“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Did you ever feel as if you were about to explode with an extreme amount of energy held inside? Are you waiting to burst forth to begin the day or to start a new project? Maybe you feel you are going to break apart at the seams wanting to do something or be something that you feel strongly about yet… you hold back. Do you feel tied to what you are currently doing or the identity you currently project? Well in the past few years this has been my M.O. It seems a slow progression but I am and have been moving with consistent change and great fortitude – away from a former definition of who I was and toward a new rendition of me or as I call it an upgrade.
In 2011 I left my home of Baltimore City. With that move, I left behind a community I was deeply engaged with, a series of jobs and many relationships that I had been identifying myself with. All of which was wonderful at the time but became more a box to live within rather than a space to grow from. Since then, I’ve spent much time untangling from this former life, deciphering what is important to hold on to and what to let go of. Free from any fixed community, job, or home I’ve moved fluidly and freely, stripping away pieces of the past life I created. Much like participating in a detox, focusing on taking in the healthiest aspects only I have systematically worked to release patterns and ideas that were no longer serving me. Could I recognize details and facets of my inner self while balancing external obligations and expectations? This essentially was and still is the core goal of the Living Chapters experiment that I am still exploring and attempting to understand.
What I do understand though, is that it seems each year we try to out do ourselves. We compare our conquests and achievements as if they are the measurement of life’s success. “Did we make enough money? Did we make the right friends? Go to new places? Have enough fun?” What did we accomplish? And is there a way to prove it or show it off?
There are many things that we can all be proud of in our lives. We can all point to things we have done, have said or relationships that we maintain and develop. We can own many things and go to many places. Some people call this a list of goals or a bucket list. Others claim that these things are what make them unique individuals. Like the rest of us, I have done this too, comparing one year to the last looking back and keeping track. Not a bad thing to do really. We should recognize and share our core talents and skills. It’s called a resume! Heck I made a whole website that acted as my master accomplishment list. Yet I realize now, only two years after creating it, that this list no longer defines me as a person. It is simply a list of my external accomplishments and I need to stop identifying myself by pointing to it alone.
In this past year, I stepped away from building on this list and started developing lines on my internal resume. I am looking beyond my work, belongings or relationships as an indicator of my self-worth. I am looking outside of the accomplished tasks or my productivity of what “got done” as a way to measure my success. The first year of Living Chapters focused my ‘to do’ list internally but still operated on the “checking off the list” mentality. It did however provide a great tool to monitor external actions while developing internal ideas. My question and desired exploration now is how to learn to accomplish external ideas through internal change and action. How can one balance and value both internal and external accomplishments?