Is It You In The Reflection

Something’s come over me, especially as of late, although the flames have been smoldering for the last couple of years and burn brighter with each passing day.

The recognition that we are not our stories, our past, or only what we’ve always been.

We are not only what we’re supposed to be, fixed in a certain way because of expectations, even those which are self-imposed.

We, like the earth, are in a state of continual change. That’s to be boldly embraced, for we have one life to live, and it’s going to take courage to live it fully, intentionally, and in accord with the essence of our being.

That essence has never wavered, but can easily be drowned out by the noise that comes with growing up.

It takes reflection. It takes digging. It takes trying. It takes reconnecting with your inner kid. But the seed of who you are, that which has always been there, is waiting to blossom, shift and grow, if only you will let it.

The Seed of your uniqueness

I used to think that I was the quiet one, introverted, timid. And maybe I was.

I grew up in a family of characters who love to laugh, who relish competition, who cherish life and strive to live it with the entirety of their hearts. I am beyond grateful, as it will occupy my lifetime to appreciate whom and what I come from.

Yet, growing up in a large family isn’t always easy.

It’s intimidating to speak your mind as a kid, especially when it seems like everyone has something to say. Perhaps I felt like I had nothing worth saying.

So, I stayed quiet. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t paying attention. I felt something; I watched, I listened, I did my thing.

In middle school and high school my friendships became everything to me. They still are. With my friends, I could be extroverted, authentic, without the pressure to measure up to family.

I believe it is this blend which constitutes the essence, the seed, of who I am — the patience and reflection that came from spending time with family, along with the extroversion which I seem to cultivate with friends.

But it’s taken traversing different paths, wandering through confusing years, and perhaps most importantly, realizing what I’m not, to uncover my essence — that which has always been there, waiting to shine.

The legendary writer Robert Green writes in one of my favorite books, Mastery:

At your birth a seed is planted. That seed is your uniqueness. It wants to grow, transform itself, and flower to its full potential. Your Life’s Task is to bring that seed to flower, to express your uniqueness through your work. There is a purpose to your uniqueness. You must see every setback, failure, or hardship as a trial along the way, as seeds that are being planted for further cultivation, if you know how to grow them.
There is no playbook

In the last couple of years, I’ve taken risks on myself. I’ve begun to hone my vision of what I truly want out of life, and it starts by questioning what might make me truly happy. I’ve realized that there is no playbook to this thing we call living. It so often feels like there is, and the world will try to tell us how to play.

Yes, the path forward is paved for a reason, and that’s not to be discounted. Those who have come before us — our family, our bosses, our elders — have gone through what we have; they’ve been young, uncertain, in search of the truth of who they are.

But life unfolds differently for everybody. Nobody knows what you feel, nor what might make you truly happy. Nobody knows what might give your life the meaning it deserves.

It feels like we must abide by the path our family sets us on, what our friends are doing, what seems reasonable and will move us forward by cultural standards.

But what sort of life is that when we don’t feel like we can pursue what might bring us sincere joy? When we feel like we’re wearing a mask at work that can only be taken off when alone? What’s the point of friends, if it feels like we’re living a lie when we’re around them?

I chose journalism as my college major, thinking I might get into broadcasting after I was the anchor of my high school newscast.

Yet while studying journalism, I felt I didn’t belong; I made it out of college with a journalism degree, unaware that seeds for growth had been planted. Still, I never shook that feeling of being an imposter in the back of my class thinking, what the hell am I doing here.

My college years were formative, as I made lifelong best friends and learned, at least, what I don’t like — news reporting. Once graduating, I questioned what to do with my journalism degree and essentially put it aside.

I tried working in interior design, retail, and in real estate — but nothing felt like me. I was gravitating towards creative pursuits in my downtime, but couldn’t figure out how to make them my career.

I was scared to try; I was afraid to question why writing couldn’t be my career. I thought I knew the answer — I didn’t know where to begin. In reality, all I had to do was begin, which meant accepting that this is what I want to do with my life.

I started a blog on the writing platform Medium and began writing about my experience being a college grad without a clearly defined path.

This was my great awakening. From that point on, I could think of nothing but writing. It was eating at me to treat this calling as a sideshow, which I still did for several years.

I realized I love creative writing, as it’s the best way I’ve found to analyze my thoughts and how I’m changing. It’s how I take stock of what matters to me. It helps me see the world through a beautiful, thoughtful lens.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I made the decision to make writing my primary pursuit, the trunk from which all other professional endeavors will stem. This is me, and I’m all in.

Your inner compass

Like Robert Greene says, at your birth, a seed is planted.

It wants to grow and flower to its full potential. Writing to me is like watering the parched earth of my soul; it’s digging through the mud that’s been laid for years — the questioning and hiding and trying to be what we’re not.

I’m seriously grappling with this idea, but what I’ve found and hope to never stop exploring is that there’s this seed, an essence, at the core of who we are.

But maybe it’s been buried by years and years of dirt.

We must dig, and notice where the digging takes us. That is the direction of your inner compass, for it will tell you where to go in moments of reflection; something will feel off when we’re being asked to be what we’re not.

Our inner compass leads us back to that essence, the truth, based on what feels intrinsically right. That’s not to say it’s easy to recognize or understand our true essence.

There’s a seed there — the seed is you, a beautiful, creative, joyful, inspired and childlike human being.

Dig deep, write about it, read different books which sincerely pique your interest, explore the confines of your heart and soul; think about what brought you joy as a kid; notice who rises to the surface.

Who do you see?

When you look in the mirror, who is it you see?

Really look. Who is looking back at you?

When I look into the glass, I see brown eyes, a nose, a unique stature and shape, disheveled hair, a chest which rises and falls.

I see a human being — this thing called Vinny.

But I see more than just what’s in the glass. I see my past looking back — the feelings that I know so well; the stories, memories and distinct experiences, my shortcomings and passion; my hopes for the future.

It’s nearly impossible to separate the two, as we don’t just notice what’s on the surface — our exposed trunk and branches — a face, a smile, a scar, a tear.

We know what exists beneath the dirt — our roots which run deep and make up our subjective experiences and the stories we’ve been told, the stories we’ve enacted because we think this is who I am.

But we can also feel what exists beyond those limiting stories. We know what we could be if we were honest with ourselves. And that’s the scariest thing to be. We know who we are if we’d just dig deep enough.

We deserve to write our own story — one that’s written with the pen of our soul. One without regret. Be brave — take that first step, which perhaps is nothing more than accepting who you truly are.

It is at this point when we may begin living.

March Prompt

Be as vulnerable as you want. Write about who you truly know you can be — what seed exists beneath the surface.

Write about the limiting stories that hold us back.

Write about the ways you’ve changed, and lessons learned that may encourage others to take the first step down a new path, perhaps, the path back to their own heart.

Who are you on this earth to become? What does it mean to be you? I hope this post provides some inspiration; I can’t wait to read your stories.

This story was originally published in the in the Coffee Times inspiration column
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