I finally figured it out: I’ve been shopping off someone else’s grocery list.
There I was, a very happy carnivore, purchasing tofu and lentils from my vegan friend’s grocery list, and wondering why I just didn’t feel right, why I felt like something was missing.
You know the grocery list I’m talking about don’t you? The one that reads:
>> Finish high school
>> Go to university and get a degree
>> Find a well-paying, respectable job (preferably one you can have a long-term career in)
>> Find a partner
>> Get married or settle into a long-term relationship
>> Buy a house
>> Have children
>> Support said family
>> Enjoy life
Or it could be a similar list, with slight variations to the order of things—but no doubt you recognise it.
Anyway, there I was going through the checklist:
I finished high school (not with the best grades, I must admit), attempted to complete a bridging course to improve my final grades and be accepted into university, then missed that step and instead went straight to the respectable job (and climbed the corporate ladder). And, I found a partner (after many long-term relationships that didn’t sit right), got married, and bought a house—and that’s where I stopped.
This is not to say that my vegan friend’s grocery list isn’t a good one, it’s just not mine, and it just didn’t seem to be working for me. There were always “hiccups” along the way. I didn’t get the promotion I wanted, I felt unappreciated and unhappy at work, the university course that I was enthusiastic about ended up not being what I’d expected, and my husband and I couldn’t see eye to eye (and that’s no reflection on him ’cause he’s a damn amazing human being and I am lucky to call him one of my best friends).
It was at this point that I started to wonder if there was more to life than the daily grind or if there was something wrong with me. Then, someone helped me realise that apart from some pretty standard emotional issues (which I am addressing), there is nothing wrong with me and the way I want to live. It’s just different.
So now, at 35, I’m starting to write my own checklist, and even thinking about it makes me smile. Because now, instead of worrying about the items on someone else’s list, I’m working on including my own items in life in one way, shape, or form.
>> Relationships—Not just romantic relationships, but ones that help to build community and that give and receive support—with people who support my growth and development as well as their own, who are good role models, and who encourage me to be the best version of myself, but also have compassion when I’m not.
>> Simplicity—Not having stuff for the sake of it, or to prove to someone else that I’m better. I want things that add value to my life and don’t use up resources—like my time—when I don’t want to spend them. (Check out The Minimalists to see what I mean.) This includes a home that doesn’t have heaps of extra rooms or more toilets than people.
>> Financial Freedom—No, I don’t want to be a millionaire. I don’t need it. I want enough money that I can just enjoy my life and not have to worry about my bills.
>> Pleasure—Enjoyment, fun, happiness, life’s little pleasures, music, creativity, good food, good books, curling my toes into a patch of nice green grass, or spending a night star gazing—to name just a few.
This is only a starting point, but I think that it’s a good start and I feel better for it—because it’s my list. Not one that I’ve been handed by society, telling me that this is success and anything else is not, and in turn making me feel inadequate when I don’t tick the boxes.
So I’m suggesting that you check your grocery list and make sure it’s actually yours and not one you’ve picked up by accident along the way.
And if you have picked up one that isn’t yours, don’t stress. Put it down and start writing your own. You’re allowed to change your mind. Yes, we may still have responsibilities and I’m not saying just ditch them, but I am saying we should find the balance between fulfilling those responsibilities and still shopping for ourselves. Because I believe that when we start to write our own grocery lists and live them, we’re able to really shine our own lights.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~ Marianne Williamson
The other thing I’ve realised is that when I meet people, I have been running through this same old grocery list while connecting with them: What do you do for a living? Do you have a partner? Do you have any kids?
Yes, I could tell you about their husband, wife, and kids, where they work, and where they live but I couldn’t tell you what they’re passionate about, what made their whole face light up like a kid at Christmas, what made their blood boil, or what they stood firm on. That’s how I want to know the people in my life. Because to me, that is what makes you, you—not the outside stuff. I hope that if we ever meet, that’s where we meet each other.
So here’s to shopping for that big, juicy steak or the organic nut butter—whatever you truly prefer—and living it up.
Author: Jodie Letat
Image: Barry Stock/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Callie Rushton