I think that one of my biggest problems during my twenties was the fact that I didn’t know how to live my life as I was made to; I didn’t know how to live an authentic life. What I mean by that is that I spent all of my time trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations and then had no time left to explore what was important to me.
When I was at school I was a straight A student so I turned to my parents and my teachers for guidance in what I should do when I left. The feedback I got was that I should be a doctor because I was clever and that was what clever people did. However, this did not take into account any of the things that I enjoyed outside of school; it was a decision based solely on how well I retained information.
So, off I went to college to pursue this ‘dream’ and I came royally unstuck inside of the first twelve months. I dropped out of college, found myself pregnant and eventually addicted to alcohol, and that nightmare continued for a whole decade.
If I had paused for a moment and thought about what I really wanted to do with my life, I would have known that I liked the more creative subjects like English and Art. I may not have landed a job that held the esteem that being a doctor held, but at least I’d have finished college and started doing something that I was passionate about.
I think that a lot of people do this; my case not a rare one. Of course, not everyone finds themselves so desperately unhappy that they turn to alcohol, but there must be millions of people out there, stuck in jobs they hate because they didn’t listen to what their heart was telling them at crucial points in their lives.
So what would my authentic life look like? Where would I be if I just did as I pleased and didn’t listen to society? I’ve had a think about it and it’s a really fun game to play. It even gives you a starting point from which to start turning your life around; a goal to aim for that is more in line with what really makes you happy.
My authentic life would involve being a writer who is a little bit reclusive. I would just visit the shops in my local village and I would have a pug that I would dote on. I’d be super conscious of the environment and never be wasteful or drive a car. The most interesting thing to come out of my research was that I would like to live in slightly more unconventional lodgings. I thought a van or a tiny house would be ideal until I stumbled upon cob houses. They look like little hobbit houses and they can be built really cheaply and quickly. I don’t know whether I could ever live this life in reality, but it feels more true to me than the life I currently live.
If you want to find out what your authentic life could look like here are a few questions that you can ask yourself and a few exercises that you can do:
- Does the work you are thinking of excite you? If it’s really true to you then you should actually feel a flutter in your heart when you think about it. You will know that it’s something that’ll never give you that Monday morning dread. It will inspire you constantly and never fade.
- Where would you want to live? Some people thrive in the bustling city whereas I know that the Lake District would be far closer to my ideal.
- Try free writing or journalling to see what comes out. When you’re not consciously thinking about the societal pressures that you have on you, some interesting things might emerge. For this same reason, meditation can be useful too because you’re not thinking about the hear and now and the bills that need to be paid and what the kids want for tea.
- Think about what you can do to be of service to others. This is the cornerstone to a happy life because you get satisfaction from helping others rather than constantly competing. Even if you dream of being a CEO, the saying goes that if you’re not prepared to serve then you’re not ready to be a real leader. You won’t inspire anyone by just barking orders and the novelty will soon wear thin for you, so keep that in mind.
- Be open to being vulnerable. It is not weakness and it will help you to learn a lot about yourself.
- Don’t let fear stop you. You only need to make one small change at a time. If you’re scared it’s probably get a lot to do with being worried about what others will think. I’ve been scared to go and tell my family that I want to live in a hobbit house because I know they’ll think I’ve gone bonkers.
But most importantly, just enjoy yourself. Life is supposed to be fun and a lot of the time we force ourselves into boxes that don’t fit and it just makes us miserable. Other people don’t know what’s best for you; only you know that, so do some homework and find out what it is!