Can We Feel Human Again?
I’m constantly on a journey to feel like a human.
In today’s world, I find myself living more often in other people’s universes, whether through my friends on social media, celebrities and politicians in the news, or my boss’ demands buzzing in my inbox. I’m like a robot version of myself, on cruise control. I catch myself, on an hourly basis, counting down the moments until I unplug. This manifests physically, to the point I feel my stomach gripping, creeping upwards to my restless heart, yearning for times I can feel alive again - the moments where I stop and remember I only have a short time on this crazy place, simultaneously questioning maybe, just maybe, the way I’m living my life isn’t really my own.
Maybe I’ll think a more radical thought: I’m becoming someone they wanted to me to become.
These moments of yearned aliveness aren’t tremendous in their actions. There’s no plane tickets needed or status-worthy updates. It’s the weekend exploring a new part of a national or state park, the night home alone cooking my favourite meal. It’s listening to my favourite songs while I drift off towards sleep, phone hidden out of site. Moments where I’m in my own head again, present inside myself, in awe of being alive, always quietly aware of our ever-present mortality.
I’m starting to feel like two people.
One me is on autopilot taking step after step because I was told to or because everyone else wants me to or because it’s easy or because I’m too lazy, or more truthfully, too scared to do otherwise. My body is human, which I feel in the slow aches and impossible hangovers, yet everything else, most dangerously my mind, doesn’t feel my own anymore.
The other me is this little version of me, pure and beautiful and full of bold power. Yet, she’s grown fainter and fainter over time, and sometimes, when I get caught up in life - my job, social media, the news - she feels more like a picture of my past than a real embodiment of something real. It’s like I know this version of me exists, the real me, and has all along. Does a scent ever hit your nose, maybe it’s fresh rain water or the hint of newly sprung pine trees, and it brings you home, to the home hiding inside your heart? Everything feels right just for a moment. That stillness of the heart evades reason, time and location, but is gone as quickly as it appeared. That’s my other me. Strong and truer than anything I’ve known my whole life, reminding me what home means.
The problem is… I’m not good at keeping her around.
The last year or two has been an evolution in my thinking, the consequences of my age and society’s ever-expanding technological reliance is fiercely stirring something inside me. Somehow existentially linked, wisdom and technology have created this beautiful dance. My newly-found, growing and sometimes radical, self-confidence is finally finding her stride, now matching that robot version of me, sometimes even outpacing those perfectly, mechanical steps. I’d like to think I’m growing that kind of fierce confidence you sometimes witnessed as a younger person, the “oh, you won’t understand until you’re older;” the wisdom of sly looks passed between your parents when you said something only they seemed to understand; it’s the boldness old ladies shamelessly flaunt as they give that poor grocery store clerk a piece of their mind, hands and purses swinging to and fro.
With that self-confidence and boldness comes a price: self-awareness.
Living ignorantly has a tendency to be naively uncomplicated. Self-awareness, in all situations, has a not-so-pretty way of punching you wide-awake to survey your self-inflicted damage, shining light on the parts deep inside, hidden away from your inner standards. Self-awareness isn’t always easy and the first reaction might be fear: fear of your actions, fear of loss of power and normal-ness. Later, that might manifest to embarrassment or self-consciousness. Yet don’t worry, you’ll come out alive and stronger. That self-consciousness then manifests to love through action. You can’t get better unless you come through the burning fire, understanding the fight others had to go through to get there. True self-awareness strips you of judgement for those who have yet to walk through that fire and you’ll be there with your hand out, waiting.
But the beginning sucks.
To become self-aware meant I had to examine the last ten years of my life.
Nothing was seemingly off track and if anything, my life had brilliantly manifested to this point. I have much more than I could have every imaged at the age of 20 - but that’s the point, “what I imagined at 20." My life is incredible, has been incredible, and I have no regrets, for regrets do us no good today. I do know, that fierce voice of the little girl who once had fire inside, had gone silent. The girl who could create kingdoms with her imagination, the girl who jumped at every opportunity to learn and lead and explore, the girl who thought the world was at her fingertips, became so consumed with validation, with being teacher’s pet and the favourite and the best worker and heavily promoted; she slowly faded away. My fire got dampened in the pursuit of validation - my actions slowly, so slow I never knew it was happening, began to revolve around fulfilling the dreams and goals of others. That boldness and confidence melted into compliancy. There’s this wonderfully quirky quote that inspired me throughout high school, hung up on my history teacher’s vision board: “well-behaved women seldom make history.” History was in my destiny it felt, and this become my silent mantra.
Well ten years later, I was perfectly behaved, still a model student. I sure wasn’t making history, at least not my own.