This is day 500 of my 1,000 Day Project. My jade plant and I aren’t exactly exploding with growth in our current habitat, but we’re working on it. I have a new job that lets me see my chickens while the sun’s up and the jade tree is putting out some new leaves. I think the jade plant is doing alright with her life goals, but mine need some tweaking.
When I started this project, I set some pretty big, poorly defined goals. In 1,000 days I would have a viable farm. After 500 I would have a life worth living. What does that even mean? I am in a better mental and emotional shape than I was 500 days ago, but I’m hardly living the dream. In fact, I feel like I’ve made more progress on the viable farm thing- 5 of my 8 birds are laying, my worms aren’t thriving, but they aren’t dead yet, and my turkeys were hits as the guests of honor at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I even have vague plans for increasing my flocks this spring and my beehives are sitting in my room waiting to be assembled. I’ve learned things, too- ducks get eaten when the coop ramp is too steep and ginger is really hard to grow when the house is kept at sweater temperature.
So why have I made more progress on the goal that’s further out and, from the outside at least, ought to be a harder goal? A life worth living? It’s all internal- easy! Just make up your mind and do it! Farming? Just the housing alone is giving me headaches and wallet cramps. The problem seems to be that to live the dream, one must first define said dream. It gets worse when one realizes the standard parameters used to deliniate such dreams don’t seem to quite fit, either. I don’t want a mansion, I don’t want to loll about on white sand beaches sipping overpriced daqueries. I don’t want a corner office or a Fendi bag. (Yes, I had to google Fendi to make sure it was a bag brand.) So what do I want?
I . . . don’t know.
I also don’t think I’m the only person in my general age range that has this problem.
I have leftover wisps and scraps of dreams I used to have, but none of them seem to fit any more. Is that because the dreams are wrong, or because I’ve contorted myself so hard to meet outside expectations that I no longer fit what’s right? For example- I have the ability to dress in a way that is totally suitable for and non-offensive to a conservative corporate office in Maryland, a dressage show, an organic farm in Colorado, a dancesport competition, a small-piece assembly job in Maine, or going out to a club. But now that I have a new job and a touch more cash to rebuild my own wardrobe- I have discovered that I have absolutely no idea what my style is. I no longer have the pieces, but I know the rules to pull off each of the above styles more or less successfully. But when I have the chance to put together something that makes me happy . . . I find myself slapping my own wrist over choices that I think others will think are wrong. How am I supposed to make major, against-the-grain, life-altering decisions when I can’t even muster the ovarios to wear the leopard-print blazer that I got for a song at Goodwill? It even looks good on me!
So the next 125 days will be all about me. Daring to wear that blazer. Chucking (donating) those shirts that are functional and make me cringe. Asking myself real questions and NOT editing the answers. I’m a “smart” person, so enjoying really dirty, physical pursuits is supposed to be “beneath” me. According to who? Do I believe it?I have spent an excess of time in politically and religiously conservative places. I’ve managed to shed some of the baggage they gave me, but how is this still defining me? Do I really want that pair of sleek black heels, or am I just trying to look “normal?”
This is not about pampering and cushy “me time.” This is not about self-absorbed navel-gazing to the exclusion of all else. If I do this right, a lot of the next 125 days have the potential to be quite uncomfortable. After all, do I really want to know how far I’ve wandered off my own path? It’s also not about self-flagellation for being swept up in the culture whether it meshed with me or not. It’s about figuring out what matters to me so I can go about rerouting my path back to the right fit rather than a convenient, conventional one.
I read this post a while ago, and it’s been rattling around in my head since then. What I’m after is the self knowledge work that is the equivalent to the self care of paying your bills. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy reading the books I know I like and daydreaming about one day I’ll get to . . . in order to protect myself. But in doing so I’ve shied away from the hard, uncomfortable, possibly painful work that would give me the ability to rather than avoid the things that chip away at who I am, to instead be able to let them roll off my back. I can keep making myself smaller, less offensive, and more fragile, or I can figure out who I am so when someone says “You’re this,” I can say yes or no with actual confidence.