Advice to the Girl I Was

If you have a passive interest in astrology and what the planets have to teach us, you will know that by most accounts, two weeks ago was supposed to be a big astrological week. The planet Neptune was due to end its sojourn, which began in 1998, in Aquarius and enter Pisces on February 3rd. It was explained that this is big news because it is the last time that Neptune will be in Aquarius in our lifetimes. What the specifics of this change mean, I will leave to the astrologers to explain further.

When you read that kind of build up though, it does give you a moment’s pause and you begin to think back to 1998 and wonder; what happened then, what started then, did anything significant in my life change then? Back then, I was still in my 20s and, although I didn’t have all the answers; I had a plan. I had developed a clear plan for how I intended and expected my life to go. I was sure that with dedication and perseverance things would unfold exactly as planned. Any wise elder would chuckle at just how knuckleheaded this thinking was.

In the 14 years that have passed, what would I say is the biggest lesson I’ve learned? The need, the absolute necessity, for each of us to follow our own internal guidance. The beauty of youth is our absolute belief in our power to control and direct the course of our destiny. What is interesting to see, all these years later, is that often we didn’t believe in our own convictions.

Over the past years and with the increasing use of and reliance on the Internet especially, we are overrun with every manner of self-help imaginable. In some ways, and in this I’m showing my age, I actually wish we had less advice. Have a question? Google it. Want advice? Google it. Want to connect with others who are struggling with the same thing you are? There’s a chat group somewhere of others going through exactly what you are going through who are there to support you and help you through it. But, is this really the best way for each amongst us to approach our problems? It’s like the world has entered into a state of mass therapy and our computers are the figurative therapists’ couch.

As I think back on the end of the ’90s what strikes me are the thoughts, ideas, impressions and intuitive “senses”; those gut feelings that I had but chose to ignore. It’s those moments when the internal radar said, “Uh, I don’t think this is such a good idea.” Most often that feeling was overrode in deference to “what made sense.” Interestingly, I often ignored the feeling because I thought it wasn’t being open enough to life. The situations those red flags were trying to spare me from seemed like a darn good idea at the time and, they were according to plan.

I worry, with our current trajectory and this pseudo-need to “crowd source” everything, if we give ourselves ample time and opportunity to connect to that internal guide and let it lead us. I doubt it and, to be even more categorical, I’m sure we don’t.

What is occurring to me in my moments of reflection are that we raise our children to think for themselves, to develop self-reliance and independence while we are often, simultaneously trying to mould them into people that will be acceptable to their peers and the members of our communities. Isn’t that what ultimately drives the rebellious teenage years; how badly can teenagers shame their parents to the outside world? When I reflect back on my younger days however, my instinctual desires were not very radical and, I suspect few people’s ideas really are. But, looking at today’s current debates it becomes apparent that our freedom to be and do as we feel driven to is not really accepted. The controversies around straight vs gay, liberal vs conservative, educated vs uneducated, rich vs modest vs poor, etc. demonstrates that finding one’s own path, even in this enlightened age, is almost akin to navigating through a minefield. Every position is hotly debated and in many ways, you’re caught between a rock and a hard place because every side of an issue is incorrect.

The problem is rooted in my original supposition namely, over the course of our lives we are constantly confronted with choices and we rationalise those choices and choose what is best. Sadly, not always because it’s what we want or what is in our own best interests, think Shakespeare –“to thine own self be true” – but rather, it’s the route to what we expect will be a peaceful life.

We’re all aware of what it means to be in our 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, etc., and yes, there is a process and progression to our development and growth however, how far could we spring ahead if we used the wisdom of those who’ve gone before us to inform our decisions at each stage? Between our own inner voices and wiser heads who try to guide us that we often chose to ignore, we often experience more unpleasantness than is necessary.

I still straddle the fence on how life is lived. I do believe that there is an element of destiny to our lives; the idea that everything has happened because it was supposed to and, as such, on some level we had no choice over the decisions that we made. I tend to reject the fullness of this idea because I strongly dislike the idea of being a puppet on a string at the behest of an unknown puppet master, even if that master is my own soul.

Instead I prefer to believe that we each have a destiny but the road we take to get there is decided and shaped each day of our lives by the choices we make. Each decision that we make is a reflection of what we’ve learned (or not) and each one decides the next step on our path.

As Neptune prepared to take its leave of Aquarius, what is the one piece of advice I wish I could have given my 20+ year old self and that I take with me as a new celestial chapter began”¦ trust yourself.

Trust that little voice inside because it is not there to lie to you or to lead you astray. That little voice that whispers the answers to your unspoken questions means you no harm and, if you listen to her, she might save you a few detours (and perhaps pain) along the journey. When you filter everything you hear, think and feel through that little voice inside you, you will realise that she has your, and only your, best interests at heart.

