You are allowed to let go of your old dreams.
You are allowed to redesign your plan for your life, because what you had decided upon years ago was chosen for a person you no longer are.
You were not born to do just one job, play just one role, be just one person, stay in just one place. You are a constant evolution. You are a continual unfolding. You haven’t met every part of yourself yet, you haven’t unearthed every desire. There is more to you, and there is more to life — but to know this, you have to do the first and most subversive thing, which is to leap without knowing where exactly you will land.
What do you actually want the day-to-day of your life to look like?
That’s your true dream.
Anything else was something you crafted out of an idea of what someone else would want. The truth is that you are allowed to pursue what’s right for the person you are now, then you are allowed to pursue something else for the person you will one day become.
You are allowed to keep choosing.
You are allowed to let go.
When life gives you the opportunity to change, you should take it.
You should take it because there are only a few forks in the road, and increasingly less so as the years go on. You should take it because every form of self-exploration is progress made. If you ever discover that you’ve made a turn you wish you hadn’t, you can always go back, because you’re not actually going backwards. Sometimes, you grow more from realizing what’s not right for you than you do from discovering what is.
If you never step out of line with the narrow set of expectations you’ve had for yourself, then you’ll never discover the most magical thing of all, which is the point at which life might present you with an opportunity so good, you wouldn’t think to ask for it.
Most people aren’t held back because they’re afraid to try, but because they’re afraid to let go of what they once thought they wanted.
By the virtue of time and repetition, those dreams become seared through their minds like impenetrable truths, sirens that call them forward. Those ideas about what they might be and to whom, where they might live and what they might do, the way they’ll look, what they will have done, and by when… they often trap more than they liberate, and stifle more than they inspire.
When you first conceived of your dream life all those years ago, you designed it for a person you begin to rapidly outgrow.
That’s the source of your internal conflict.
That’s why you feel so lost.
That’s why everything seems so scary.
That’s why you’re afraid to leap.
You think that there is only one way forward, only one thing you can do to satisfy the chains of expectation that you don’t know you’ve wrapped around yourself.
Nobody is requiring your life to play out in one way or another, and if you never reach the point at which you even question the dreams you once had, you are probably beholden to them for reasons that reason cannot justify. Mostly, that if you changed course, you would show the world that you were wrong about what you once believed was right. In that is a strange and unique form of perceived humiliation, one we try to shield ourselves from at any cost, and to a pretty significant expense.
The truth is that we are all wrong about ourselves in some ways.
We are all naive about what the future might contain.
When we try to hold up our current lives against our former selves, seeing if they gel, if it all makes sense, if our next steps complement our initial ones — we deny ourselves many vital opportunities that exist right in front of us today.
If you have arrived at a place in your life where you are being presented with the opportunity to choose again, please choose again.
And then keep choosing.
Choose for the person you are today.
Choose for the person you do not yet know you will be.
Choose for the person you were before, because the true success story is refusing to accept life on anything but your own terms. The true happily ever after is the life that makes sense now, not the life you think you owe a person you no longer are.
You have not failed because you did not become exactly what you once thought you’d be. You are not behind because you aren’t keeping on pace with the milestones you set for a life you no longer want. I know that it seems like there is only one right way forward, and only one right way to be, but there isn’t.
You’re allowed to explore.
You’re allowed to write new rules.
You’re allowed to be different.
You are allowed to let go of your old dreams.
You are allowed to let go of the life you designed for a person you did not yet know; you are allowed to let go of the love you chose for a person you had not yet become; you are allowed to let go of the goals you decided upon before you even knew the full scope and realm of possibility in the world.
Sometimes, the measure of our strength isn’t our ability to persevere, but our willingness to embrace the ego-blow of accepting that we weren’t right about who we might be or what we might want to become in the world. Sometimes, the problem isn’t that we’re unwilling to stay the course, but that we’re afraid to leave the course we know, deep down, isn’t leading where we want to be.
Sometimes, the problem isn’t that we don’t have enough willpower, but that our souls won’t let us keep charging ahead at a future we don’t desire. Sometimes, the problem isn’t that we’re not strategic enough but that we haven’t discovered enough about who we are to make a decision at all.
We aren’t given much grace for this period of self-discovery, which is, quite honestly, a life-long venture.
We have to give it to ourselves.
Life requires a lot of trial and error.
There are so many ways in which you need to experiment and grow and test and discover and throw spaghetti on the wall day after day.
You don’t know who you are innately, you know through experience.
You discover through how you respond.
Often, when we make big decisions about the overarching elements of our lives — our relationships, careers, cities, and so on — we do it at such a young age that it would be preposterous to assume we could ever really know what we want for the long-term. This has become normalized in a way that’s so intense, you’ve failed if you haven’t committed yourself to enormous amounts of debt in order to secure a degree in a field you may or may not find yourself to actually even like, or committed yourself to another person before you even know who you are, or decided on a career before you’re even sure of what your skills and interest are, and where they might intersect.
When we invest so much into what we think we’re going to be, it becomes harder and harder to amend that choice over time.
This is only compounded by the fact that we now live in a world that has normalized documenting every day, hour, corner and meal of our lives. We share all of this with everyone we’ve ever known, a perma-audience that exists in our mind space, for whom we perform and gather approval.
When we’re trying to keep up with everyone we’ve ever known from every phase and part of our lives, we don’t give ourselves the space to naturally phase out of certain identities and into new ones.
The stress and strain we feel is the deep desire to choose what’s right for us today, matched up against the fear of how messy, how non-linearly our story might unfold.
But do you want to know the truth?
The whole, scary, liberating truth?
That story was only ever written in your own mind.
You’re resisting your own evolution because of a metaperception, what you think other people might think about you. In the end, it’s little more than a projection of how you’re seeing yourself.
I know that you have been led to believe that life is supposed to be a linear ascent into some kind of perfection, or at least, increased goodness, but what they don’t tell you is that before you leap forward, you almost always have to pull back. Your life is not a math equation, it’s a garden. It requires constant tending, weeding, watering and attention. It is impacted most by your environment, some of which you control, some of which you don’t. It phases in and out of seasons, it leads you through periods of planting seeds, deepening roots, sprouting, blossoming, and then of course, uprooting again.
Your life is not a résumé.
It cannot be defined by a photo grid.
It is not something you can crack or solve.
It’s a living, breathing thing — because it is an extension of you.
Please allow yourself the space to reinvent. Please give yourself the chance to choose what you didn’t know you’d one day want. Please know that you are not falling behind, you are not risking it all, you are not making a dumb decision by exiting the path most taken.
The biggest risk we run is not following our hearts, because when we don’t, we end up fractions of the people we were meant to be.
You will not get to the end of this thing and regret having tried and failed, you will regret sitting by, idly, as you paced through a lukewarm life, and made excuses to avoid what you thought might set your soul on fire.