As an American born and raised, I grew up believing wholeheartedly in the “American Dream,” a concept I understood poorly and thus loosely translated to mean that I could and should be able to be whoever I wanted to be and do whatever I wanted to do.
As a child on the wrong end of pretty much every learning curve, this idea felt freeing.
As an adolescent discovering a marked difference between my aptitude for writing and my aptitude (or lack thereof) for math, this idea felt worrisome.
As a teen who routinely excelled in music classes and roundly underperformed in pretty much everything else, this idea began to appear downright daunting.
By the time I entered young adulthood, it seemed pretty clear that I wasn’t living up to my full alleged potential. For a variety of reasons, I struggled to make it through college. Five schools and countless majors later, I emerged only to struggle through my first job and then pretty much all the jobs after that.
After taking what can only politely be termed the “scenic route” towards my job today – an actual dream-come-true job as a work-from-home freelance writer and author, I can look back and see that my life path likely was always leading me here. I mean, I was a whiz at reading, writing, spelling, just totally in love with words from day one.
And I basically sucked at everything else.
It would have been so much easier if I had just accepted that I can only be who I am. I can’t be everything, anything, because I didn’t get all the skills and talents. I only got the ones I got. So be it.
But I couldn’t accept it back then. In fact, I couldn’t even accept it last month. But then last week, in my current favorite book, “Your Heart’s Desire” by intuitive author and teacher Sonia Choquette, I read the words that totally changed all that.
In the book, Sonia writes:
It is important to realize….that you cannot actually be whatever you want. You can only be who you really are….and only you can give yourself permission to express it.
Wow. Just, like, WOW.
Please understand, as an adult today, I finally do realize that the “American Dream” means something somewhat different than what my child-self interpreted it to mean. I also understand that I grew up in an era when standardized school tests were treated like bona fide truth serum, and since I have always tested well, my test results routinely suggested I should be much more successful and well-rounded than I actually am.
But since I didn’t know all that back then, during the painful years of childhood, and then the painful years of adolescence, and then the painful years of early adulthood and even through the painful years of early-middle adulthood, it took reading Sonia’s words in a book for me to finally make peace with my inability to be anything and anyone else other than me.
When I read those words – you can only be who you really are – something in me that has been coiled and tense and on high-alert mode for the past 48 years finally just stopped and took a big, deep, long, and (if I do say so myself) well-deserved breath.
Well gosh – why didn’t you just say so to start with?
This is such a relief. I have always felt like I let my parents down and I let my teachers down by not getting straight A’s. But I didn’t get straight A’s because, well, I couldn’t.
And the real truth is, no one in their right mind would hire me to do any math or science for them anyway, so it’s really not as much of a big deal as I’ve always assumed it is. That is what other people – much more talented people – are for. So there really isn’t any need for me to be great at those things, since I am good at writing and storytelling, and not all people are good at that like I am.
I am finally learning we all fit in somehow. We are all needed. We all make sense, maybe not quite so readily when we are viewed as separate and apart from the whole, like I was as a child and a teen and even as an adult, but definitely when we all stand together and the big picture of how our many diverse skillsets all fit together finally becomes clear.
I can only be who I really am. You can only be who you really are.
What a relief. 🙂
Today’s Takeaway: Have you struggled in the past to accept your weaknesses in the same way you accept your strengths? Or do you still struggle with this today, berating yourself for not being better at being totally self-sufficient, totally well-rounded, totally excellent in all areas of life? What do you think about the idea that perhaps you can’t be everything, anything, after all, but you CAN be the most excellent YOU who has ever lived?