I’ve never been like other people.
Maybe that’s too grand a statement. Maybe there are too many people in this big loud world for me to be an original. So allow me rephrase. What I mean to say is that I never felt like other people. And that was once my favorite thing about me. That I never lived in someone else’s version of the truth.
I used to feel bad for people like that. The kids who didn’t believe in magic. The teachers who said students who were good at writing simply couldn’t be good at math. The friends who told me I couldn’t possibly still feel a deceased Grandmother’s kiss on my forehead at night. The peers who scoffed when I said I wanted to be a writer. How dull a life they must lead I thought. A life without possibility. A life without imagination. A life without wishes and hope and maybe. A life in black and white.
I remember a teacher in elementary school asked us once to draw our future as a road. What is at the end? she said. Will you walk or skip or run to get there? I remember being so excited. I scribbled furiously and finished just in time. When we showed our work to the class, she stopped and stared at mine for a long while. The girl on my paper was floating somewhere in a purple sky. Her arms were open wide, her hands stretched out and grabbing strange square-shaped, orange-tinted clouds. She asked me why I hadn’t followed instructions. She asked where was my road. I wasn’t sure how to explain. She wouldn’t understand. I had followed her instructions. There just wasn’t any gravity on my road.
Almost a decade later, I would start a company. And things would get really hard. There would be no rules. There would be no one right path to success. It should have been perfect for me. I should have thrived. But in this new world, I would make a mistake I never had before. I would ask for a map. For the first time in my life, I would try to do things the “right” way. The way I “should”. To follow charted paths, to learn the rules on these roads, and to follow them. It wouldn’t be long until I was lost.
One day, I would hear myself telling someone that something wasn’t possible. And then I would hear her. Her voice would be faint, almost a whimper. The protests of that stubborn 10-year-old inside me screaming to get out. Yelling at me, scolding me, reminding me that I’ve always been a bad listener, and that is one flaw I should have held on to. That there is no point to achieving the possible if it means losing your ability to believe in the impossible. That impossible is until it isn’t.
This morning, I framed a picture. An old, wrinkled, hand-drawn illustration of a little girl floating in a purple-orange sky. It’ll serve as my map. The only one I will ever again follow.