I emerged from my cleaning haze with blistered hands and throbbing feet. I felt like I had finally scrubbed myself clean. A mess of epic proportions – packed, cleaned, sorted. A mess it had taken me ten years to make. A mess I faced up to, owned and smashed – eventually, in my own time.
Actually, it wasn’t that easy. No, it was a downright hard slog. I’m tired. My body is objecting to ten years of sitting in an office, followed by ten days of cleaning.
And only now, am I listening.
It dawned on me, while I was up to my neck in it, that finding our own way is not always as easy as it sounds. It’s more complex than just packing our bags and walking out on life as we know it (as amazing as that would sometimes be). And although that might eventually be the way we break free, it doesn’t mean now is the right time, and it doesn’t mean there isn’t another way. There are consequences to face after decisions long gone, there are financial obligations, there is family and there are the walls we built (and continue to build) to protect ourselves from our fears.
On none of these subjects, am I an expert. I keep a few memories though, have made a hell of a lot of mistakes and hold close a handful of lessons I learnt the hard way – unfortunately, sometimes, there is no other way. So although now may not be your moment of reckoning, rest assured it will come. It may not arrive with grandeur and fanfare, it may instead slip in the backdoor, on an ordinary day while you are washing the dishes, weeding the garden or making the bed. Ultimately, whatever the trigger, it is about perspective. It’s as simple as you make it. Less is more. Simple is key. And every excuse you ever made will fall at your feet, broken by the strength of your dreams.
You hear these stories about people in high profile jobs that suddenly wake up one day and decide they don’t want to be a lawyer anymore, they want to give something back, live life differently. So off they go on some spiritual journey to find themselves, and come back transformed, enlightened and overflowing with wisdom. It sounds so easy. Why can’t it be that easy? It never is, that easy. It just sounds it, when someone reaches the other side of their latest hardship.
Then there are those people who get sick and suddenly realise how important it is to live in the moment. In the end, it is their sickness, and facing death, that shows them how to really live.
But must we have a moment like this, and reach breaking point to confront the deepest corners of ourselves and recreate our own world? Or can anyone wake up and start again? I think anyone can, at any point. Often though there is a catalyst – it may be a big thing, and it may be a little thing, but it is always defined by a moment where life is compounded into a split second, and everything changes. You may not see this moment coming. You may not even see it arrive. But you have to believe. You have to be open to a change. You have to break up with your old friend misery and move on, consciously. You have to challenge the rules, challenge what you think you know and push boundaries you didn’t even know you had drawn. Ultimately, you have to really want it.
What you can’t do is play the victim. You can’t make excuses for the reasons why not. You must dare to dream. And if you want to achieve your dream, you must first decide what it is. And you must reach the realisation that no one much cares what you do. They’re all too busy chasing their own dreams. It’s a little shattering to begin with, to realise you aren’t really that important, but it’s liberating to break free from what you think people think. Face the facts: you don’t really have a clue what people are thinking, so stop thinking you do.
It’s inevitable that some people will try and tear you down. They will tell you you’re taking the easy way out. They will criticise you and rattle off reasons why this won’t work for you. And when they try and get in your way you have to understand, it isn’t personal. They are only trying to stop you because they stopped themselves. It is because they didn’t chase their own dreams. And chances are, they regret it. What they are really saying, is that you are bailing on them. And you have an obligation not to listen. You also have an obligation to keep chasing what matters to you. And you have a duty, to surround yourself with supportive people who accept you for you and celebrate your ambition, however small.
You must be prepared to let go of the toxic people you thought were your friends. It will become more and more clear they are no good for you. It will be hard. It will feel suffocating. But as you move through it, it will feel more and more right.
I remember that moment when I realised that there was no way I could keep everyone happy, whether I tried, or not. I could break my back trying, or just get the hell on with it.
Dare to dream, even if today you cannot bring those dreams to life. Let them live and grow in your imagination, and your soul. And you will find, little by little, they will begin to take on a life of their own. Doors will open – doors that wouldn’t have otherwise opened. Hope will start to filter in, with the morning light. Don’t focus on achieving an outcome, just focus on the dream and nurture it, as though it were your child – both beautiful and fragile. For if you don’t protect your dreams and fight for them, they will flounder and fall away, forever lost in the frantic bustle of routine. And you will not notice when opportunity slips in through the backdoor, quietly… you will pass it by and mistake it for another struggle, another hardship, another reason why not. And it will not stick around, because why should it if you aren’t prepared to welcome it and give it the time of day.
We all face challenges. Often new beginnings and opportunities are hidden within our darkest hours. We needn’t search for them. They will find us when we are ready, to be found. Just be open, be kind, cherish the moment, smile and dare to dream.