For some people, freedom is the consistency of being employed somewhere, and for anyone who has ever struggled to feel secure in their lives, a job like that is a miracle.
For some people, freedom is working remotely after years of hour-long commutes.
For some people, freedom is living out of a backpack.
For some people, freedom is not working in a traditional sense and raising their families.
For some people, freedom is settling into structure and routine and for some people, it is finally following what feels good in the moment because the rest is already taken care of.
For some people, feeling like themselves is a matter of waking up every day and putting on their best clothes.
For some people, feeling like themselves is living in a peak state without conscious consideration of how they appear, spending whole swaths of their lives in their art, in their writing, in their love, until their days fade into the low burn of the single remaining candle in the room and they’re too tired to do anything but lay down and stare at the ceiling and slowly fall asleep.
For some people that would be chaos.
The point is that there is no one right way to do this.
There is no one right way to live.
When we make up stories in our heads about how other people should and shouldn’t run their lives, we build cages around our own minds and hearts. We have to follow the rules we establish for other people.
So I hope that you break the rulebook you wrote for yourself when you were most afraid.
I hope that you stop holding other people to standards they never agreed to.
I hope that you learn to move beyond the idea you once had of the person you were meant to be and I hope that you learn you no longer have to reach so far to be them.
I hope you learn that life is a journey, a long one, that contains many legs, many turns, and many chapters.
We often don’t know what we don’t know.
But what we can know is that the best possible thing we can do for ourselves and our futures is to simply meet ourselves where we are. We can’t predict it all because we don’t know all of what’s to come — not necessarily from outside of us, but what emerges from within.
We often have to figure out what we don’t like before we start getting an idea of what we do. We often have to experience what love isn’t to understand what it is. We often have to be who we aren’t before we can actually see who we are.
None of these experiences are wrong, they’re just not permanent.
The thing about rulebooks is that they actually function as guides. They become the roadmaps that we use to chart our course. Our rulebooks are written consciously and unconsciously, through intention and mindlessness. We adapt many rules from those around us, from our families and traditions and peers. We adapt many rules from the things that hurt us in life, we learn what not to do in order to avoid a feeling we don’t want.
But we also adapt many rules without realizing that we are, and those often come in the form of taking temporary experiences and making them permanent statements about who we are or aren’t.
When we are too identified with our paths in life, we end up defining ourselves by one or two dead ends when in reality, they were probably necessary in some way.
You can’t game your existence.
You can’t do it all so perfectly that you might shield yourself from ever possibly getting hurt, because when you live like that, you end up not living at all.
The rulebooks exist to help us avoid what is uncomfortable, which is also what we need to feel in order to reclaim our lives.
So this year, I hope you stop living by the rulebook you wrote when you were most afraid. I hope you stop believing the things you told yourself again and again when you were at your lowest. And I hope you stop governing yourself by the needs and wants and requirements of everyone else.
I hope you learn to breathe in the moment.
I hope you learn how to live for you.
I hope you learn how to connect with the best possible version of who you might be, and slowly learn to be them.
I hope you write a new story, one that contains less limiting ideas and more hopeful notions about what the future might contain, and what you might contain when you arrive there.
I hope you realize just how much of your life has been run by what you’ve told yourself life is or isn’t, and I hope that you learn to choose otherwise because so much is waiting for you.
So much is yet to be.