Have you ever imagined your life as a movie? Not so much in the sense of who would play you in a movie, but you watching a movie that is about your life. When it comes to movies, you know that the quirkier the characters, the better the movie is. You don't want to see a completely average person doing average things; you want to see mishaps, triumphs, heartbreak, a love story, mistakes, successes, emotions.
The hero(ine) has to encounter adversity, because in the end they always come out of it stronger than they were before. They are often misunderstood and alone for a stretch. But they always do what they have to do, because otherwise they couldn't live with themselves.
Being true to who you are isn't easy. First, you have to figure out who the heck that person is - it's a lot harder than it seems. We are influenced by so many outside sources: parents, siblings, friends, teachers, the media, books, movies. With all these voices loud in our ears it is extremely difficult to hear our own little one.
When I was a child, my parents signed me up for music lessons, and that decision shaped my life for 20+ years to come. I always played some sort of instrument, be it the flute, piano, or organ.
I didn't question it, because I didn't hate it; with a lot of practice, I was halfway decent. But I didn't love it. It wasn't a joy, it was a burden; and it took me until I was 33 years old before I quit for good.
Life is precious and short. There are so many things I want to do, that I decided I couldn't afford to spend so much time on something I didn't really enjoy.
I haven't regretted it for a second. I also haven't picked up an instrument in a year and a half, because I don't miss it at all. It definitely was the right decision - so why did it take me so freakishly long to get there?
Because of the label. I got labelled being the girl with the "musical talent" early on, and it stuck. There were people expecting me to be that person (my parents, the people at church where I performed regularly, even my husband), and I didn't want to disappoint them. But it never felt right; the label was like the too-small dress you buy with the intention of fitting into one day, but you secretly know you never will.
Whenever I have a decision to make, or I am contemplating to try something that scares me, I imagine myself 50 years from now, sitting in a rocking chair, reflecting back on my life. Will future-me have to look back, shake her head sadly and tell the dogs surrounding her: "I wish I wouldn't have cared what other people thought of me; I wish I would have taken that chance." Or will future-me smile down fondly at her dogs, stroke their heads and tell them: "I was one bad-ass chick who made her own rules and lived life to the fullest!"
As soon as I get to that scene, I usually go for it. How could I not?
Many of us are afraid to be different. We want to blend in, be like our peers, have things in common with them so we feel part of the group.
Here is the thing though: The people that are arbitrarily in our daily lives shouldn't define us. Fellow students, co-workers, or neighbours aren't people we chose purposely; they just happen to be there.
If we are lucky, we will find a select few who we really connect with; but with most of them we won't.
However, we let a random group of people influence our happiness and our life every day. Why? Because we so desperately want to fit in.
Here is where we have to be the heroes in our own story: we have to find out who we really are.
What it is that makes you so giddy with excitement you can't help but jump around, huge stupid-grin on your face? What makes your heart beat faster just thinking about? If you feel like you don't have anything like that, think back to the time when you were a child. We all had things like that. Maybe it was making jewellery with your girlfriends. Banging away on the cheap drum set you begged your parents so relentlessly for they finally gave in. Maybe it was reading books, playing basketball, singing along to the radio, learning how to knit.
Whatever it was, re-discover it. Find out what makes you uniquely you. And then, embrace it. Don't feel ashamed of who you are. You love to cook and bake, but you feel you shouldn't do it because you are not a size-6 skinny? Screw it! Creating and enjoying food is one of life's greatest pleasures, and being good at it is something many aspire to but fail. Be proud of it!
Here is a secret: Every single person is insecure in some way. The ones who look like they have it all together? They don't. They are just good at pretending.
Looking different, choosing an unconventional lifestyle or making different choices to the people around you will set you apart. Maybe it will make you feel alone, misunderstood, or lonely.
But here is the thing: Just because you don't have people who are similar to you in your daily life doesn't mean they don't exist. They do! You just have to look for them.
These days, with the internet at our fingertips, we are not restricted to the people in our immediate surroundings any more. You can join book clubs, writing groups, gyms, yoga classes, sports teams, chess clubs - or start a blog. ;-) Whatever it is you are looking for, it is out there. You just have to know what it is you are looking for, and you will find it.
So what are you waiting for? Be the heroine of your own story, and make it a good one!