I look up to many heroes. The list is long and keeps evolving. The tail end of this list disappears as new heroes replace the old. It has always been this way. These heroes do not have a common home. They do not originate from writing, singing or even a sort of creative pursuit. I think the only thing my heroes have in common is that they all got to where they are by being exactly who they are instead of what the world wanted them to be.
People grow up wanting to be unicorn wranglers, fire fighters, writers, lawyers and chefs! At the risk of sounding like a complete and simple idiot, I would like to admit that I grew up wanting to be a hero. Someone to look up to. To change the world in some way. Leave a legacy. Let me be clear. This was my dream (why I am using the past tense will become very clear in a few minutes). Nobody else wanted it for me. I am not even sure my parents realize it. I also didn’t particularly care how I became a hero. Now this is important. As long as I became a hero because of who I was or what I did, nothing else mattered. As long as it was on my own two feet.
So, ever since I was a little girl, I have been studying people carefully. Successful people. People who went somewhere in life. Trying to figure out this elusive secret sauce to success that only a select few knew. My earliest memory of finding “a” secret sauce goes back to when I was in 6th grade. I remember watching a show, fiction, that claimed persistence was the fairy dust essential for success. But I quickly realized persistence wasn’t the brightest idea when your idea wasn’t the brightest (fingers crossed that someone can decipher the last sentence). The secret came out when I was in high school and I was convinced I had been rewarded for my patience with the ultimate secret sauce. I mean it was called the secret for Petes sake. While it was almost perfect, it was missing a soul. Life couldn’t be about making things appear out of thin air. There had to be more. My heroes seemed to touch upon something way more spiritual compared to a simple transaction with the universe as the secret seemed to suggest.
While I was busy looking for the secret sauce, I was also trying to, in my little ways, be a hero. To stand out from the crowd. To be noticed for my accomplishments. No matter what they were. No matter how much of my soul each one of them cost. I needed to be a hero. And I was. In my little ways, for a few minutes, ever so often, in the spotlight. But it never lasted. And in the race to fulfill a prophecy I had personally defined and nurtured all my life, I was going crazy.
Have you ever worked with a pressure cooker? I did for the first time very recently. It was an interesting experience. You deliberately let the pressure build by letting the cooker sit on max heat. It is important to let the pressure build if you want the ingredients to cook. But once you hear the cooker let out its first whistle, you must turn the heat down. The whistle signals the release of pressure. If you leave the gas on and let the pressure keep building, you risk an explosion. If you are near the pressure cooker when it explodes, you might lose your face (or so my mother has warned me countless times now).
You see, I forgot to turn the heat off. No, not when I was cooking. But when I was building myself up to be a hero. I let the pressure build. Until I exploded. Very recently.
I kept chasing after something with no substance. Like chasing after money. Or recognition, which is basically what this was. It doesn’t come from a place of love. I really don’t know what place it does come from. But it isn’t built to last. Somewhere inside I knew it was not worth it. However, I hate failure. I hate giving up. I believe the lesson on persistence I learned during my childhood stuck in some dark corner of my mind. Where it resided and ruled my life. In silence, like a masked villain. It wouldn’t let me give up on my dream. Knowing full well that it wouldn’t make me happy even if I achieved it. Knowing that I had achieved it in my little ways and hadn’t received an ounce of joy in return. Ever.
Somewhere along the way I also realized that this dream was keeping me from actually living life. My tunnel vision and intense focus on this (imaginary) future point in my life where I finally realize my dream of being a hero was blinding me to the life that was passing me by. A perfectly simple, joyful life. I was incapable of recognizing my blessings because they weren’t what I had envisioned. I knew I was miserable but I could not give up on this dream. Which I failed at everyday. Which made me feel even worse. This entire time, I let 25 years slip by. Unnoticed. Un-lived.
Until a conversation I had with my best friend this past weekend. The same conversation that sparked the “Learning to have FUN project“. This is when the light bulb in my head went off. My dream and my obsessive mindset set on accomplishing it was slowly killing me. And I had to stop. Or I would get to the age of 70 and realize I had wasted my life on a worthless dream. That I didn’t do anything I loved because there was a chance it would be meaningless. That I failed to realize that joy is in the meaningless.
So I gave up. I gave up on my dream. I let it go. I decided that failing at achieving this vague dream was just fine. Even necessary to a degree.
Today was the first day of my life that I lived without the burden of my dream. It was glorious. I couldn’t stop myself from smiling. I even came up with a project to do just for fun. I did it because I am interested in learning something new. Not because I want to be an expert at something. Not because I want someone to award me with an A+ on my achievement. Because I think the idea is cool and interesting. I have made life decisions for SO LONG with only one criteria in mind. Will it or will it not, make me a hero. Make me an expert. Make me a superstar.
I can finally live my life doing things I love. I can try things out for fun. I can feel every moment. I can be open to opportunities. I can be open to life. It is funny that it took so long to come to this realization. Many of my heroes have blatantly pointed out that there is nothing to look for on the outside for everything you are looking for is within you. I always thought they were referring to will power and persistence. I now have a feeling they meant happiness and freedom.
I wish for this blog entry to stand witness to the promise I have made myself today. I request those who love me to remind me of it if I happen to fall back into living life like a zombie.
I could not think of anything better to end this blog with but this comic. PS: Gavin Aung Than is a new hero of mine 🙂 lol