Follow your path…a fairytale existance?
Close your eyes and imagine this. A dark forest lurks in front of you. Thorny, thick branches twist and turn, impenetrable, spikes glinting in moonlight, dense grey mist drifting in any gasps there may be. The stuff of fairy tale nightmares. You’re fighting your way through, armed with a sword but covered in scratches and absolutely fatigued. All you want to do is give up. Hold this picture in your mind and them make it 10 times worse. Red eyes almost catch your attention, then dissipate, as if they were never there at all, but leaving a chilling feeling. Bindweed snakes in and out of the old wood. The trees seem to knit closer together and sneer at you.
Behind you is a wild flower meadow, luscious, sumptuous, warm. Sunshine spreading, life-giving, familiar, golden light. Birds twitter and baby rabbits gambol. You spent most of your life here in comfort and security. Everyone lived every day the same. But nothing ever changed and somehow, inexplicably, you were drawn towards the forest.
You are weary and scared now. You want nothing more than to turn back towards the forest. You angrily drop the silver sword and take a few steps back into the field, already feeling the sun on your skin, moving back into the familiarity. Stop, turn, and give the forest one last, lingering look.
Something catches your eye and you look a little closer. A beautiful flower, nestled in a clearing, tiny and small but strong, a symbol, a hope. And peering further, more flowers, on the other side of the spooky wood. And a strange thing happens. As you squint and focus on these far away flowers, the mist clears for a moment and you spot a fairy tale land, shining, perfect, just a glimpse. The fog descends once again and coldness wraps itself around you. Darkness envelopes the woods once more and the spines of the branches seem to sharpen even more. But you’ve seen your reason now and you know you can do this.
You pick up your silver sword once more and take a deep breath. And you take a giant swipe into the thick branches and they fall away from you. Step in and move forward. Pick up the small flower. Follow the others. See the fairy tale land becoming clearer. It’s getting easier to move forward. Carry on, carry on, carry on.
It’s easy to turn back when you feel the pull.
I know the story above isn’t real (unless your chosen life path involves slaying dragons and riding on horseback in your knight’s armour…actually, that would be AWESOME), but the feelings behind it can be so true when trying to make your ideas a reality. I know people, myself included, who, when the going got really tough, gave up, went back to a ‘normal’ job, and shelved the dreams. It’s too hard. It’s not for me. I’m not cut out for this. The light at the end of the tunnel fades away.
It’s so easy to go back to what you know. If you’ve worked a ‘job’ for years, the pull to return can be hard to resist. Even if you know that a few years in, you’ll be in exactly the same situation. It’s hard out here on your own, every ‘solopreneur’ (or whatever the buzzword is these days) can tell you that. The time will sometimes come when you just want to jack it all in and return to the safety of a regular paycheck, when it gets just that bit too hard, when you can’t see how to grow and move forward. The urge to follow your path fades away and all you want to do is wrap yourself in the fluffy comfort of your previous job. Sound familiar?
Why you shouldn’t always listen to yourself
Speaking from experience-I did exactly this. I used to work in management and the pull to return was sometimes overwhelming. I spent hours, days even, justifying why I needed to go back. That it kept me ‘alive’…that because I find it easy then it’s what I should have been doing for the rest of my life…it kept my mind busy…it gave me something to do…I didn’t really mind working 18 hours a day for less than £20k per year…there are a few hours a week when I wasn’t getting yelled at…beating targets gave me something to aim for…you get free stationary…
Yes, as you can see, the more I thought about it, the more bizarre my excuses and reasoning became. Now, even when thinking through all of this, I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do, really. But it was easy to return. Instead of struggling to work for myself, I’d have it easy, I’d have a secure income, I’d know the job like the back of my hand. And who’s to sneeze at free stationary?
I went for a long walk and told myself to shut the hell up. Out in the fresh air, a few things came to light, not least that I wouldn’t even have been able to go for that walk if I returned to my previous job. So why was I ready to give everything up just for an easy life in the short term? It’s because we want life to be easy. We shouldn’t have to do things that are hard. It’s not comfortable. It’s not enjoyable. But there’s a reason for struggle. It moves us forward, faster than we thought possible. It may be personal, it may be professional, it may not even be until months later when we look back and realise there was a reason, that we learnt a lot from that period of hardship.
If it’s so hard, why do we do it?
Because we can see the small flower in amongst the brambles. It’s ours, it’s personal to us. Even if no-one else can see the reasons, we carry on because we can’t not do it. Some things mean so much to us, we just have to carry on.
Each scratch we gain has meaning to us. We brush them off and carry on regardless. We feel the fire and fuel it and feel the flames ignite within us. It’s not our ‘passion’, it’s the only way we can see to the life we need to live.
I cannot work in the rat race. I cannot and will not live my life with a list of ‘competencies’, with a finite pay ceiling, with a review each year telling me to set new goals and keep striving to the next pay grade so I can retire at 70 and finally enjoy for a few years what I’ve worked my whole life for. No thanks, society.
I fight the brambles because I have to. Because I need to. Because I relish each scratch I get from those thorny branches. Because my collection of flowers is growing and the fairytale field is getting nearer. Because I can’t stay and rot and become stale. Because I have to write and bleed, I have to be outdoors and breathe, I have to see and feel the light, I have to move and pulse that life giving blood around my veins. What do you have to do?
It sounds cliché but don’t give up
If you need a part time job whilst things kick off, go for it. Don’t be silly with your money. Minimise your possessions and your needs. Read. Inspire yourself. Keep hacking those brambles with your silver sword.
Give yourself time and stay true to what you want to do. Who’s to say you can or you can’t? Why would you ever have to do just one thing? Who says? A career does not define your life. If someone asks what you do, how do you answer? Do you say I’m a manager, I’m a policeman, I’m a trainer, I’m a writer? Who are you without your job, without your career? Who is the person asking you the question?
The secret to staying strong is knowing this is right for you. If this is truly the way to the life you want you’ll know it. You won’t be able to help yourself. The hard part is tuning out others. From their perspective it may seem crazy. Look at them. What are they achieving? Are they happy-really happy? Do they inspire you when you speak to them? If not, why are you listening?
Have you ever felt like giving up? What’s the hardest part about making your life yours? How do you follow your path in life-do you work for yourself, have you changed your views or changed the people around you? Comment below and let me know the hardest thing you overcame in living a life true to yourself.