When I was young it seemed that life was so wonderful...

When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees, well they'd be singing so happily,
Joyfully, playfully watching me.
But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible,
Logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
Clinical, intellectual, cynical.

There are times when all the world's asleep,
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man.
Won't you please, please tell me what we've learned
I know it sounds absurd
But please tell me who I am.

These are the lyrics to a song by SuperTramp which I have never truly listened to. It appeared on my facebook wall the other day; I played the song, closed my eyes and listened. For the first time, not only did I hear the words, but I felt them. As children we live without inhibition, anything is possible and the world is our oyster. I would spend hours in the swimming pool pretending I was a mermaid, in my mind I had a whole underwater world, and the floating mats were the many islands scattered around for me to look on and ponder the lives of the inhabitants above, secretly smiling that it was my world they would never know about; my bike was a time machine taking me back to a time where dinosaurs roamed, pulling my bright pink socks up would instantly turn me into the pink Power-Ranger and one day I would write a book... As children our imagination is sparked and encouraged in so many ways, the world is a magical place, so what happens when we get older?

As we grow up we start hearing the adults in our lives from our parents to our teachers telling us that we need to study and work hard to become something. No one explicitly tells us that we can’t be a fire-fighter, astronaut, singer, movie star or writer; but eventually these professions seem as impossible as turning into a mermaid and swimming freely for all of our days. The older we get the more we are told that life is about hard work and sacrifice, put in the hard work now and you can reap the rewards later. Of course I am not denoting the fact that hard work is not only important, but essential to any success; BUT where in this equation is happiness? Why are we not encouraged from a young age to nurture and hone in on any gifts that bring us true joy, to fire our imagination to pursue these natural talents and genius, money not even coming into the equation?

For as long as I can remember, I have always written stories; from writing in my journal, to writing ‘ginourmous’ stories about vampires in Primary School (ok so it was only 10 pages long, but that was basically a novel at the time). So what did I study upon leaving High School? Why I did my law degree of course. By this stage writing had petered out to the odd scribbling in a journal when I had the time or felt the need to throw some emotions at a page. 
My creative writing was all but extinct; it seemed to serve no purpose in the real world. Again growing up, no one ever specifically told me that writing could not be a career for me; but something else grows with us as we get older – doubt and judgement, self-judgement that is. In my mind (and still to some extent) I would never be good enough to be a writer. The wisest choice was to at least study something that would give me a career. Law was a great choice; I would become a lawyer, something I could truly be proud of. So up until this point, I followed a specific path: finish High School, go to University, get a degree which in turn equals a career and becoming something... Upon finishing High School, not once did I ask myself what it was that truly made me happy, or what I was most passionate about - had I done this, my degree of choice may have been very different. But as it stood, I never questioned why I was going to study law; it was a very clear and defined path which many had tread before me, it was tried and tested and the final destination would be success through hard work and diligence. While on this path I never once had to justify to the world why I was doing what I was doing - I was studying law, hence would become a lawyer and find true happiness and success, simple.

Then something happened; something that would send me far from this path - I was asked to become the General Manager of a restaurant in Dunedin. I loved people, hospitality and I was pretty dam good at it. This was an incredible opportunity to run an entire business, it was an experience I couldn’t turn down, and it thrust me into a completely different world. It wasn’t the path I thought I would be walking down, but nonetheless it still held pretty impressive titles to go along with it: General Manager, Restaurant Manager, Training and Development Manager... these were all badges that I could still proudly pin to my cap. I told myself that I would climb to the top of this industry and there I would find success and happiness, regardless of the fact that I wasn't a lawyer (a greater need for justification ensued now that I would no longer be a lawyer, but merely worked in restaurants). In London I became the Assistant Manager at Maze by Gordon Ramsay – a pretty big deal, especially for a girl from the little old town of Milton whose main claim to fame (as we saw it) was having some of the best fish ‘n’ chip shops and dairies.

dairy: no this is not where you milk a cow... it is where you buy a host of things like milk, bread, lotto tickets,  but more importantly bags of $1 mixture lollies and the biggest ice-creams known to man (or at least the surrounding districts).

So there I was, on the other side of the world living and working in London and my Boss was a worldwide celebrity and acclaimed Chef!! I had diverged from the path that was initially before me, but had followed another that came with its own accolades. Once at the top I found it hard to believe that happiness was not there waiting for me; I expected to be met by the guy in the fluffy suit from the Pink Bat adds (just quietly one of the best ads ever, please youtube for that warm fuzzy feeling) he would grab me, hug me and never leave me – here I would stay warm and content for the rest of my days... this was not the reality. Instead I was met by the dark contorted faces of fear, doubt and incredible anxiety; worst part was I had no freakin idea why?! I mean I had achieved everything I had thus far set my mind to, I had a great looking CV and could most likely keep climbing with all the big names in the game, but it brought me no joy. I was good at it, had enjoyed it for the most part, gained valuable experiences, fine-tuned my skills to the point where on all counts one might say that I was relatively successful... so why wasn't I happy?? I was no longer the best version of myself in my work role or personal relationships, there was even a point where I was in tears every night - on paper I looked good, and had the titles to go with it, yet inside I was fighting WWIII against myself.

So I gathered my things together and off I went on a quest to discover myself.  This came in the form of working for a psychologist, travelling, training to be an on-road cook, tour leading, working in Italy as an au pair... my eclectic CV boats some fantastic roles and experiences, but at the end of the day the inevitable question still hangs in the air “What am I??” I am essentially “a jack of all trades, but master of none” as a friend recently put it to me. While travelling this wasn’t the biggest deal - fellow travellers don’t really ask you to define yourself by what you do – you share and inspire with tales of travel, places you have seen, people you have met; you feel part of a sacred community where passport stamps are more impressive than titles and badges. This is all good and well until you come crashing down into reality which I have talked about before. Thrust back into a world where the first thing people ask you is: “what is your name and what do you do?” you are now obliged to define yourself again, but a jack of all trades has no particular title...

Why am I re-covering this topic so-to-speak? Because a friend of mine recently voiced all of these same internal fears to me: “Who am I, what am I doing with my life, I have a range of skills, but have mastered none, I have bounced from job to job, but have no career...” She is only 25 and having a mid-life crisis that she hasn’t got her life sorted because she cannot define herself in a particular career. It shocked me, how could this wonderfully talented, beautiful individual question herself for even a second?? She has achieved more than anyone else I know by the age of 25, yet here she was questioning herself to the core. I just wanted to hold her, then vigorously shake her and yell "You are MORE than enough, you do not need to define yourself to anyone!!” Then it smacked me in the face, this is exactly what I have been doing for the last 3 years and where I still am to a lesser extent.

How have we let it come to this? In a world where anything is possible, anything still means defining and explaining ourselves within the confines that society has constructed; whether consciously or sub-consciously this is still how we think on mass. Of course it is our parents’ duties to worry for us and what we are doing with our life - they wouldn’t be doing their roles justice if they didn’t. But I can now see that these people in our lives that we feel the need to justify ourselves to aren’t the problem, the fact that we feel the need to justify or explain ourselves is the real problem. We have grown this self-doubt to such an extent that we no
longer TRUST our own intuition or gifts, and THIS is the greatest cause of our unhappiness or suffering. When we try and walk a path that wasn’t created by us, we are met by great resistance. Our bodies will always be the most honest indicator of this - if we are constantly suffering anxiety, panic attacks and live in a reality where tears and fears surround us, we can guarantee that we are not on the right path. So why do we fight so hard to stay within a mould that just doesn’t fit? No matter how hard you try, a square peg just will not go through a round hole...

I believe it is a very rare thing, that from a certain age someone knows exactly what it is they want to be, they follow that path and their life works precisely as they had planned with no detours or diversions. If this your case – I am happy beyond words for you; but for the rest of us I believe we need to go through certain experiences to find what it is that truly makes us happy. If someone had told me 6years ago when I first left NZ that I would end up living in Croatia (I can honestly say I had no F'n idea where this was), with no real career, no money, away from friends and family... I would have done everything in my power to avoid this outcome - yet it is the happiest I have ever been. I have said it before, well technically Steve Jobs said it:

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you just have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future."

So why do we undermine the process, or rush to get to a certain destination? There is no rush and there is no destination; why in our 20s are we nearly having a mental-breakdown trying work out what it is we are meant to be for the rest of our lives?? And who says we are meant to be ONE thing? Don’t read my words wrong, I am not saying that we should say “screw you” to the man, treat life flippantly, coast through and accept mediocrity. In fact I am saying the complete opposite –

we should give our all in every single role, situation and to everyone we meet. Learn everything we can – whether it is a language, how to paint, cook, surf... whatever it is that sparks our imagination; if we do not do these things we are doing ourselves and inevitably society a huge injustice. If something were to happen to us tomorrow (heaven forbid), no-one would stand up at our funeral and list off all the titles we held with pride, no one would define us by our job or title, but rather how we lived our life and made others feel – ok so if a famous rugby player died tomorrow, the headline would probably read “Joe Blog fullback for the YOLO-crusaders dies in a tragic hashtag collision...” You can guarantee though, that this is not how Joe’s friends and family would describe him.

Once again as I draw to the end of these thoughts, it is easy to say that this is all very noble, and I am well aware that I am saying nothing new that hasn’t been said before... then why do we not live and breathe this philosophy? Why are we not instilling it in our schooling, so our children grow up with this internal flame that is fueled by imagination and inspiration, rather than fear and doubt, driven by passion and faith rather than money and accolades? We cannot change society’s need for definition in an instant, but we can work on changing it within ourselves. Happiness is in the now, it is not some far off destination or something we need to work and sacrifice towards - the mere concept of working towards happiness, contradicts the very nature of happiness. I have had so many doubts and questioned myself at every turn; yet without every experience I would not be where I am today. I still have no specific title to define myself to my parents, peers or society; in fact I know that I have more random skills and badges that I wish to and will undoubtedly acquire - like a proud girl scout. The difference being that now I am collecting them for myself and no one else. There will be more doubt to come – this I am sure of, but more and more I am starting to slowly trust my intuition which encouragingly whispers “you are on the right path”. Anxiety has eased if not dissipated completely (for now), and a quiet peace is starting to take over my being.

Day by day I am rekindling my love and passion for writing, and my ultimate dream is to write and publish a book one day, but I am finally coming to terms with the concept that no ONE thing will define me, from here on out, my life IS my career and I will be a time-travelling, super-hero mermaid if I so choose. If we only live once, you know #YOLO and all that... then why not truly LIVE every aspect of our lives  and selves that we possibly can? By gaining a plethora of experiences we only continue to add more colour and textures to the canvas of our life. Picasso never explained or defined the Mona Lisa – it is the critics who are still trying to do this. I want to defy all definition, smirk like Mona Lisa, knowing that this is MY life and MY canvas and I will throw all the colours at it that I like. The greatest possible success and achievement has to be that the canvas and impressions we leave behind are remembered well after the paint dries.

On the other hand, Fuck it – want a definition? CEO of Awesomeness!!

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