From the time they’re babies, little elephants are tied to the flimsiest of branches with nothing but a standard rope.
By the time they’re full grown, they could tear it all apart and find their freedom, but they don’t.
And then there’s the common house fly. Did you know that, once they’ve been trapped in a jar for a short time, they don’t even try to fly away when you take off the lid?
We’re just like them
“Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness”
It’s all about conditioning. It makes us perceive things a certain way and most of the time we don’t even realize it. How could we? Unless something happens to open our eyes.
“She displays an interest in the written word.”
~ Mrs. Rutherford, Kindergarten Teacher (source: my first report card)
That was ‘teacher speak’ for what I was born with: a love for the word. How can you explain such things? Some might say it’s a calling or a purpose. Others might just call it a gift and others might not think anything of it at all.
In my thriving middle class family, at a time when a job held the promise of long-term security and a good pension, reading and writing were hobbies. Nothing more, nothing less.
So I wrote when my bedroom door was closed. Hundreds and hundreds of pages. Writing guided me through heartbreaks, dramas, and my parents’ divorce, and it remained safely tucked away under the blankets in my closet.
We all have our own kind of cage, rope, lid … or closet
Filled with middle class dreams and expectations, and lacking the wherewithal to finance a university education, I followed the well-worn path of family, friends and church. Before I was 25 years old, I was a married mother of one with five years of accounting experience.
I was still writing. As always, it helped me deal with life, only by then it was more about new motherhood and the divorce that soon followed. I still hid it in the closet too, under some old binders and shoes.
That’s when I started to believe it was too late. I had responsibilities and there was no time, no money. The dream of being a writer was just that: a dream.
We create what we believe
The barriers were strangely real to me, even as I did things that others would think impossible. That’s the thing, it’s all about what we believe and perceive.
School made sense. As long as I could say it would bring me a stable career, I could rationalize it. So I graduated with a specialized honors degree in English Literature, Cum Laude, with my six-year-old son by my side.
The Internet also made sense. It was a boom … and a bubble. I could write, even if it was for a different purpose. My words built websites and the pay helped me clear out my mortgage and save.
But here’s the truth: while I was doing all of those things, I could have been writing. I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, see that the lid was off.
While I told myself there was no money or time to write, I spent my money and time elsewhere. I lived the reality I created.
We react to the trap in different ways
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think there’s anything worse than feeling trapped.
Just look at wild animals, especially the newly caged. The anger in their eyes, the pacing.
I’ve since come to understand how much our bodies and minds are intertwined. If one isn’t happy, there’s a fair chance the other isn’t either. I also learned that depression is anger turned inward.
When I was diagnosed and drugged, the words stopped.
Some seasoned writers talk of how they took themselves off antidepressants for that very reason. I didn’t know. I wasn’t a seasoned writer; I didn’t even call myself a writer. It was too late for that, and another ten years passed.
If we created one reality, we can create another
Sounds obvious when I say it like that, right? But, I’ll say it again at the risk of sounding like a broken record, you create what you believe.
You may be wondering at this point what I did. Obviously, I’m writing. I’m even calling myself a writer. Even better, I have a website that says “it’s never too late”.
How did I get here? How can you get here?
- No more haves/have-nots. I stopped looking at successful writers with jealousy and started watching what they did so that I could learn.
- No more cage. I stopped listening to the ‘experts’, and I stopped saying that I couldn’t. This is important: stop believing you are a victim in a cage.
- No more naysayers. When you’re ready for reinvention and you feel someone’s judgment or disapproval, it could be that you’re not playing in their cage with them anymore. They could be really happy there, but you’re not. That’s okay. Move on and say ‘no’ to the naysayers.
- I started connecting with people who were doing what I wanted to do. Whether you do it offline or online, start looking for ‘your people’.
- I started listening to myself. The better I get at it, the more fun it is. Our bodies can be our friends, too. ‘Listen to your gut’; it holds more truth than you may realize.
- I started getting clear about my priorities. Money and time. The two big ones. What are you willing to give up … or not? There is never a perfect time and there’s never ‘enough money’.
Age is not a cage
I often think of something my 85 year old father said a while back.
After slogging away in a government job, he got his benefits and his pension. Mission accomplished.
But now he looks for things to do. He tells me he feels blah, lost, without purpose. He just wants to go back to work!
It dawned on him that, had he gone to school after he retired at age 63, to study for the pleasure of learning what he loved, he would have had many, many years to enjoy it.
But he didn’t go. At 63, he thought it was too late.
This is just the beginning
Yes, I worry about money. Yes, I’m afraid of failing. I don’t have all the answers.
But, in spite of some sleepless nights and a distinct drop in cash flow, what I’m doing now is still so much greater than pursuing a ‘second-choice’ and wondering if I could’ve been a writer.
So, here’s to the second act! The journey is just beginning, and it’s going to be good. I hope you’ll join me.
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