A girl finds her way

© Jenn Shallvey              www.jennshallvey.com

Once upon a time there was a little girl. She came into this world as a bright eyed, curious, bewildered and joyful baby. Her entry was dramatic. Her arrival was heralded by all. Yet she was unaware of the impact she created. Humble in her origins, she was blissfully unaware of her significance as another human being on the planet.

Her early days were filled with excitement. Each moment was a learning experience. Her eyes took in the brightly coloured world around her. Her ears soaked up every rich sound reverberating in her auditory field. Her mouth tasted the nourishing freshness of her mothers milk. Her nose navigated through  each days undulating assault on the senses from breakfast to after dinner coffee. Her hands explored the softness of her own skin, the silkiness of her mothers hair the cool caress of her cotton bedsheets. Physically she connected with the world around her.

Yet what did she know? According to most around her she knew nothing. For she was uneducated, inexperienced, dependent on others. She was not able to survive on her own. She needed guidance and protection. She existed as an individual yet came into the world still tied to the very source of her birth.

As she grew her achievements were greeted with joy. Each new milestone celebrated, each gesture oohed and aahed over. She was almost as good as free entertainment. Her audiences laughed, smiled, clapped, hugged, cheered and sometimes even cried with joy. She was surrounded by her very own fan club.

Genuine appreciation and awe of her existence followed her wherever she went.

The years passed by. She didn’t notice it at first.  Sometimes she might stop and her smile would turn down. Or maybe her instincts would send her hiding in her room.  She encountered emotions that had no relation to joy, they could even be the opposite. Why? She did not remember this being part of the deal.

On the inside she was the same. On the outside she was changing. And it appeared that as people saw her change they also changed. They didn’t change in their physical way. No, they changed in the way they interacted with her.  Soon the unconditional love and acceptance was replaced with judgment. Next the awe inspired celebration of her achievements were replaced with expectations. Each day seemed to bring with it another shift, another change.

She was unsure of what to do. She did not like the way this felt inside. Yet she trusted her audience. She trusted these people that she started knowing as loving and caring. Of course they knew what they were doing, right?  So she started to notice that if she did what they told her to do they might love her again. So she did.

At first it might be following instructions or doing what she was told. She would get lots of praise for such an action. Later it would be the results she created - a test she passed or something she created according to the standards of others.  Pats on the back, hugs, celebrations seemed to never end, as long as she pleased the audience.

Time continued to go by. Before she new it she was looking a bit more like the audience than the baby of years past.  The audience welcomed her as one of them. For they saw that they created another just like themselves. She fit in. She followed their rules. She did what they all expected each other to do.

Life after this was easy if she went along with the way.  The way was not the same everywhere she went. Sometimes there was a ‘work’ way, other times a ‘relationship’ way.  The way depended on the group she belonged to.

She craved joy. She craved acceptance. She craved love.

She sought out others to satisfy these cravings.

It was about half way through her life when she thought she found it all in one place. She found a partner. The partner and she decided that being together was the new way.  So before she really had a chance to figure out her own way she was joined with another.  At first this union seemed easier than before. Pleasing others did at times challenge her because there were so many. In the partnership she just needed to please the one other.

She enjoyed the illusion of love as she learned to go through the motions. She followed convention. She kept up with what others expected one to do in a committed couple. This defined her, made her who she was. She was no longer known as her but her and the significant other.  

Then she stepped up into the ultimate role. She advanced as part of the audience.  She gave birth to her first baby. She welcomed into the world a joy filled, awe inspired, curious child of her own. She had a new reason for being.

Even though she was now completely on the other side, in terms of the audience, she did not even remember that she was once just like her child. She long had forgotten the innocence of her birth.  

Over the years she moved through life as if she were taking on a series of roles. She became an actor. She played out the scripts written by many. If there were awards for being an example member of the audience she would have won many.

Yet she never stopped to think or reflect. She never paused for even one moment to question her own existence. She accepted at face value that all she knew from others was right. She accepted that she fit.

Fast forward many more years. Fast forward to the end. Fast forward to the place where she knew it was almost over. Fast forward to the day  the curtain was on its way down.

She was in the audience. She was surrounded by many like her. She could proudly see the creations of her life.  She was proud to follow the ways of others.

Then she stopped. She stopped dead in her tracks. Yes time was up. She ran out of time you see. She never got the chance to do it her way. She spent too much time doing it all other people’s ways. She left the world pleasing others. She left the world remembered for how ‘good’ she was in the way she lived her life. She didn’t make waves. She didn’t cause disruption. In fact when people really tried to remember her what they remembered was someone like themselves.

She moved on. She went to this special place where she could look back on her life, a kind of review.  When asked what she would do differently she said:

If I could do this life over again I would live every day with the same joy, curiosity, love and awe I had from the day I was born.

I would celebrate me for being me.

I would celebrate others for being who they are too.

I would accept the uniqueness, individuality and specialness of my existence and that of others. 

I would find MY own way and share this with others.

I would seek to understand the ways of others so to learn.

I would share not to convince others to follow my way, but to add to the richness and diversity of our existence together.  

I would be me the way I wanted to be not the way others expected.

I would listen to you not as a member of the audience but as another person like me finding your way.

Then she thought about it some more. I think I will try again.  She couldn't wait as the joy and excitement once again filled her.  Why? Because she remembered that in every moment she always had the power of choice. This time she would choose to be.

Jenn Shallvey