On my own terms.


I was writing in my journal this morning about success, a topic that I continually struggle with. I’ve been trying to reframe it, into something I can grasp. I think part of my problem is that I see success as so far away, so distant that I can’t figure out what I want because I just assume that I can’t get it.

And then I wrote this:

I want success on my own terms.

It’s like a lightbulb went on. I actually got shivers. All this time, I’ve been trying to figure out my definition of success in accordance with other people and what they think success is. I’ve been trying to find an appropriate and acceptable definition of success, one that others would approve of.

Why? I’m not too sure really. I think it has something to do with being an approval whore. I think I’ve been looking for outside permission to want what I want.

But what I really want is success on my own terms. Success where I don’t have to apologize to anyone for who I am, what I do, or what I want. Success in being able to stand my ground and stand up for myself, because I deserve that amount of self respect at least.

So what do I want, if there was no one else in the world? If no one knew or cared what my definition of success was?

To grow myself, constantly. To become more of me. To make better art, every day. To make art, period, every day. To share my art with lots and lots of people.

I want to make money from my art. Not for the sake of money, but for the ability to continue making art, my passion, my love. I want to make money from my art so I can continue to live life on my own terms.

I think that’s what’s been bothering me, subconsciously, for the last few months. It’s always been this niggling, nibbling doubt, this feeling that worried at the edges of my mind, gnawing at my sense of peace. I stopped living life on my own terms. It’s like part of me sat down and said – Right, so now that I’m a responsible adult, living on my own, I’m supposed to get a job, give up my stupid dream of being an artist and that is that. It was a subconscious response more than anything else – it’s what we’ve been conditioned to do.

Particularly if your “stupid dream” isn’t a fabulous success in the eyes of the world. And I’d had my fair share of failures artistically before I moved here. I’d had some flops. It happens. But that voice in my head kept insisting that unless I could be fabulously successful at 21 (21?!) then I would need to give up these adolescent dreams and move on. Grow up. Get a real life.

And because it was all so subconscious, so insidious, so perfectly rationalized, I believed it. And I’ve been pretty miserable ever since – out of focus, panicked, not creating, losing track of time, overwhelmed and barely able to cope.

Success for me is living life on my own terms every single day. Making choices for what I want, and not what I’m supposed to want. Doing what I want and not what I’m supposed to. Living a life that’s mine, and not half owned by someone else.

When I was 18, my goal was to be a self sufficient cripple. (I stole that line from the movie, Frida.) This horrified both my parents and my boyfriend at the time. How could I say such a thing? I wasn’t a cripple. And then they’d mumble something placating and hope that I’d just drop the whole thing.

But let’s be honest – I was a cripple. I couldn’t do anything. I was so sick I could barely get out of bed. I’d dropped out of high school. I had no options left to me. And it didn’t matter how many people mollified me and told me everything was fine, everything was okay, it wasn’t. I wasn’t stupid, just sick.

I’d spent the last 5 years living my life on everyone else’s terms – my doctor’s terms, my teacher’s terms, my school board’s terms, my parent’s terms, my boyfriend’s terms. I did what I was told. I was a very good sheep.

Then something in me snapped. And I stopped living on everyone else’s terms and started living on my own. My life turned itself around. I started to recover. I was doing what I loved. I found a person I could love (and I’m still with him.)

I think I accomplished my goal of becoming a self sufficient cripple quite well. I’m here aren’t I? Living on my own, 1800 kms from where I grew up, running a household, sharing responsibilities equally with Jesse.

Somehow though, the past few months, I’d forgotten how important living on my own terms was for both my mental, emotional and physical health. It’s not just a whim – it’s a need. I need to do things my way to survive, to feel whole, to feel healthy and at peace. Lord knows it’s a helluva lot more terrifying than being a sheep, but it’s a helluva lot more satisfying as well.

So I guess what all this means is, I’m quitting the smoothie job.