In college, a friend and I went out for a night of shopping. When she was ambivalent about buying a certain item, or deciding between two, I encouraged her to buy it, or both. Why not? It looks great, it’s so fun, you like it, go for it. It was so easy to pull out these positive affirmations. There was no doubt she deserved a gift to herself. The approval rolled off my tongue like water. Plus, it wasn’t my money to spend 😉
This isn’t a case for fiscal irresponsibility, but a small example of how easily we give others permission, yet don’t permit ourselves the same freedom.
I grew up on the back cusp of Generation X, not quite part of it, but as of then, Millenials didn’t exist and there was no Generation Z yet leading to a brief mention of the Ys squeezed in the middle. In any event, my hands were in technology, my heart firmly rooted in the old school. I gauged success as being chosen for a job by a superior, validated by an organization, an agency. By membership, the man, bureaucracy. Not because I particularly liked it, but because it felt more official, came with a certain amount of cache. I was used to looking at existing structures and following the chain of command. I still hold the deep desire to be granted authenticity by a major publishing house.
Then there came under me whole generations of people, who some may say eschew all tradition and decorum to a fault, but who aren’t afraid of creating their own structures. People who crowd source and crowd fund. Who wake up one morning with an idea, a dream, and chase it.
In that weird shiftless space between Christmas and New Year’s, my husband and I got our adult time (as surrounded by children) by taking to the couch and Netflix documentaries. If you watch enough food, travel, and minimalist episodes, their algorithms eventually bring you around to Expedition Happiness, a sparse, reflective film documenting the trek of two young Germans across North America. Mogli’s music sets an ethereal tone for the film and their attitude does the rest. They bought an out-of-commission American school bus online, secured a work Visa to retrofit it as a camper, then headed through Canada to Alaska, south along the west coast to Mexico. Other than an outline of a route, they had no plans. I still don’t know what they did for money. I’m having a panic attack just thinking of it all.
And yet, I want that ability, even in small ways in my life, to allow myself such adventures.
Following up on the couple after the documentary, I saw a video wherein Mogli appealed to her fans who wanted her to perform stateside. She explained that, in typical music industry fashion, she and her band would have to finance a trip to the States first to host a showcase to garner agent interest. Then, if an agent were interested, he or she would arrange a tour. A lot of capital up front for something that might never pan out. But in the next breath, she vehemently exclaimed she wasn’t going to let such a process stop her from connecting with her fans. She launched a plan to presell a set amount of tickets, which would guarantee her presence in that city. She circumvented a system that didn’t serve her, cutting the head off an unyielding monster and went straight to the source – her fans.
Personality, not only generational hutzpah, also plays a huge part in such an outlook. I am much too rooted in my sense of place, home to make a cross-continental trek indefinitely. I am much too anxious to not plan obsessively. However, I am also horrible at giving myself permission to follow my inner movings.
It is much too easy to say, oh I can’t do that.
Who is telling me I can’t? Is it fear? Is it adhering too closely to existing, yet increasingly changing, constructs? Just as there is no one telling me I can’t, there is no one telling me, I can. But no one ever will when I’m following my own movings – except me.
More people around me, my peers, my contemporaries, are branching out into nontraditional roles in the workforce by following their own desires for what they want in their lives and what they want to see in the world. Just this week, a friend started her own business. She got the credentials and experience she needed and went out on her own. She didn’t look for someone to say her services were needed; she presented her skills to the world and people are seeking her out.
The ease with which I encouraged my friend to buy something special for herself, without guilt, without second-guessing; the passion with which I believe in my friends who have put themselves at the heads of their own destinies – I need to now turn these energies inward. I must show myself the grace, compassion, and strength I offer to others. For when I wake up in the morning burning with those dreams, it is only I who put my feet on the floor and follow them.