There is a light inside everyone.
A light that, by the time we are a young adult, is grossly hidden by our own attempts to fit in. We still feel it but usually cannot see or understand it anymore. It is stuffed down too deeply. The world tells us to ignore it and get productive.
Find a place in this society and then start filling your life with stuff. Ignore your light—it is too inconvenient to pursue. The odds are against you.
The world told me that in order to be successful and happy; I had to make myself fit into an existing role.
Be quiet, be calm, be conventional. Find a guy and let him shine brighter than you, find a career that guarantees job security and a great income. Buy things to display your success and tell you you’re happy. Have children and then slowly give up on yourself, so that you can dedicate yourself to them.
Whatever you do, don’t try and shine your light.
But my light is a fiery bastard.
With every attempt to contain and diminish it, it would put up a brutal fight and find a crack to shine though. Its siren song playing in my heart, as I tried to make myself conform. Each time I thought I was in control of it, it would take control of me.
In my final semesters of pursuing a chemical engineering degree, I began to mentally break down.
I had become so out of touch with my light that I lost who I was. I was at war with myself, self-sabotaging each carefully planned attempt to fix myself. I have always been bright and capable, why was this happening? This is what my whole life had led up to, getting an impressive degree and get a high paying salary, so I could afford to be happy. Now I was less than two semesters from finishing, and I felt like a deer in head lights, unable to move.
Frustrated and confused, I blamed the only thing I felt I could control: myself. I used shame to make myself feel bad for my actions, or lack of. I believed that if I felt bad enough, I would step up. I developed severe depression and anxiety, as well as a dependency on substances. This lasted almost three years, all the while still attempting to go back to school and fix my failures, but never making any real progress.
I would make take a couple steps in the right direction then fall apart worse than before.
I hated myself.
I hated that I couldn’t do it.
I was weak, undisciplined and worthless. My mind played images of my beloved family’s disappointment in me.
They loved, valued and believed in me, and now this was what I became?
I had been told my whole life that I was special—mostly because I was smart, determined and outgoing—and yet now I had failed out of school, couldn’t make it a day without drugs and avoiding interacting with others at all costs. I was their life’s work. I was supposed to be their greatest accomplishment, an example to my younger siblings and cousins, yet now I fucked it all up. My mental dialogue was so mean, negative and hurtful, that it ripped my self-worth to shreds.
My wounds are still healing from this period but I am done causing the damage.
The same thing that I thought had ruined my life is the only thing that could save me. In retrospect, it was trying to save me in the first place. My light knew that I had been very close to starting a life that jeopardized its existence. It had tried to stop me, wake me up and show what it had to offer, but I was desperate to conform and resisted.
Now that I had exhausted all my other options, I started to wonder about the option my light offered. What was it trying to say? What did it want me to do? So I started to let it shine a little, just so that I could examine it better and see if there was anything of value in there.
Almost immediately, I felt its immense power.
Just the smallest connection to that part of myself, filled my body and mind with energy, enthusiasm, inspiration, passion, love, beauty, creativity, and endless possibilities. It didn’t make sense, but it was familiar. I remember feeling like this as a child, and always believed it was some suppressed magical abilities that I had just waiting to surface. After I read my first Harry Potter book, I was certain that I would wake up to an owl in my window on my eleventh birthday. This didn’t happen and reality continued to let me down, so I stopped believing that this feeling was anything more than my imagination.
But that is not true.
I started to believe that at my core I was meant for something. My life had a purpose and I needed to figure out what it was.
Why did I have this light?
And how could I tap into it?
What was it in the first place?
I intuitively felt that this light was my home but it scared me. Its potential intimidated me.
What if it was just going to be another attempt to find myself that would end in failure and disappointment?
If I failed, would I lose my belief in it, and myself?
I wanted to tell myself it was all in my head in the first place, but I couldn’t believe it. If there was a chance that my past failures were not entirely my fault but had a greater purpose, I had to hope it was true.
My light is my true Self. It is made up of my highest values. When I am living these values, I am in a state of bliss. When I am not, I am in a state of internal turmoil.
I did a lot of soul searching to realize that I need spontaneity, variety, freedom, creativity, passion, excitement, love, enthusiasm, sensitivity, empathy, problem solving, versatility, social interaction, candid communication and imagination. When I embody and live these traits, my light can shine with wild abandon. When it does, I am allowing myself the freedom to be who I really am at my core. In this state, there was unlimited potential for what I could accomplish.
Now, I need to find out what to accomplish.
I have talents and skills that make me excellent at some things and yet a mess at others. How do I find success as my true Self? This is where I am now, committed to my light. I know that this is not going to be easy—the world will tell me that I am unworthy because I am unconventional. In these moments I need to remember how I feel when I let my light shine, and to know that I will never be satisfied otherwise.
I am addicted to feeling at home in myself.
It lets me connect to my powerful intuition and see everything as interconnected and limitless.
I know that as much as my life will be about keeping my light shining, it also needs to be about helping others uncovering their own light and finally bask in the joy of being their true selves. I know that the pain I felt when I hated myself was as real as any physical injury could cause and there are so many people stuck in that cycle of trying to make themselves be something they”re not, and them berating themselves with shame at their inability to succeed.
The best way to influence others change is to lead by example. If I let my light shine as bright as it can, I will give others the courage and direction to do the same.
It is inevitable and yet absolutely necessary.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” ~ Albert Einstein
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Apprentice Editor: Amani Omejer/Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Sandy Manase/Thea Bee