When I was 15, enamored with the sound of my mediocre poetry, I spent hours concocting my ideal creative life.
“…and when I’m like 50, I’ll become a grey haired professor with like dreads or something. And I’ll teach college kids, cause little kids freak me out. And I’ll basically write poetry all day.”
At 26 I entered an MFA program in creative writing where, you guessed it, I got to write poems all day (though, admittedly, I spent most of my time writing fiction). At 27, I was teaching undergraduates the joys and wonders of composition. On my 28th birthday, a few months after I’d cut off my hair and started rocking my fro, I realized I had literally become the woman of my 15 year old dreams.
That was a good moment.
As soon as that moment wore off, however, I had to deal with the reality that I hated teaching. I loved students, but week after week I sat with my beloved therapist trying to figure out why I hated teaching.
“This was my dream when I was 15,” I cried (literally cried). “I don’t understand.”
“Maybe it’s time for a new dream?”
“That makes me sad,” I said between sobs.
“Part of what we can do here is mourn that 15 year old girl.”
I think my response was more tears.
I’m learning, more and more, in ordered to change we have to die.
Not literally die.
I’m not advocating that.
What I mean is we have to “kill” the person we were in ordered to grow into the person we’re meant to become.
New-age folks talk a lot about “letting go of what doesn’t serve you” and “embracing your highest self.” But lemme be clear because I don’t think ya’ll hear me: You need to “die”…to be reborn. And that shit isn’t all roses and fairy dust.
See, transformation is not a gentle letting go where you blow kisses and walk down the aisle toward your ideal self. Change is a slow uncomfortable death (and simultaneous birth). It is the process of dying during labor. It is a scary and uncomfortable process and, while the payoff can be huge, the anguish can be great. We lose ourselves to find ourselves, and it sucks.
It’s okay to say it hurts when it does.
Even more, it is okay to grieve the loss of your old self. In fact, we must mourn that person because that person was fucking awesome. We must take a moment and pay homage to that person. And we must be gentle with ourselves as we “die” and the new person reveals herself. To change is to lose a loved one (but, remember, she was ailing and she’s in a better place).
This is happening to me. Again.
I keep changing. I keep giving birth and dying. Roles that fit a few months ago feel restricting now. The term, life coach, for instance, kinda makes me cringe. I suspect there’s a different term for the work I’m meant to do.
I’m not quite sure who I am becoming.
But every day I become more and more myself.
So, if you’re like me, a bit unsure of where you’re growing, here’s what I know: we must trust ourselves enough to die a little bit each day, and brave enough to be reborn with every moment — because even though its scary and even though it sucks, the newest version of ourselves has always been a little closer to the truth, and where there is truth…there’s more freedom.
Don’t worry. You can do it (and you’ve done it before). I believe in you.
And so it is.
Which version of you has to “die” so you can become yourself?