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When I was about 10, my world got turned upside-down. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now. I went from living in a world where everything was used to being in transition to a world of roots and stability. I went from a universe where people came and went, where my networks spread across the globe, to a land that was insular and local. People there had grown up together, there were epic shared histories and languages that accompanied it. I went from a world of variety to a world of category.

When I was about 10, I re-learnt what it was to fit in. It was no longer about forming connections across ages and nationalities based on common interests. It was now about what you could do and how well you could do it, compared to peers. It was about our handwriting or your accent, your street or your name. And I had to learn fast, change what I could change and silence what I couldn’t.

I spent the next countless years trying to finesse fitting in. It sounds like a chore, but it wasn’t. I never realised that’s what I was doing. I judged myself on my proficiency at small talk and by acceptance into groups. I judged myself by whether people found me attractive or chose me for their teams during sports lessons. I learnt to swear and giggle with equal ease. I learnt to fake the walk before I even knew the rules of the talk.

The lessons were priceless. I can now pride myself on being a good chameleon, shapeshifter and empath. They were all things that I invested time and self in honing. And the lessons of applying that all having been even more invaluable. I had to be able to read others, react before they knew they were judging, morph before they decided.

These days, I am lucky. All around me, I get to see love. My universe is filled with amazing souls, some of whom have stuck by me through all the transitions and some who cheerlead me on on my new paths. The difference? I’ve progressively regressed back to the universe of expansion, the years before 10. I’ve realised that I am happiest in transition, always seeking to be better, stronger, more compassionate and more authentic me. I’ve learnt that since I’ve shrugged off the people-pleaser cloak, that I can please the people I care about in more meaningful ways and to more lasting effect. Empathy is used more to help others now than to serve my need to nestle firmly in a societal niche. I know who I am better because I played out so many other versions so well.

These days I am happy to be working to be me. But I wouldn’t swap any of the days that have preceded today. For they all got me here, way beyond the age of 10 but now understanding that my 10/10 is my own picture, unique to me and my daily outlook.

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