I’m 40. If there’s a proverbial hill, I might just be past the pinnacle and leaning over to survey the view of the downward slope. It sounds a bit miserable in a ‘middle aged hallmark card’ kinda way but it’s actually not at all.
There are milestones in life that prompt us to look closely at ourselves and examine what we’re about. Becoming a parent was one of those and blimey to say that was life-changing was a massive understatement. But periods of transformation in life, while hugely overwhelming, disorienting and often pretty frightening at the time, look different from the calm perspective of hindsight.
For me, it felt like a deconstruction of who I perceived myself to be. I say that as I know I’d spent three decades trying very hard to carve out an identity, as if drawing a bold outline of a person in the way determined toddlers do with a thick, water resistant felt pen. I did this metaphorically with the eclectic accumulation of achievements and ‘stuff’ to serve as a nod to society’s consistent demands to ‘become someone’.
Yet the notion of being more than you are in this moment underpins a perpetually insecure self that tries desperately and innocently to seek validation from these things. A metaphor might be the cult of celebrity we now witness, with contestants on reality game shows, apparently seeking romantic love and creating aesthetically pleasing couplings, yet with another eye firmly on the big prize and promise of double page magazine spreads and Insta accounts with multi-million followings.
It sounds like I’m being judgy, and maybe I am. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve invested time watching Love Island while wondering simultaneously if it were a sociological experiment where humanity is actually the (surgically enhanced) butt of the joke. Ahem.
The startling paradox for me came from the realisation that as I began to unravel the ‘Natalie’ I had created through repeated narrative, while the free-fall was pretty terrifying, I got more and more comfortable with unlearning and clinging less to the sense of identity I felt I needed. In doing so I saw quite clearly that you are only defined by what you think defines you. Thinking is slippery like that, because it’s intangible. But in truth we live in a thought-created reality…wasn’t it Richard Bohm who said “Thought creates the world and then says ‘I didn’t do it'”?
So I’m 40 and while it’s just a number and the hill is just a proverb, I’m enjoying the ride. Why? Because when you put the felt tip down you feel less of a need to become someone, in the realisation that we are all already enough.
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