28 Mar Writing the Story of Our Lives
OUR INNER VOICE will speak to us in a variety of ways; sometimes with a gentle nudge which says put the phone down and look around. A human being walks by, and you’re present to share a smile.
It’s the force that compels me to wake an hour or two before sunrise, my favorite time to write. The world is cool and dark, and I can think more clearly before facing the day’s obligations.
Our inner voice rarely speaks in words. Its language is feeling, emotion, a magnetism that grabs a hold of our heart and soul and subconsciously leads us toward our innermost desires.
The inner voice is “an instinctive sense, a deep subconscious perception; it exists as an inscrutable psychic phenomenon,” writes John Soforic in The Wealthy Gardener.
It describes an acute sensitivity, unavailable to the conscious mind, that can be honed and trusted for guidance to avoid regrets.
When it’s all said and done, what sort of life will we look back on? Will we regret the words never spoken, the leaps not taken, the potential unrealized?
Or will we look back when our face is crinkled with a glimmer in our eye and a skip in our step and say, I took some falls.
I failed once, twice, too many times to count. But I lived. I tried. I changed. I took chances. I trusted my inner voice over the noise and lived a life true to myself.
“The number one regret of the dying is failure to pursue an aspiration,” writes Soforic. “The failure to act, stand up for a dream, or follow one’s inner wisdom — this is regret number one.”
You may have heard of this study, where the number one regret of patients at the end of their lives was: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
So what is expected of us?
We might look around at what others are doing to find the answer. In the United States and much of the Western world, we’re expected to go to college, earn a degree, and begin our careers in our twenties.
We’re expected to take part in a relationship and start a family. The pressure to do so weighs heavily.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with these expectations — they may give our lives profound meaning, purpose, love and fulfillment.
I look forward to having a couple of little gremlins running around my feet one day. First, I need to explore the depths of who I am at this particular stage of my life — my twenties.
Our twenties are the time for bold action, not necessarily in ways that will look good on a resume, but in ways that will teach us about ourselves and the world. These efforts, failures and accomplishments will provide a meaningful story when expressing who we are.
“Your twenties are the time for that cross-country job to that graduate degree or that start-up you want to try,” writes psychologist Meg Jay in The Defining Decade.
Even if those first gigs don’t pay so well, your employer or your mentor may be investing in you, allowing you to accumulate identity capital that will have big returns over time.
If it sounds like I’m saying disregard responsibility and throw caution in the wind, you’re partially correct. To live a life that’s truly ours is our greatest responsibility, yet it gets drowned out by expectations we feel obliged to fulfill.
It takes hard work and courage to adhere to our inner voice. But when we do, the work will be essential even if it goes unnoticed or unpaid; even if it feels like a failure.
Our inner compass will lead us to what might make us truly happy; even if we don’t know specifically what it is, there’s a direction our hearts are being pulled in.
Like the sun’s pull on earth, we gravitate towards what will fill our lives with light.
The author Earl Nightingale urges us to:
Discover a combination of interests and powers, and find through experiment and thought the course of life to fulfill those interests and powers most completely.
If we sincerely follow our interests and the calling of our inner voice, we’ll build identity capital, essentially the plot points for the chapters of our lives.
“Identity capital is our stock of personal assets,” writes Jay.
It is how we add value to who we are, and it is what we have to show for how we have spent our time. These are the investments we make in ourselves, or the things we do well enough or long enough that they become part of who we are. Identity capital is how we build ourselves, bit by bit, over time.
Writing a Good Story
The misconception might be that our twenties are the time to have fun, live freely and without worry. Even if we had the financial means to do so, something would feel off if we’re only seeking pleasure.
We’re here to enjoy this gift of life, but we’re more than pleasure-seeking meat suits. The body is indivisible from the spirit and the soul, which wants to expand, mature, and flourish. We’re on this earth to discover what it means to be alive.
That happens through exploration both of oneself and the world, through heeding curiosity and by engaging in meaningful work, which inevitably results in building identity capital.
If you think about your identity capital, what comes to mind?
Do these attributes truly reflect who you are and the journey that you’re on, or are they the expectations of others?
What I find empowering about identity capital is that it can come from resume builders such as degrees and positions held — but more so, and what’s much more interesting — identity capital is built upon experiences, failures, attributes, characteristics and values which reflect who we truly are.
Our identity capital is a story — who we were, who we are, and where we hope to go.
“A good story goes further in the twentysomething years than perhaps at any other time in life,” writes Jay.
College is done and resumes are fledgling, so the personal narrative is one of the few things currently under our control. As a twentysomething, life is still more about potential than proof. Those who can tell a good story about who they are and what they think they want leap over those who can’t…
This Is the Time
In our twenties, we’re led to believe that we need to be checking items off a list of expectations if we want to be successful.
So we stay in careers we don’t love; we don’t take that chance because we’re afraid of the uncertainty, the possibility of failure, or perhaps how making a change will look to others.
We’ll never be as young as we are right now. The world won’t suddenly start making more sense or provide the “right time” to change. It’s a crazy world, and we’re all just people.
That’s a beautiful thing to be — it means we can overcome.
We can start again. We can seek our truth and follow it to the ends of the world, and that’s a life worth living.
I believe there’s a profound shift taking place, an unmasking of societal norms and expectations, an unraveling of a web that’s been spun for generations.
Perhaps it’s taken hitting rock bottom to realize how precious life is, and that there’s more than one way to live.
Be Reverent of Your Interests
At the end of our lives, we’ll look back at the through line of our story — the memorable seasons and the pivotal changes; the people who will come and go; the love we shared and received, the life — the life we lived.
But while we’re here, our lives comprise individual days, and they are ours to instill with meaning.
Only you know how to do so, because you have interests unlike anybody else. You have inclinations others don’t understand — maybe you don’t understand them either.
I rarely understand why I want what I do from life, and I’ve come to see this desire to explore the unknown as essential for my growth.
I don’t know where my journey will lead, and that not knowing makes me look into the night sky with greater curiosity.
The uncertainty makes me feel something profound, as I listen to music with a particular sensitivity, moved by the lyrics which inspire me to take another step, to let go and cry when I need to, and to never, never let my spirit wane.
That’s the magic of the journey; I don’t want to know where it will lead, because hopefully, it takes me somewhere I could never have possibly dreamed of.
But I have to take that first step.
I must follow my curiosity, and go.
“Be reverent of the things you find fascinating and enthralling,” writes Soforic in The Wealthy Gardener.
Your unique fascinations expose the inclinations, tendencies, interests, and proclivities hidden deep in the substance of your intangible soul.
The time is now. You have what it takes to be an explorer of this world as a reflection of your heart and soul.
Cherish the journey, for the journey is everything, made of individual days, bold actions and new beginnings — write a story worth telling, the story of your life.