I think it was when I was sitting in the Starbucks drive-thru line for 15 minutes and I saw a car ahead of me reach out to grab not one, not two, but THREE trays of drinks, and I started feeling a sense of judgement and anger arise that I thought to myself, “Why am I upset about this? This happens every time I go through the Starbucks Drive Thru. Someone always over orders. I should just expect this will happen.”
Or, when my phone goes off right before I’m about to hit my slumber and it’s an e-mail, requiring that I “respond ASAP”, so then I get all up in arms about how impolite it is (and therefore lose my desire to sleep), and then I open it and it becomes something quite trivial and I remind myself of how many times this happens (at least once a week). But, then I can’t go back to sleep anyways.
Or, when I think I have my weekend perfectly planned–that I’m going to have all of this time to catch up with friends and to work out and to meal prep and to do laundry and clean my car and read my book and write on my blog, and then someone’s dog gets hit by a car and I have to go spend my Saturday afternoon in the emergency vet with them–and I remind myself of all the other ‘perfect weekends’ that were altered due to unforeseen circumstances, and I remember that life is messy, and that I should expect these kinds of things to happen.
When I finally accepted that life was messy, I accepted that all of these things would happen. I should expect that someone will say something against my beliefs that makes me vehemently roll into a tirade. I should expect that the lifelong plan I made for myself at age 18 will always, and continuously, and rapidly be uprooted and thrown off track. I should expect to lose friendships, for people to move away, for illness and tragedy to strike those around me, to have my integrity questioned, to be faced with obstacles and decisions and to be asked to do things I don’t want to do and to say things I don’t want to say. And then when they did happen, I wasn’t as affected as much when they did happen.
When I finally accepted that life would be messy, and I realized I should just expect these things to happen, I took myself out of the equation. I wasn’t the one that the lady in the Starbucks line was trying to hold up. It wasn’t MY slumber that the e-mail was intended to interrupt, and it wasn’t ME that the dog wanted to throw off. When I think about how many people there are in the world—and how many things the Universe must always be balancing and how many different personalities are out there, and all the possible things that could possibly happen to us on a daily basis—OF COURSE these things will happen. These things are not targeted to me but rather just part of this big, messy thing we live in called ‘life’.
And, when I finally accepted that life would be messy, and I realized that I should just expect all of these things to happen, and I took myself out of the equation, I felt liberated. Albert Camus said, “he only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion”. Liberated that the choices weren’t about me, liberated that I wasn’t responsible to carry the weight of the whole world, liberated that my existence is small and that inconsequential, and while the choices I make are certainly still important, I’m allowed to make mistakes, to change the direction I think my path will lead, to live in the messiness.
It was interesting. When I first began auditioning for dance teams, I always had the mentality that, “they need MY skills and MY talent for THEIR team”. So, when I one audition didn’t make a team, I felt devastated and felt like they were going to miss ME and what I had to offer.
But, the truth of the matter is, they will make whatever work, whether it is me or someone else. They will find someone to fill the role of the tall brunette girl, whether she is me or someone else, and they will mold her to be what they need. There is certainly a placeholder—a spot for someone to fulfill—but rather that spot is filled by me or by someone else, in the fabric of the Universe, is inconsequential, because that spot will be filled by someone (as Mark Manson says, you are not important).
I also remember applying for my very first teaching jobs. I thought, “how could I get rejected? I have all of this ‘experience’ and ‘knowledge’ that is invaluable’, and then I started working in the profession and I realized that EVERYONE has some kind of experience and knowledge and degree and personal references that are invaluable. Or, when I was applying to book publishers–I saw myself as the ONLY person who could deliver this message and that MY story was so unique that it MUST be shared. But, there are plenty of stories that are unique, plenty of good writers, plenty of other people who could snag that literary contract. We walk around with these misconceptions that WE are UNIQUE and VALUABLE, and while that certainly is important and true, sometimes it really isn’t all about US.
So when I finally let all of this go—when I accepted that life is messy, and that I’m actually not THAT important, and that things will happen, I felt liberated. It’s a strange feeling–to feel so small in this big world. I think, as humans, we try so hard to be connected and to be involved and to make ourselves stand out to minimize the effects of that big world, but it actually wasn’t until I fully submitted to the big world–and saw myself as just a mere figment–that I felt officially free, liberated, and in some ironic way, the most meaningful I’ve ever felt.
But it is all messy–it never goes as planned.