It’s Your Life

It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.
Mae Jemison

I like this quote because it doesn’t judge. It doesn’t advise. It doesn’t make assumptions about your values. All it does it state the obvious. But sometimes that’s exactly what we need.

As a teenager I would angrily shout “it’s my life” at my parents, especially when they tried to ruin that life by banning late nights or not allowing me to go to a disco. Funny how, despite my hormonal state, I was actually right. Now that I’m an adult it’s society that bears the brunt of my frustrated rage. Society places demands and restrictions on us – what we wear, how we act, the decisions we make – from the earliest age.

Or does it? How many of the rules that we follow in our lives are self-imposed perceptions of what society expects from us? I for one am guilty of not wearing a dress I like or not pursuing an interest I enjoy because I worry what others might think. I have passed up opportunities I should have grabbed with both hands out of a fear that I would make a fool of myself in front of others.

What I’ve recently come to realise is that what Ms. Jemison said is true – it really is my life. At night, when I lie in bed and think about the day that has passed the only person I have to answer to is me. The only person who has to live with the consequences of my decisions is me. And if I can’t go to sleep every night holding the belief that my life is everything I know it can be, well I’m pretty sure society isn’t going to step up to take the blame!

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It’s Your Life

7 thoughts on “It’s Your Life

  1. Gotta ask: Have you ever been really suicidal? I mean, completely empty and just figuring out which method and which day? Maybe just being held back by the guilt of leaving a bereaved family behind?

    I ask for one very simple reason: I found myself there this year and have somewhat successfully fought my way back from the brink (touch wood). I’ll be taking pills for the rest of my life now to ensure my own safety when the next big one comes. And I’m doing everything else I can to strengthen myself (running 40 K a week now, swimming three times a week, gardening, writing, etc.)

    Still haven’t gotten to the point, sorry. I decided this year that I have a big choice to make. Either way, who I’ve been until now must die. Either the body or parts of the mind (and my associated identity). I chose to keep the body, for now anyway. I’ve certainly invested a lot into it over the years, and happen to (mostly) like it.

    By choosing to live and deal with my mental state(s), I left the old ‘me’ behind for good. From now on, no regrets, no leaving myself trapped in ugly places, no repeating of the same negative patterns.

    NOW, it’s my life. It’s not yours until you (a) claim it as such and (b) really learn the value of this one, brief life. Why spend days, weeks, months, years trying to be what you think others want you to be? From today, or from the time you wake up the next day, Do what you feel is best for you, and don’t try to please others. You’ll never succeed at pleasing everyone anyway.

    It’s easy advice to dish out, but I walking the walk too.

    *I wrote this well after the 30-minute disconnect period with my alprazolam (think: Xanax). So I might not remember writing this tomorrow!

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    1. Hey. I am lucky in that I’ve never been suicidal. I guess I’ve thought about it in an abstract sense but never as an option. I think it comes from having lost a friend to suicide and seeing the devastation he left behind. Coupled with having a family I’m close to, I have almost a preventive buffer as I’d hate to ruin their lives by doing something they’d struggle to understand.

      I agree totally though, you have to find yourself and value yourself first. I guess how that happens is different for everyone and for you maybe hitting the point where you considered erasing yourself was how you learnt you do have value.

      I like your old me comment – I guess a counsellor might not like us using such negative terms of description – but sometimes we do have an old and a new us. As long as we recognise that the old us was not “wrong” but instead just not the self we know we can be, then I think we’ll be okay!

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      1. Thanks for your thoughtful reply. :o)

        ‘Family’ was a mess early on for me and became an abstract concept. One of my cousins died from her struggle with anorexia and/or bulemia (I wasn’t really in the loop). There’s a lot of mental illness on both sides of my family, whether diagnosed or not, I could always see and feel it. I think my cousin, Danielle, may have developed her mental illness because of that she lived with at home. I’ll never know.

        I had the same. Bat-shit loony mom (never allowed herself to be diagnosed, but I knew it from the volatility, the screaming and sudden beating. My dad, who had left already when I was 5, he was always this distant, disconnected figure and just made me uncomfortable. Recently he wrote to me and shared that he has clinical depression/major depressive disorder. I didn’t know what to feel; it seemed like something he should have known decades ago, because it seemed pretty obvious to me. Lucky for me, I have the same thing.

        So, the ‘family’ thing isn’t really enough of a deterrent.for me, though I have made my peace with my mom and she tries to be supportive of me from half a world away back in Canada (I’m in Japan).

        The guilt I feel is more abstract. Like I picture a funeral home or a crematorium with a bunch of ‘familiar’ people who may or may not be friends or family, like in a dream, you know? So far it’s been enough, but I suspect it’s not as powerful as having a truly loving, concerned, supportive family nearby.

        I’m still here, to be honest, because I have yet to do something meaningful enough with my life to bid the world adieu. I feel a heightened sense of purpose, a looming deadline (pun intended — btw, I hate when people recognize or intend to make a pun and then say ‘no pun, intended; if you didn’t ‘intend’ it, why didn’t you just not say it or erase it?).

        I feel that people with ‘happy’ lives, feel no real drive to make something of themselves. They can be satisfied with a status quo mediocrity. I can’t. Never could. So, now that I’ve been closer to the brink than ever before, I just feel an even greater desire to create something of lasting value to leave in a world that I found to be so lacking in just that.

        Yeah, this is a downer, heh? Day didn’t end well and my head’s in the gutter. But tomorrow’s another day, and I’ve got progress to make!

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  2. Thank you for this… the part about answering only to me when I lie in bed at night – that really strikes a chord with me. I want to live my life that way.

    Sometimes I feel like the “walk to the beat of your own drum” message almost wants to thumb it’s nose at other people, whereas answering to myself means that there may be some people whose opinion I care about but I get to choose those people and choose how I react and honour those opinions. I don’t know that I’m saying quite what I mean, so I’ll go back to “thanks”. 🙂

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    1. I totally understand what you’re saying. My sisters and their opinions count. My partner too. But only because I want them to because I value their advice & suggestions. But the lady who looked me up and down as I walked past the supermarket yesterday – don’t care. The friend of a friend who dislikes me for no apparent reason – her loss.

      I have been lusting after a pair of patterned trousers forever & yesterday I bought them. Never mind if someone I walk by for 2 seconds who I will never again see thinks they look stupid. I know when I catch a glimpse of myself in a shop window I will smile & get a boost from knowing I’ve made my own choice 🙂

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      1. Yes! You captured it perfectly – that’s exactly what I was getting at. And I love that you bought the trousers… you’ll get to have your own mini-affirmations of this concept every time you put them on 🙂

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