The day I was born, my parents were handed my birth certificate. And I was handed a document even more significant. It would shape my life and dictate the script of my personal story.
That is, until I made the choice to re-write my story.
You see, the day I was born, I was handed a blueprint for life. It went something like this: go to school; go to university; travel; get a job; find a boyfriend; marry said boyfriend; buy a house; have kids. Ever notice how no-one tells you what to do after having kids? And for sure, no-one tells you what to do if your life doesn’t follow the blueprint at all.
So when I found myself 40’ish, with many items on my life’s to-do list still unchecked, I naturally thought there was something wrong with me.
Not once did I stop to think that maybe, just maybe, I was the perfect actress, reading off an incomplete script, on the wrong stage.
I say incomplete script because, looking back, I feel my blueprint was missing a few instructions. It didn’t tell me what to do when I hadn’t achieved certain outcomes within the prescribed timeline. It didn’t teach me to ask questions about what I wanted in and around life’s checklist. It didn’t really encourage me to dream.
In fact, my blueprint was missing a key factor. Me.
In the absence of chasing dreams, I chased milestones. And in the absence of instructions for a contingency plan, I spent years and years trying to wriggle my way into my pre-determined script. From the outside, I would have looked like a toddler trying to fit the green triangle into the red square of a Fisher Price toy. The harder I tried, the more it didn’t fit. And the more it didn’t fit, the more frustrated I got.
When a toddler is defiant, stubborn in proving the mismatched shape will fit, something eventually has to give. Either the toddler has a tantrum or the toy breaks!
As an adult, when we’re not aligned to our inner calling, life usually delivers us a whack to the head that forces our own breaking point.
I consider myself incredibly lucky. My wake-up call came in the clichéd form of a break-up. At the clichéd age of nearly 40.
I call it my break-up, my break-down and my break-free.
Like an architect reviewing plans that aren’t going according to plan, I rolled out my blueprint and began to break down my old story.
Re-reading an old story with a new lens can be messy and confronting. I found answers to questions I didn’t know I had, I went head to head with ingrained assumptions and beliefs and I cracked open existing relationships so that they could be plastered back together, stronger than ever before.
Yet, looking back was only half of it.
The real game changer happened when I woke up to the fact that I could write a new story.
I could take my blueprint, change it, fill in the gaps, complete the script and choose a whole new stage. Most importantly, I could write myself into the lead role. How had I not thought of this before?
As the process of dreaming up my new story began to unfold, I began to dig up old dreams that I’d long ago buried under the weight of expectations from society, my family and, mostly, myself.
Living in New York was just one of those dreams. But, as I kept telling myself, no-one moves to New York in their 40’s… surely? Life proved otherwise and I learned that there is no expiration date on our dreams.
And so, with my new plans in progress, I slipped my small, narrow feet into some seriously tough boots. I fastened my belt and marched myself right out my comfort zone.
As I said goodbye to everything that was familiar, I turned the page on a new chapter. In fact no, make that a whole new story book.