This post originally appeared on my blog, Musings of a Gypsy, on 30 January 2012.

5 replies on “Advice to the Girl I Was”

What a lovely, moving piece. As someone who has only now begun to grasp “adult” life, I really love this. I’ve always felt much older than I am, and indeed I still do. I have an issue with time- I think there isn’t enough of it- and I’m always rushing through milestones. I entered my grad program at 21, after taking a year off, and I berated myself for taking that year off and throwing off my life plan. In fact, I’ve done that quite a bit, and I’m just now realizing that the beauty of life is seeing where it takes you, rather than demanding that it go a certain, planned-out way.

Wow. Thank you for this beautiful and moving piece of philosophy, musinggypsy. So many of your phrases stuck out to me that I’m half-tempted to print this off and stick it on my bathroom mirror to keep these thoughts close. My thoughts have been vaguely following the same trajectory as of late, but they haven’t been as pointed and well-thought out as yours. So, I just want to pick out a few.

 I worry, with our current trajectory and this pseudo-need to “crowd source” everything, if we give ourselves ample time and opportunity to connect to that internal guide and let it lead us. I doubt it and, to be even more categorical, I’m sure we don’t.

A very interesting point, and I think you might have nailed it. I regularly run to the internet with questions that have less than a purely factual answer; sometimes it’s because I’m interested in what others have to say, but sometimes, it’s because I’m looking for quick answers or a like-minded group of people. I also agree with your point that because of mass communication, holding steadfast to any one notion, idea or belief can be a detriment. While I do believe that we all benefit by hearing all sides of an issue, it can be difficult – especially when you’re unsure of yourself – to stick with what feels right, when there’s a lot of people who openly (and vehemently) disagree with you, especially if those people express themselves well.

 I had a plan. I had developed a clear plan for how I intended and expected my life to go. I was sure that with dedication and perseverance things would unfold exactly as planned.

This mirrors some thinking of my own in the past year or so. Last year, I had been secretly mourning what I felt were failures in my life. I’d had such a set idea about how I wanted my life to look, and even how I wanted my journey to happen, that when those “absolutes” didn’t manifest, I immediately came to the conclusion that those dreams were unrealistic, too idealistic, or – what’s worse – my sneaking suspicions that I simply wasn’t good enough or strong enough had been proven correct. This thinking has begun to change. I pinpointed a moment in my life about 15 years ago when I’d been made to worthless and less than other people around me. It was drilled into me by older people, who I believe now were trying to “motivate” me in some way, and it just backfired. I’d unknowingly carried around this emotional wound with me ever since then. Once I realized it, I began to see how it had permeated most aspects of my life in some way, even though outwardly I have always appeared to be successful and confident. I identified the monkey on my back, so to say. And once I did, I began to ask myself why? Why, when my dreams hadn’t come true immediately or through the channels I thought they would, why had I abandoned them? Why had I done that to myself?  I finally came to the conclusion that it was youth - I was young, so so young, and that’s what young people do: construct dreams for themselves. And I was too young to realize that when those constructed dreams fall through, it doesn’t meant that the dream itself is bad or unattainable. The journey – wherever it takes you, whatever form it takes on – is just as enjoyable and important as your final destination. I believe that wholeheartedly now, and things immediately began to change for me in beautiful, unexpected ways. I am in awe of life – my life, your life, all lives – totally and absolutely awed by this beautiful journey, wherever it may lead us.

If I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it would undoubtedly be: Don’t take yourself so seriously. When you do, you close off the doors to other opportunities, other people, other ways of living that will ultimately make your journey more enjoyable and more meaningful. Your journey doesn’t have to look exactly this way or exactly that way - simply working towards it, in whatever way you can, is honestly enough. You will get there. Just don’t take it so damn seriously.

1998 through now covered basically my entire high school, college, and more college career. It was essentially the time where I grew as a social animal. Basically: Chaos. Goals were made, broken, rebuilt. The same could be said for a few hearts.

Once, a few years ago – three months before The Dark Days kicked off and I lost all my self-worth, I had by chance written a phrase on a post-it note to help motivate me to push past barriers and take bigger steps. The assumption, of course, was that I’d have a support system reminding me that even if I missed my target, there was a net ready to catch me – a net I assumed was my career.

I now know that the net was not my career but my family (for that I am eternally grateful and remind them constantly). The barriers were different and the steps started lower on the ladder but the phrase never changed. And I think that is the most important. No matter the conditions, the phrase does not change. So, to my former self, I’m sorry I did not consider this before. I’m sorry I did not write that note earlier. I’m sorry you had to scramble for a rope in a fit of fear before knowing your net was ready. Because, as I see now, you will need to…

Prepare to be uncomfortable.

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