So last week I spent way too much time agonizing about sharing my story. In the end, I wrote it up and posted it… and got probably the most powerful reaction I’ve ever had to something I’ve written.
If you missed it, you can check it out here.
If you don’t have time to check it out, I’ll sum it up: toward the beginning of my career, I was homeless for about a month, by choice. I had the option to go home to Texas but chose not to take it because I believed I needed to stay where I was for my career development (turns out I was right).
It was not really a fun time in my life (that motel still haunts my dreams), but I felt compelled to share for anyone who’s ever been under the impression that I have my shit together and have simply always known what I wanted and how to get it.
When I started telling that story, it was to help give context to my two big takeaways… without sounding like some sort of holier-than-thou Judgy McJudgerson.
In making the choice to be homeless and pursue my dream of becoming a professional writer, I discovered I had these two recurring thoughts that had been seriously screwing up my life… because they:
- gave me an excuse avoid making hard decisions
- let me write off bad things that happened to me without figuring what happens next
And today I want to share those two recurring thoughts, in case they are impacting (or have previously affected) your life and dreams. These phrases are what I like to call “false friends”… they make us feel better in the moment, but do us no favors long term because they hide us from the truth.
#1: “I have no choice.”
I know it may sincerely feel that you have no options, especially when things are pretty dire… but there is ALWAYS a choice.
It’s just that the choice may not be immediately apparent, or it may be an option that is hard, painful, or scary (choosing to live in my car was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done).
I don’t say that to minimize anyone’s personal experience or to imply that making a decision should be as easy as changing your socks.
All your life, every day… you’re going to have to make choices.
Many of them will be easy… what to have for breakfast? Pants or no pants?
Occasionally, they’ll be hard.
I mean really fucking difficult.
Should I leave my partner? Should I quit my job? Should I live in my car with my diabetic cat and hope like hell I can figure out this freelance writing thing?
I can’t tell you which decision is right for you… staying with someone or leaving, staying at a job or quitting, whatever that decision may be.
There aren’t any easy choices in tough situations. But there ARE choices. To quote the band Rush:
“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”
There’s good news here, though… if you choose to see it. And that is your personal track record.
I’m going to assume that because you’re reading this, it’s highly likely that you are, in fact, living and breathing.
Not dead… so far, so good.
I’m going to assume that because you’re reading this, you have access to some pretty cool stuff… maybe a smart phone, a laptop, wifi, a library.
World literally at your fingertips… cool, I like where this is going.
So if you’re struggling right now, I feel you. I remember very viscerally what it felt like when I chose to live in my car to pursue my writing dream.
I had no money, no idea where I’d get food, no idea where I’d sleep, plus parents and friends who were freaking out about me making such a “dumb choice”.
But I figured it out… and that’s the point I’m trying to make here.
As of right now, you’ve survived 100% of the shit life has thrown your way. I like your odds.
You always have a choice between staying where you are and doing something different, but that doesn’t mean the choice will be easy. Just remember, when you’re in a situation where you have to make a hard choice, everything is figure-outable.
You don’t have to figure everything out right away… just trust your track record and don’t be too proud to ask for help. There are good people out there who WANT to help you (and get great joy from doing so), trust me.
And now for the second phrase, which is even more dangerous.
#2: “It’s not my fault.”
Hey… I get it. Some dick decided your department cost too much and you got laid off (been there). Not your fault, for sure.
Maybe your partner decided to be a jerk and fool around and betray your trust (also been there). Again, not your fault.
You got rear-ended by a rando who was too busy texting to stop (absolutely been there). Definitely not your fault.
None of these things are your fault, and that’s understandable.
The only person you can control in any equation is YOU.
But that phrase is a double-edged sword… you can’t control anyone else and what they decide to do (or not do). You can only control you. So are you controlling you, or are you giving up control of yourself by choosing to be a victim of your circumstances?
To bastardize an amazing quote by Eleanor Roosevelt:
“No one can make you feel like a victim without your consent.”
Again, I don’t mean to sound heartless. And I know that might seem a overly simplistic and even a little rude on the surface.
So let’s dig a little deeper…
All around us, every day, there is a spectrum of joy and despair. All of us fall somewhere on that spectrum… from over-the-top joyful to down-and-out desperate and miserable.
But here’s the thing… there are people who are in better situations than us, and people who are in MUCH worse situations.
And some people in great situations, who seem to have everything they could ever want or need, are suffering enormously… while some people in terrible situations are thriving and happy (or working actively toward thriving and being happy).
What the hell kind of topsy-turvy Alice in Wonderland crap is that? “Well off” people suffering, “traumatized” people happy. I’m using quotes here because these terms are relative.
The fact is that some people absolutely refuse to be controlled by their circumstances. And those are the people that tend to thrive even when shit goes sideways and absolutely terrible things happen.
That’s not to make light of the horrible abuses out there, the terrorism, the selfishness, the very real trauma.
But keep in mind you don’t know the real stories of a lot of folks out there. That happy-go-lucky person at the bar? Could be a domestic abuse survivor who’s chosen to do some deep healing work and do their best to live every day to the fullest.
You never know who you’re talking to or what they’ve been through to bring them right here, right now, to this point in time.
So while it’s true that you can’t predict what will happen to you, and you can’t control what happens or prevent terrible things…
We CAN control how we react, how we move forward in situations we can’t control.
And I don’t know about you, but knowing I still have a little control (i.e. choosing how I react) in a situation where I’m feeling pretty powerless? It’s actually really comforting to me.
No matter what happens to me, I still have something I can control… me. And I refuse to let other people take my joy, rob me of a beautiful future, or control my moods.
Unless I’m dead, with every breath I’m going to be working toward bettering myself and the world around me.
And that’s a choice.
If you got some value out of this, please share it with someone who needs to read it today.