Sitting in my borrowed chair with a book in my lap, in the northwoods of Wisconsin, I realized a personal truth. I am doing what makes me happy, without worry or guilt, and it feels good. I am in my ‘happy place’ on the verge of living the life I’ve wanted for so long.
I had an inkling for years that I was holding back, making excuses and embarrassed apologies for doing what made me happy in so many areas of my life that it had become the norm. I could see it, feel it even, that shadow of doubt each time. An almost shy embarrassment when I talked about my interests or passions. And for some reason, I had come to believe that there was something wrong with me. I was the oddball. Somehow I was not living up to other people’s expectations or putting my energies into the “right” things that would make me socially acceptable or worthy.
Not so long ago, I was a very independent, outspoken, expressive woman. I didn’t worry about what other people thought, or if I didn’t fit in, or if I wasn’t spending my time in any certain way that was deemed worthy or acceptable by anyone else. I did what I wanted and what made me comfortable, even if that was working the dirty job of fast food as a teen, or talking to a stranger and being that ear for someone who needed a friend on a bus or train.
I was the most honest version of myself, out loud and without apologies.
The last few years (or ten…or fifteen), I have slowly let that part of myself slip away. I’ve let that independent woman sink into the background and only peek her head out when it was the “right time” or with the “right people”, for fear of not living up to a standard set by other people. I’ve quieted the inner voice that would speak up before, and tamped down the joy that would bubble inside of me when I did what I truly loved. I have slowly restrained, and retrained, my soul to accept these terms while I live a life of quiet disappointment.
But this past week, something clicked. I felt satisfied, proud, happy, and at peace with where I was and what I was doing. I was camping with Boy Scouts as an adult leader, helping the boys along with the challenges and celebrations of each day. Some days I helped a lot, I shepherded boys to the health lodge in the early hours of dawn, coached them in their activities and games or pointed them to their merit badges and tasks of the day. Other days I stayed in the peripheral and just observed, happy to watch them just be boys and make up their own social web. Admiring the leadership of boys leading boys.
I was exhausted each evening, but only physically. I woke up with purpose and looked forward to each day with a smile, and appreciated the beauty all around me. I was happy.
I met other adult leaders that were as passionate, some more so than me, about what we were doing. I swapped troop stories with other leaders, listened to the life stories of the young staffers and got to know our scouts better than any weekly meeting would allow me. I had not only found purpose – I have that every day with my own boys at home – but I was comfortable in my own skin, surrounded by people who accepted me and encouraged me, even when I hadn’t showered in two days or put on makeup!
I was in my happy place, and it felt peaceful and warm. I could feel the stress melt away with each passing day.
Sitting in a borrowed chair under a tree in Wisconsin, surrounded by boys running, laughing, playing and looking to me for guidance and acceptance, I found myself again. I found that girl, that woman, that did what she loved and shared it with the world. I smiled more, I laughed more and I slept deeply. I felt lighter. I felt happier than I had in awhile.
A spark has reignited and I plan to fan the the flames until that inner voice becomes my outer voice, and I live the life I imagined on my own terms. A phoenix lives in my soul, rising over and over during the course of my life, putting me back on my true path when I have wandered or gotten lost. It’s time to let that bird soar.