Author’s note: When I wrote these pieces, I did not do the self-education that I needed to about some very problematic social justice issues in a pervasive culture of self-care. In the pieces I’ve written, I was not aware of how problematic and dangerous that white, privileged ideologies can be; and ally-ship includes taking responsibility for my role in the perpetuation of oppression, disentangling the toxicity of oppressive notions (especially in regards to healing), and bringing awareness to other white people to call out emotionally- and spiritually-bypassing culture
I wrote these articles with highly individualistic language, and cannot remove them according to Elephant Journal policy—but I hope that whoever decides to read them that has suffered from any marginalization or systemic oppression knows that I am committed to shifting rhetoric within my communities and am now involved in social organizing groups working towards a more rehabilitative and transformative culture.
You will meet a catalyst, and maybe you already have.
A person who comes into your life and electrifies parts of you that you didn’t even know could be charged.
Whether this person is aware or not, they will weave themselves into the fabric of your life, creating a seam that separates your experiences into “before” and “after” meeting them.
You’ll realize that you don’t have enough fingers and toes to count how many times you’ve been told, “Wow, you’ve changed so much,” since this person walked into your life. Your closest friends, your cousin, and the ex-boyfriend you used to be serious with—each and every one of them will say this, repeatedly.
Maybe this person was a lover, a soul mate, a dear friend, or an old man you sat next to at the doctor’s office. But this person was a stimulus.
Maybe you started painting or writing. Maybe you took an interest in reading post-modern fiction or developed a passion for keeping up with the news. Maybe you started going to poetry readings or listening to bluegrass and classic rock. Maybe you started meditating and saying a line of gratitude before eating your meals. Maybe you started watching crime documentaries or became a vegetarian.
And maybe this doesn’t sit well with the best friends you made in AP calculus, your roommate of three years who only ever saw you watch television and drink too much tequila, or your parents.
But let me tell you a key ingredient for a life well lived from Elizabeth Gilbert: “You do not need anybody’s permission to live a creative life.”
Let me reiterate this:
You do not need anybody’s permission to live a life vastly different from what it once was.
You do not need anybody’s permission to have interests that you never would have imagined.
You do not need anybody’s permission to change your style, hair, body, or taste buds.
You do not need anybody’s permission to have new preferences and discard old ones.
You do not need anybody’s permission to grow.
Every moment and thought we share with another is a creative exchange. We give and receive ideas. We are constantly giving to others by igniting their passions during conversations, helping them to discover aspects of themselves that are puzzling to them, and vice versa.
And in this exchange, we either let these sparks fly, or we contain them.
If we are brave enough to let them fly and spread like rapid-fire, we invest in new aspects of ourselves. We drop our fears and our bags and run, arms wide open, into newness. Into a Word document, a thrift store, an arts supply shop, or a yoga class. We take ourselves out of the labeled boxes we’ve kept in the dark. We unseal ourselves, dust ourselves off, and shine in the daylight.
There will be judgment. There will be “shade” thrown on us. There will be intolerance of the newness and skepticism of the people we’ve become, but we will pay no mind.
If we are 80 years old and still growing, still discovering pieces that fit into our puzzles, that means we are not contained. We are not living in dusty boxes in the dark. It means we are discovering life like children, and loving it like the wise souls we have become.
Each day, we have another chance to express or suppress ourselves.
In our choices lies our freedom.
Oftentimes, we make these choices based on whether or not we think we’ll be accepted. Now is when we stop choosing for others and start choosing for ourselves.
A catalyst is defined as a substance that helps a chemical reaction occur more quickly because it requires less activation energy. If you meet one, you’ve been given a gift from the universe—half of the work has already been done for you. Run into the passions they inspire, full speed.
There are worlds within you that are waiting to be discovered.
Author: Gabrielle Dominique
Image: Michael Ramey/Unsplash
Editor: Catherine Monkman