and especially the moments that had me veer way off course. Instead, I invalidated how perfect the years I spent droning away for hours in front of a computer screen were, following someone else’s vision, trying to find my purpose in it. I negated the real truth that veering off course was a part of the journey that got me to where I am now. And what’s worse is that I was self-righteous about knowing better now.
The reality is that for years I felt like that little bird in the children’s book who falls out of his nest and proceeds to walk around the world asking, “Are you my mother?” to cows and bulldozers.
“Is this my purpose?” I asked of countries, lifestyles, jobs, boyfriends, and even vegetarianism. I got consumed by them all, one after the other, and made each thing who I was, only to discover later that none of them were.
And the truth is, that process was an absolutely necessary one in finding my path. An alchemist’s journey requires us to embody our previous experience in order to understand and know the value of what we discover next.
We are all out looking for a destination, a place to arrive, or to land. We all want to find a shortcut to the glory land, to avoid the pain and suffering. We abhor starting over because we are afraid of losing everything, when we know deep down that we have nothing to lose. We have our attention so firmly planted on what it looks like when we get there that we risk forgetting the value of everything else in between.
The nuance, the subtleties, the heartbreak, and the totally misguided moments are actually of equal value on the pendulum of life. All of it is truly perfect and meaningful.
And so, instead of saving her, I gave my 25-year-old self (and my right now self) some reminders on how to keep the game of life in play:
Dear 25-year-old version of me,
Remove the word “should” from your vocabulary, immediately. Learn to do what feels right for you. Let yourself dream.
Travel to the ends of the earth and see what’s there. Spend energy on building character, not vernacular, and let that drive the content of your CV.
Fall obsessively, madly in love with someone and learn what that feels like. Get to know yourself intimately and let every inch of you, even the most vulnerable parts, be known by someone else.
Dig. To the depths of your soul. Find what lights your fire and never lose sight of that thing. And when you inevitably do, teach yourself to find your way back to it, every single time.
If any part of you feels at the mercy of someone else’s idea of who you should become, stop everything you’re doing and, instead, begin a personal excavation. Discover what makes you angry and jealous and earnest and envious and obsessive, and lean all the way in. Find that thing and get to know it, profoundly. Let that pursuit be the most important one you’ll ever have, always.
Risk being broke. Risk having no one. Risk abandonment. Risk death. Risk betrayal. Risk shame and rejection. Risk f*cking up. Risk forgiving. Risk failure. Risk saying no.
Risk love and adventure. Risk being brilliant, being worthy. Risk success and, most importantly, risk saying yes.
Risk trusting something or someone it would never occur to you to trust. Risk knowing you always have a choice. Risk in order to live your life more fully than you even knew was possible. Risk believing that anything is possible.
And then, when you think you have arrived, risk finding the thing that makes you feel like you’re starting all over. Because this—the exhilarating journey that you’ve been waiting to begin your entire life—is never ending.
Start over and go deeper, again. Rinse, and then repeat.
The only person you’re waiting for is you. This is your life. Live it now.
Author: Antesa Jensen
Image: anja./ Unsplash
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren