Baby Steps Against the Wind
Lately I've been doing the hokey pokey.
Yep, I've been turning myself around :)
Choosing to change how we live our lives can come with a heap of struggle. We have worries, insecurities, fears, and ultimate excuses that tackle our ambitions. Deciding to walk a new path can mean stepping up to a way of life you've never explored, or choosing a lifestyle outside of the social norms. Either way, mustering the motivation can feel exhausting, until we choose to give it a real, good chance.
"It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are." (e. e. cummings)
This is especially true if your heart tends to grow against the grain. With all my turning around, I wanted more than anything to start living my life my own way. I knew that teaching my heart to be the leader and throwing away my social insecurities would be a practice that became more natural over time, not over night. I've grown into a person of baby steps, and have learned the value of celebrating every one of them along the way.
To learn the strength to be completely myself from the inside out, I decided to start simply and practically. I have chosen to gradually eliminate habits in my life that I formed for the wrong reasons, anything outside of "Because it will make me happy" or "Because it is necessary."
These are the baby steps I took against the wind...
1. I stopped going out when I didn't feel like it. I thought that in order to appreciate my friends and take full advantage of my free time, I should accept every invitation brought to me. I would often overbook myself so religiously that the stress of keeping every plan was running my entire life. There was nothing "free" about my time. Eventually I backed away from friends that couldn't understand my need to spend nights at home, and allowed myself the processing time we desperately need to slow our lives down.
2. I stopped plucking my eyebrows. This may seem trivial, but man did I let myself stress about it. Every noticeable strand out of place made me feel like a mammoth on display in the crowd. As if I never moved passed the teasing of my teenage years, I would hear the ugly caterpillar taunts playing in my head as I sat on the bathroom sink and ripped hair from my face every week. But I HATED EVERY SECOND OF IT. It took a laughable amount of courage for me to cease plucking and step out into my community without feeling ashamed. Weeks after they grew back in completely, I noticed I had stopped thinking about my wild brows during every face-to-face conversation and photo op. Now I can look at aesthetic habits as a personal choice of comfort, not an obligation to those around me.
3. I quit the nine-to-five life. Loved ones were troubled about my decision to work a local, hourly job rather than snagging another full-time salary position. Stability, financial security, your future, bills, evenings out, fancy cars, impressive homes, BLECH! I mean okay, I get it, you can't just throw your wallet out the window and expect to survive on good spirits alone. It would have been easy, temporarily at least, to listen to their advice and reach for the big bucks, but quicker and quicker my dissatisfaction was ripping through to the surface. A cubicle felt like a poacher's trap, and I knew I could never live my life working for the weekend. I want to live all of my days, not just 2 out of 7.
I can now accept and even adore that the values of my heart do not always collide with the opinions of the masses, because those rare people are the ones who dream immensely, create masterpieces, and change the world.
4. I adopted a cat, and kept her alive. I did not decide to adopt my Gremlin because my money tree needed a good pruning. I rescued a living creature from foster life in a cage, and in return she transformed my lonely nights in an empty apartment to nurturing evenings at home. Six weeks after I brought her home, she needed a big ol' surgery with a huge ol' price tag. After calling the shelter, I was informed they could not help financially, and would more than likely have to euthanize her due to the expense if she were returned. Well-meaning friends told me to put her down, but I could not kill a two-year-old cat so that I could keep buying beer and junk food and cute sweaters. I put aside stuff that asks for money in return for something that doesn't: love from a forever friend.
5. I put dreadlocks in my hair. Several months ago I cut myself off from the daily flat iron obsession and experienced my natural wavy hair in all its glory. I suddenly had tons of extra time, and peace, without the constant worry of every strand being perfect (remember those ugly teenage taunts my mind plays on repeat?). Then this past August, I bravely knotted up a chunk of my hair, and loved it. Despite the stereotypes, I had my reasons, and began knotting up several more pieces. I became hooked, finally adoring the look and feel of my head of hair for the first time in my life. Then I went out in public, and the unanticipated flood of comments roared. At first all I heard was "EW! But they're dirty! So you do a lot of drugs? So you never wash your hair? So you're one of those hippies now, huh?" It was frustrating, and very inaccurate. After some time though, I began hearing more open-minded curiosities, like "How do you get them to stay in? Are they a pain to take care of? They are so badass! I have always wanted dreads!" I pushed past the anxiety of changing my hair, did something completely for myself, and relished in the beautiful experience of living honestly without a care about the comments of others.
These changes, although some may seem tiny, showed me the brilliant strength I can gather when I insist on living my life honestly. These accomplishments have shown me the clearing to a full and happy life of gratitude, and have given me more time for meaningful experiences.