Conformity

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

I feel lost.

I can’t follow through on a single action or complete a thought. I want to do something. I want follow a new course, make a change. But I’m paralysed. I seem to have lost control of my inner compass and all sense of direction.

After a full week of feeling that I’m failing at some distant and unknown achievement, of scolding myself, hating myself, I’ve had a breakthrough and found the cause of this sudden crisis.

Last year, I left my life to try and save myself, cure myself. I left my house, my job, my friends, on a quest to find myself, to find out why I was so unhappy and what I really wanted from life.

I told myself it would just be for a year. That I would travel and experience different things, meet different people, take the time to pursue my interests, experiment with writing again.

But always in the back of my mind, I was planning a return to the “real world” as I’d been taught to think of it. For the past year I’ve felt myself come alive again, start to feel again and enjoy things. Despite travelling to remote places alone, and experiencing some pretty gruelling physical challenges, I didn’t ever feel anxious, or unsure. I felt excited, optimistic, ready and happy for whatever experience was about to come my way. Positive or negative, I just wanted to have the experience.

I was fearless.

Now my time has run out. My year is officially over and I’ve instantly felt that old tightness return, that heavy weight push down on me. I’m not ready for real life yet, I thought, panicked that I hadn’t discovered anything, hadn’t cured myself of this depression at all because here it was again, back in it’s full glory, about to claim victory over me once more.

I’ve realised the cause of it though. I don’t want to return to real life because that way of living, settling down in one location, working in an office, choosing a partner and plugging into the monotonous and mundane under the guise of “facing reality” is not a life for me.

After a year of travelling and living without labels and expectations and commitments and responsibilities, I’ve discovered I can live without them. That I don’t need them. That there are other ways of living I didn’t know existed.

I’ve been pressuring myself all week to conform, to apply for jobs I don’t want, be set up on a date when I don’t want to be in a relationship, started judging my body and measuring it up to what is expected and forcing myself to commit to a strict and dull eating and exercising routine I don’t want to adhere to, to achieve a body befitting an ideal I don’t subscribe to.

I’m anxious, panicked, tired. I’m afraid.

As much as I live I shall not imitate them or hate myself for being different to them.

– Orhan Pamuk

Well I’m letting it all go today. I’m not falling into that conformity trap again. I’m dedicating my future time now to building a life that brings me joy. I’ve never really come to terms with being different. I always wanted to fit in, to be part of the society everyone else was part of.

I wish I could be happy following the mainstream lifestyle. It would be so pleasant, so simple, so much easier. But I can’t live that way, and the more I try to force myself to, the more pain, anxiety and sadness I feel.

I didn’t discover the cure I was looking for. I didn’t find that magic potion that would make me be like everyone else. Instead I’ve realised the cure lies quite simply in accepting myself.

And I suddenly feel clear again, now that I’ve removed the barrier blocking me from going down the path I wanted to go down. I’m giving myself permission to not-conform, to find my own life.

If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.

– Maya Angelou

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