I’m Not Who I Used to Be

Sometimes I feel an expectation to choose my path and stick to it.  

There are things that I categorically know about myself – I have great certainty that particular elements of my personality will never change, I will be a homeowner within the next few years and I will never have anything other than a cat as a pet. Then there are things that I have made up my mind over for the next few years but not necessarily forever, like not dying my hair or being in a committed romantic relationship. I am open to feeling differently in the future but I am aware that I will have to be in a different mental place for that to happen. Then there are things which I’d like to do, but I’m totally indifferent as to when they happen – getting a tattoo, going on exotic holidays… 

No matter how much we are told that what we see on social media is fake, my subconscious mind has unfortunately decided that some people’s lives really are close to perfect. I can’t help but believe that people who have made up their minds about all the details of their whole life actually exist. Maybe it’s because I love planning and preparing so I admire and aspire to be these people. However, I need to remind myself that there is only so much I can decide at this point. And anyway, say there were someone who had their entire life planned to a T: when the inevitable hurdles arise, they’re going to have to adjust their course – life refuses to follow a preconceived map you lay out.  

We can have dreams and aspirations, and we can certainly have expectations for the near future, but at the end of the day, we are not in control of everything. In fact, some of the best things that have happened to me have come out of the blue. It’s exciting to say ‘yes’ to things based on instinct rather than the strategic part of our brain sometimes. In other cases, we are unable to make certain decisions for a while and have to wait until the time is right. This could be about being a certain age, in the right emotional or mental state or a more general ‘time of life’.  

Stephen Fry has referenced a certain Oscar Wilde quote before and spoken about the idea of planning our lives out. The Wilde quote goes: 

“If you want to be a grocer, or a general, or a politician, or a judge, you will invariably become it; that is your punishment. If you never know what you want to be, if you live what some might call the dynamic life — but what I will call the artistic life — if each day you are unsure of who you are and what you know, you will never become anything, and that is your reward.”

Oscar Wilde 

Fry went on to say: 

“We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing — an actor, a writer — I am a person who does things — I write, I act — and I never know what I am going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.” 

Stephen Fry

I very much like the idea of being a verb – someone who moves through life fluidly, whose silhouette freely redesigns itself. Being a verb defines me as an evolutionary process rather than a static machine. It’s ok to know exactly what you want and to go out and get it, but I find these quotes so comforting in the moments where a lack of direction makes me feel lost or when I can’t find what box I fit into. 

We are not being asked to sign a document that ties us into standing by a comment we made when we were a teenager. We are not being forced to complete all of our life ambitions in our 20s. I’m open to dying my hair, but I think it might be more fun in my 50s than right now. I’d like a tattoo but, again, I don’t have to do it all immediately. I’m happy to sit on some things for a while. I have a bucket list but I still want there to be things on it in decades to come. I’ll obviously add to it and there’ll be things I do in my later life that I haven’t even thought of at this point, but there are things I can think of right now that I want to save for a while longer too. I don’t have to know the ‘when’ or the ‘what’ for I am a verb not a noun. 

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