What once was lost
I can remember a time in my life when I was effortlessly tapped into a stream of consciousness where the waters of creativity and imagination flowed like a cool river coming down from the mountains. My ideas were boundless, and the things I dreamt up made complete sense to me, even if to no one else. I used my body to interpret the songs I loved with dances that I made up, I wrote silly stories and love poems, made up fashion designs for my toys, and envisioned their whole lives because they were so real to me. I was often living in my own little world where I felt safe and whole.
Like many of you reading this, by the time I was in my teens, things were not great. Suddenly life was turned upside down and I was living in another state, far away from the comfort of friends I had grown up with. My own safe little world got smaller and smaller as I eventually found methods of moving through family, society, and my peers that "worked", and got me closer to the things I was supposed to want and what I should be doing in life. It never felt quite right, like wearing a coat that's just a little too tight, but I learned how to be proper and acceptable. As best I could, anyway.
When I graduated from high school the instruction I received was that I needed to go to college, and I should choose something in the medical field, because that was the wise choice since it would always be in demand. It never occurred to me then to consider a degree in the Arts. It just wasn't an option. I have always loved animals though, so I wanted to major in zoology or biology. Upon my declaration to them, my grandparents can be quoted as saying "You're just going to end up scooping elephant dung for the rest of your life." So my major became Physical Therapy, and off I went to the University of Central Florida.
I had no idea what I was in for.
This is a little embarrassing, but my whole life up until maybe 23, I did not have a computer or access to one in my home. I didn't know how email worked, what a word document was, or how to use the internet. Basically, I was your mom or dad (or maybe grandparents), but in the body of a 19 year old. On top of that, I somehow managed to sign up for 24 credits my first semester. Yeah.... It didn't go well. I was overwhelmed and lost. I lasted only that one semester.
So there I was, a college dropout. Working whatever job I could get. Drifting, feeling the continued pressure to figure my life out. All I knew was that I didn't know. I went back to writing, finding comfort in putting pen to paper, and lost myself in waves of music as I let my mind wander. Still, no answers came to me. I wrote poems, I wrote journal entries, short stories, and it all felt empty. I felt empty.
I drifted from job to job, and eventually found myself working in chiropractic offices, which led to me becoming a licensed massage therapist, and in time, a massage therapy teacher. Massage school was a world of difference compared to college. I absorbed everything I was taught like a sponge, wanting to know more and more. I gained a sense of self confidence and self worth. A feeling that I was contributing to the world. Maybe I wasn't a doctor, but this was at least in the arena, right?
So yeah, I was happy, and beginning to find my place in the art of massage therapy, and can honestly say being a massage therapist and a massage therapy teacher is the most rewarding experience I've ever had. After a few years, there was also a sense that there was some unmet potential still in me, some unfinished business. A sense that I had more to receive and give, a yearning for growth, but I didn't want to let go of the feeling that I was done. I had done it. I had found a career that I loved, and was successful at, and that was that. Look, see? I did it! I finally figured it out, I could rest now.
Except I couldn't. The longing for a more creative life, the sense that there was more to me than this would not leave me alone. I fantasized about becoming a writer, an artist, a creative. I wrote and painted in my down time, but it wasn't enough. I wanted to learn how to write, how to paint and draw.
A change was on the horizon. I didn't know where it was leading ultimately, but I knew it's where I needed to go and what I needed to do. I stepped down from my position as a massage therapy instructor, and greatly limited my massage clients (I haven't done any massage since the arrival of COVID-19) to make space for going to college.
Now, here I am, no guidance on what to do next, except for my own experience in life. I can feel the cool waters of that stream of consciousness again, and I want to bathe in them, but I can't quite seem to move from the bank. I'm still unlearning a lot, still undoing some of the programming that stuck with me. I've had plenty of time to reflect on why it took so long for me to come to the decision to step away from massage therapy and towards a life more focused on art and creativity. It comes down to this:
No one told me it was okay to not want the things I was told I should want.
I was too scared to be my true self. Too scared to defy the plans that were laid out for me. Scared that I would let so many people down if I wasn't this way or that way. I put my dreams away in order to be who people needed me to be, or wanted me to be instead of who I wanted to be. My value was wrapped up in how much service I could be to everyone else but me. In the process I lost touch with my Self, and became lost all together.
I have my career in massage therapy to thank for being able to slowly recapture the image of who I am and who I want to be. But I'm still afraid of failure, of letting myself down, of letting others down.
It's not an easy thing to fight the innate need to belong, the urge to blend in, and risk being labeled as "weird" or "difficult'. It's a lot easier to go with the flow, and live your life doing what others do, and thinking what others think. There's a real psychological need to be accepted, understood, and seen, and it's often too scary to think about going against what society deems as acceptable. For myself personally, it's been way too hard to try to fit in. I'm tired of it.
And I know if I feel this way, there must be others that can relate. I believe this tribe is out there. I can feel it. I've already found some of you (and I love you deeply). To the rest, I want to say this:
You're not alone.You don't have to keep trying to fit in.
You're wonderful just the way you are.Please let your light shine bright, because that's how we'llfind each other.