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remaining true to oneself

I created this presentation during my first quarter at Antioch University Seattle to creatively represent myself as a learner. As I look at it now, I remember the days before school when I let my creativity flow more freely. It wasn’t just that I had more time but that I allowed myself the space. Somehow deadlines can become emergencies that keep me locked down into some kind of self-created prison and I feel I can’t experience any fun until I’m finished. This isn’t true all the time but I’ve noticed a pattern that I want to stop so I’m here writing about and poking around my own head.

Of course, I’ve had people mirroring my inner experience back to me. Recently, a friend of mine was talking about how busy he has been and how he “didn’t see an end in sight.” I told him that was certainly true as long as that’s how he perceived life. He responded that prisoners in Nazi concentration camps might have hoped that their reality would change with a shift in perspective but that was impossible. My response? We’re not in Auschwitz, are we? Of course most of us aren’t in such dire circumstances. We do tend to erect huge prison walls around our lives, however. I know I have done this in myriad ways to stay safe. Here are a few of my personal prison walls:

* I don’t have time for a relationship. (The truth? I’m scared of intimacy.)
* I can’t spend time in my studio until I finish this paper. (The truth? I have time for both but I’m afraid of what creativity pulls out of me sometimes.)
* I can’t travel because I have kids and it would interfere with our schedules. (The truth? I’m scared.)

I could go on and on. The common denominator is FEAR. When I really spend time unpacking the truth of why I feel I “can’t” do something, it’s usually because I’m afraid of how my life will change if I do. A friend recently commented on how passionate and free-spirited I am and said that the world has sort of “beaten it” out of him. I understand how that can happen, especially since I’ve been in school. There are myriad people and institutions that want to make us think their way, conform to their standards and generally not dance too far on the edge because they want us to stay in the box with them.

I choose not to live in that box and I choose not to put others in those boxes. Sure, sometimes I want to crawl back in. Freedom is scary. Freedom and claiming one’s own power can feel open-ended and too expansive at times. I have had to learn how to give myself a few borders so I focus and move through society to serve the greater good. I have to be discerning but not limiting in my approach to life. I have to decide who my “tribe” is. Who I trust to be in my inner circle. There are people who are threatened by talent and intelligence–by seeing someone taking a big bite out of life. People will be jealous and petty. I’ve decided those are not my people.

A person I met recently responded to something I said by saying, “Who talks like that?”

The answer: ME!

There are worlds beyond this one to explore. There are ways to embrace the mystery and live with freedom and empowerment. The only way I have found to remain true to myself is to hold fast to awe and wonder and go where joy takes me. Doing this helps me know what I can authentically say YES to in my life.

What about you? What helps you stay on track in your life? Who is your authentic self and what space do you give that part of you?

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