On Being Approximately Yourself

Once every two years, my extended family goes on a vacation together. We rent a big house and share some common spaces. We each take a night of the week to make dinner, and during the day, we all go our separate ways to go do things.

My wife and I were still engaged during the trip two years ago, and in the intervening time, we’ve had a wedding, a honeymoon, and several trips on our own to hone the way we like to travel together. Our modus operandi is:

  • Find a lovely AirBNB or bed and breakfast to stay at.
  • Park the car and walk around the neighborhoods and the city as much as possible.
  • Eat local, explore, but go slow and without much of a plan
  • Chill, read, listen to music, and sit outside at night listening to wherever we are.

That’s an excellent time for us. We get to relax and move at our own pace. Thankfully, our kids like that pace of vacation as well. We’re all a bunch of introverts, so it all tends to be very low-key.

Finding the way you like to travel, and by extension, the way you want to live is liberating in the extreme. For years, I didn’t think I had much of a choice in how I interacted with things. I just had to react. It was keeping the plates spinning and planning things out to the Nth degree.

But in the last two years (and I credit my wife with this), I’ve been able to slow down and find out who I want my life to be. How I wish to set up the boundaries by which I interact with the world. And the most exciting thing? It’s not so different from how I was when I was a little kid.

I suppose that’s not a surprise. There’s a well-known story about Carl Jung and how wanted to find a way to re-engage with the creative impulse in his life. He liked to make castles when he was a child, so he took a holiday and started to pile rocks at the beach to build castles. The result: it sparked a youthful joy in him that he use could to recharge his soul and fuel his other endeavors.

We go through our lives being who we are told to be because we think it’s the only practical way to be. To some degree, it’s that practicality that becomes the tyranny. It is built on a list of assumptions which we almost never question and which are almost entirely inaccurate. It’s our cooperative neuroses that keep us reacting, prevent us from embracing the person we know ourselves to be.

There is a saying in the book Alamut: “Nothing is true; everything is permitted.” It’s an extreme view, but what it means is this: humanity has made all of this up. Societal expectations. Economy. Religion. Rules. Assumptions. It’s all make-believe. Once you see that, you can start to push back. To set new boundaries.

Day to day, we are an approximation of ourselves, but we are shackled to our concerns, our insecurities. There is a joy beneath those that can lift us out, and that joy is born of knowing what you love about life and embracing it.

It means embracing that thing that you most worry about what other people will think. “Is this too hippy for my friends and family? What will the boss think of the 20-sided die on my desk? What if people find out I really prefer being a goatherd to taking calls in a call center? What if people find out I prefer to spend a night at home with a book instead of seeing them?”

No one cares. They’d prefer if you were happy. Even if you’re a little crazy to them. And if they don’t like it…walk away. You don’t need them.

Realizing how far you’ve drifted from who you used to be while becoming more faithful to who you really are is the best kind of liberation. Love yourself. Listen to yourself. Be yourself. Who else are you trying so hard to be?

    Christopher T. Miller

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    Writer. Explorer. Wizard. Has not yet been eaten by a grue.

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