This June will be the 18th anniversary of my high school graduation, one of the few moments in life when we all focus on and celebrate the idea of branching out and breaking free from the years of guidance and training from school and our families. We are told to set out and find ourselves but yet are not given a map.
Well it’s been 18 years since I was 18, and I am not sure if I have plotted the correct path to any eminent successful future, but I have found my way to my own voice and guidance and have started listening more intently to it. Ironically, the message I keep hearing is “Stop planning, forget the map and just let go!” For some reason, I believe that now more than ever is the right time to take my own advice and follow through.
On June 1st, Living Chapters officially begins. Although I feel as if I have been living out chapters my entire life, I at this moment feel strongly about the importance of letting go of the planning and directing that I have been doing thus far in search of that specific outcome or greener grasses. Living Chapters is a process I have created to help achieve this goal of letting go. I see it as an experiment or a performance of sorts, playing out, witnessing and examining this art form that we live and breathe each day. It’s a chance to live out different plot twists and directions that I may have never chosen or found alone. An exercise in trust and collaboration and an uncommon chance to reflect on the decisions we make when faced with change, challenge, and discomfort. It is a rare opportunity and moment in my life that I am able to devote this period of time to the observation of what can be learned if we decide to let go of the reins we hold so tightly over our lives.
OR – it’s simply an elaborate creative way to force myself into doing all the things I’ve been meaning to do in the self-improvement department over the past few years. A way to follow through with all those un-kept new years resolutions and untapped adventures I’ve been hoping to engage in. Either way it’s on! And as of June 1st I’m accountable not only to the 28 other individuals that I roped into this scenario but to myself to follow through with all the rules of engagement and whichever direction this may take.
I do not consider myself a person who unearths new wisdom, philosophy, or creates reflective prose, witty remarks or even humorous ramblings. This is not what I hope to share in this upcoming blog – I do however lead a fluid and free existence transitioning often from one thing to the next, falling into new situations and engaging with a multitude of amazing people along the way. At the very least this project was born to share that.
before the beginning
In the past month, I have been unveiling the idea of “Living Chapters” to those outside of the participating players list and I have to admit not without a bit of anxiety along with a great sense of excitement. The process of telling people about the decision to do this made it all the more “real”. Talking about the project as if it were a new “life change” itself, a new job, house or relationship. I told my mother, I told my professional colleagues, I told a stranger at a conference I attended. Each time, getting a bit more comfortable, trying out this new role of blending my personal and professional life. No use compartmentalizing the pieces of my life now, or holding back. Everything is about to become transparent.
As the point of living chapters, is to push boundaries and test comfort levels, I specifically asked the writers to find the sore spots, throw me into uncharted territory, and pin-point my weaknesses (or if I want to be nicer to myself) areas with room for improvement. Really now, what is a more uncomfortable than highlighting these aspects of yourself, not only to your friends and colleagues, but also to a potential audience of online followers? So here we go, the holiday weekend is over and I have a few days left to give myself some advice before it all begins. Below are the directives that I give myself for the process. If I stray along the way, please don’t hesitate to remind me of them.
Step one: Let go of control
Step two: Trust in my instincts
Step three: In case of emergency, be creative
What do you think? Did I miss a step… I’m in a good place to take suggestions for the next year.
why do this? am I crazy
The most asked question of me about this project, before it has even started, is “Why do this? Are you crazy?” and then comes…“Where did this idea come from? Did you come up with this?” Living Chapters is really no original idea nor did it come from me alone. I feel like it has been an idea growing within me for a long time. As a collector of stories and images, I have witnessed, listened and observed others in my life. Fascinated with the fact that others manage to navigate through the world in such a wide variety of ways. I guess I feel that now is the time for me to respond with my own voice and actions. It’s time to be or enact the story, rather than just observe it.
I use to cringe at people who created “personal growth projects”, artists or writers who were (what I thought to be) stuck in their heads reflecting on their life stories and experiences with the world. I think this is why I have never attempted writing and have honestly been intimidated by the process. I didn’t want to be that person stuck in my own experience. But how do we really interact honestly with others and the world if we are not able to reflect upon and understand ourselves? What happens if we never get past the things that intimidate us?
I am using this blog/project to force myself to write about that. It’s a structured way of making myself to become more accountable. To quote the first writer of this project, Joe Gall, “the time to pretend to be, is over” If we are going to stop pretending and start to be who we want to be, do what we want to do, and be with the people we want to be with, the time is now. So my challenge to myself (and anyone else reading) for the next 12 months is to do so. I don’t think that sounds so crazy.
Ask me again in a few months (or even in a couple days)… after the chapters start rolling in.