Dear Starfish Diaries, Self Discovery

Defining success by happiness, kindness, and having a dog.

When we’re kids, we are constantly asked what we want to “be” when we grow up. Of course, the question is meant to ask how we want to toil for money once we are mature adults contributing to society and paying bills, but that would be overwhelming to a child, right? Asking them to define their overall identity is way easier. Super simple.

Hmmm.

As we get older, defining who and what we want to “be” becomes easier; not because we actually have any idea what the answer is, but because we’ve learned the script. We understand that the question is about career, and the assumption that your job- or the job you are striving for- essentially will define you in the eyes of the inquirer. So whether we say we’re going back to school, starting a big project, or working toward the next promotion, we can rattle off our practiced monologue on command. It’s impressive, truly. Motivating, though? Inspiring? Healthy for our fragile sense of self?

I want to feel excited about the future, and I want to feel excited about the now. I’ve tried to define myself by my career in the past, and it was a big fat mistake. When I looked up from the job, I didn’t know who I was at all. I’d been too busy memorizing my script, and somewhere along the way I’d even fooled myself into thinking that polished speech defined who I was.

No more.

Now when I think about who I am, my answer varies by the day. Today, I’m a writer. I’m a yogi. I’m a dreamer. Tomorrow I might feel more like a runner. A reader. A social butterfly. Or maybe a loner. We’ll see where the day takes me.

If I look at my vision board (not sure what having a vision board makes me- “new age-y?”), I can see the words that I’m drawn to pretty clearly. Yoga, vegan, love, light, balance, dream, enough…and then a lot of beach images. I do relate to all of those things.

And I do want to go to the beach.

But I think it’s important to note that my vision board is made of cork, and I swap out pictures and phrases and mantras all the time. All it takes is a tack in, tack out. Very symbolic, baby.

So day to day, who I am is a pretty liquid definition, and I’m surprisingly comfortable with that. Who I want to be, though? Cue terrified gasp.

Deciding what I want to be “when I grow up” continues to be an overwhelming task, even as an adult.  Which is what brings us here, where I’d like to stop feeling afraid.  Is it too cliche to simply want to be happy?  And kind, and loving, and loved?  I guess I don’t care if it is.  And, since I do love a good list, I’m going to indulge myself right here, with you.  Because lists make the scary things feel safer, and the impossible things feel manageable.

  • I want to be content.  Joyful, at times, please, but content, overall.  Peaceful, if you will.
  • I would like to be healthy.  And to be grateful for being healthy.
  • I want to feel free.  In ways too abstract to put on paper, so I’m just going to leave it at that.
  • I want to always have animals in my life, and always make them feel safe and loved.
  • I want the people I love to know they are loved.
  • I want to be kind, and forgiving.  To everyone, including me.

Not so scary, right?  A lot of the list I think I accomplish more days than not- and I didn’t even have to update my resume!  Maybe this should be the exercise we do with kids, instead of having them stress over career choices?  Maybe more of us would grow up feeling like success stories if success was defined by happiness, kindness, and, well, having a dog.

My Heart.

What would your list look like?  Who are you now, as opposed to who you want to be? I feel better just having hashed it out.  So thanks for listening.

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