“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I remember the moment vividly, 21 years ago.
I was sitting in the antenatal clinic, reading a magazine article while waiting for my appointment. It was before my daughter was born and although I cannot remember the name of the magazine or whom the interview was about, I do, very clearly, remember the message I received.
When the interviewer asked how the mother in question had managed to control her daughter throughout her teenage years, the mother simply replied “I have never tried to control her; I guide her.”
I reflected on my own teenage years and progression into adulthood and recognized the impact that my parents controlling behaviour had had on my life. I was fiercely independent, even from a young age, and I, at least, thought I knew my own mind. I wasn’t easily swayed or coerced into doing anything I didn’t want to do.
And the times that I had been forced to go against my own grain, I had regretted tremendously.
Whether the subject was my friends, boyfriends, education or life in general, I always knew I had to find my own way. Whenever my parents had forcibly intervened I strongly resented it and would very often find a way of rebelling against it.
Not only would I rebel, I would feel that because I had not made decisions myself, the lessons I had been given had passed me by, with nothing learned. I had unfinished business with people and had not seen things through to the end due to other people making important choices for me.
I had a lot to learn and I was open to it all. I wanted to feel alive and experience everything was offered to me and in doing so, I knew that it would backhand me at times during the process.
I didn’t want to be sheltered; I wanted to be trusted and was desperate for the opportunity to show that I was capable of creating my own path in life and could weather whatever storms were coming my way. I also needed to know that I had a secure place to fall, if ever I needed it.
I knew, I had to do things differently.
I figured right in that moment, two months before my daughter was born, that I was going to do my very best to arm her throughout her years with as much knowledge and wisdom that I could possibly give her. Then, I would have to stand back and trust, hoping that whatever battles she would enter, she had the defences within her to make it through.
And for those she couldn’t win, I was right there beside her at every step, waiting with open arms, tissues in hand to pick her back up, momentarily weakened, but overall stronger than before.
1. Enjoy your own company.
Play and adventure and absorb how it feels to experience things alone. If no one is around to do the things you want to do, do them anyway, alone. Appreciate the liberating feeling of going places on your own, not needing another’s company to boost your happiness. When you do this, you will find out who you are, what you enjoy and discover your own hobbies and interests. Then, when you do have company, share your individual and joined interests, appreciate it, but never come to depend upon it.
And read some more. Anything and everything. Take a book with you wherever you go.
3. Crying is not a weakness.
It will cleanse. Let the tears flow, pay attention to where the pain is coming from, then wipe them dry, do not wallow, breathe and continue.
4. You can achieve anything that you want to with just a series of very small steps.
Eventually you will get to where you want to, but the destination is not what counts, it is the journey there that will be most enjoyable.
5. Fall in love with whomever you choose.
Find love in the soul of a person, not solely based on looks, financial circumstances or convenience. Remember, though, when you fall in love chemicals will be released to your brain, which will alter your perception. You won’t be thinking clear, so be as sure as you can before you fall. Enjoy each moment, as it’s one of the best feelings you will experience, but stay aware and do not become submerged.
6. Never allow a potential enemy to know that you are afraid.
There’s a simple story of a wolf and sheep passing one another by, as the wolf passes it feels the fear of the sheep and is far more likely to attack, knowing instantly the sheep is weaker. I taught her to walk with an air of confidence, head held high, regardless of the opponent. Think stronger and you will immediately feel stronger.
7. You will make mistakes, plenty of them.
You will never stop making them. Learn to recognise where you’ve gone wrong, reassess and try another direction. Admit when you’re wrong, don’t be afraid of failure and find a way of turning every negative into a positive. You will learn more from your mistakes than you will from anything else in life. And always remember to say sorry—and mean it! Forced or sarcastic apologies are worse than not giving one at all. Swallow your pride, accept and be genuine.
8. The world will change you if you let it, accept everything that it holds and remain intact.
There is pain, war and a tremendous amount of suffering in every corner. You will come face to face with it and it will alter your perception. Don’t let it harden you or change who you are.
9. Before you drink alcohol, understand it.
Know what you are drinking, its strength, its dangers, how vulnerable it will make you and how you will look to other people when you are very noticeably drunk. If you’re going to drink, make sure to tell me what and how much you intend to consume beforehand and where you will be going, talk responsibly and openly and know it is without judgement. Remain the only one to refrain from drinking on a night out, witness how others behave, see it through clear eyes before engaging.
10. Don’t take things personally and don’t take responsibility for other people’s words and actions.
You are only in control of yourself, whatever another chooses to do, is their decision. How they behave is not a reflection of you, you are just caught in the crossfire. You can remove yourself from anyone at anytime. Surround yourself only with those that treat you well. No one has the right to treat you badly, so don’t allow the opportunity.
11. Cheating, lying and violence never equate to love.
Love is an action, not just a word. Only by someone showing you that they love you will you know if it’s true. Despite whatever words someone speaks, always judge on their behaviour. Love will hurt and there will be disputes, but there is also a massive line, draw it and never compromise your self, for anyone.
12. Learn when to say yes and when to say no.
Don’t live as a martyr, it will cause you constant regret. Your time is precious, don’t sacrifice your own happiness, you don’t need anyone’s approval. Don’t feel guilty for living life to the full and never compromise yourself or sell your soul.
13. Turn whatever you love into your career.
With enough passion, dedication and discipline, you can reach whatever goals you set your self. You will spend almost half of your life working so make sure that the time is well spend. Whatever you decide to plant will eventually harvest, have faith, explore and most of all enjoy whatever it is you choose to do.
14. Live only in the present moment.
The past is there only to be reflected on, the future has not yet arrived and it can’t be predicted. Enjoy each moment, remain aware and experience every emotion that is delivered your way.
15. Whatever the emotion, don’t deny it.
Feel it, understand it and then just let it go. Holding on to things will suffocate you and anxiety for the future will overwhelm you. The only moment you need to be in is the one right now.
The one thing I did not expect when I sat there in the waiting room was that my child was to teach me far more than the few lessons I had planned out for her.
I wasn’t perfect and I had days (and still sometimes do) where I question everything. I did not place her in a cute, pretty box with safety and security.
I sometimes wonder if I maybe gave her too much freedom as I observe the wild and rare flower that she has blossomed into. She has experienced adversities and struggles due to society’s constraints, as she wanders the path less trodden. However, she is wise beyond her years, ridiculously creative and skilled and a joy to be around. She is fascinating and intriguing and people are drawn to her immediately.
I guess worrying is part of being a parent, wondering if we’ve done the best we can for the child we brought into the world.
I think one of the greatest lessons I learned over the years is that although she is my child, we are not the same, and I cannot make life decisions for her. I will always be there to advise, guide and comfort her, but ultimately, her life is her own and so I take a tentative step back and allow her freedom to live it.
“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
and though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love, but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward, nor tarries with yesterday.” ~ Kahlil Gibran
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Alex Sandra Myles
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: simpleinsomnia at Flickr
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