A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to give a brief talk about my PhD research and my experience as a research student.
Now, doing a PhD is essentially about being an academic and researcher in training but there I was, talking about dreams, passion, life, struggle, inspiration and changing the world. I could see the interest on my fellow researchers’ faces but I could also see the confusion. They were probably wondering, “what does that have to do with research and academics?!”
Standing there, it hit me that my passionate self was oozing out, and I was betraying some code of conduct.
Living in Australia for the last four years has taught me enough to know that generally, people here are uncomfortable with showing too much emotion, let alone talking about it. So I knew I was over-stepping some boundary of some kind. I bet if they had such a thing as the Emotion Police, they would have had me arrested! Ha! 🙂
Anyway, I settled within myself and listened to what I was doing. In a moment, it became clear to me;
I was living dangerously…and loving it.
There is this crazy belief that raw emotion is this bad, evil thing that should either be strangled and choked or avoided at all costs. This belief permeates our culture and we are brought up in its saturation and thoroughly schooled in it from an early age. As a result, most people work hard to hide what they feel because it’s just not cool to be seen and known as that emotional person.
For a long time, I struggled with this. I was made to believe there was something wrong with me for feeling too much and too intensely. I felt pressured to tone myself down so I didn’t scare people off. And in the process, I allowed myself to be defined by what culture and other people dictate I should be.
Inside, a part of me was withering and dying.
I felt shackled and I wanted desperately to break free.
The truth is, there is nothing wrong with me – at least not where my emotions are concerned. I just have a different relationship with them. My capacity to feel is simply magnified. This has its shortcomings but overall, it’s a beautiful way of being and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
I have a different relationship with words too, including the ones I’m speaking to you right now. To me, they are not just tools to express what I want to convey but they are well and truly an extension of my soul; an extension of me.
My words are me and I am them. And therefore, I cannot disconnect my emotions from my words. For in reality, my words are my emotions and my emotions are my words, bound and sealed with an eternal chain.
I am emotion incarnate.
And this is something I no longer wish to apologise for; because it is my definition of myself.
It is only when you realise that you have no obligation whatsoever to be what other people want you to be that you enter the realm of what I call sophisticated freedom. And I call it that because it is the kind of freedom that lets you soar with the eagles but also demands that you march with the ants.
This is the place where you get defined…by yourself.
Having the courage and vision to define who you are goes against the grain of society. It is living dangerously because the world will always try to mould you into its image and being. And fighting it will be like swimming upstream in crocodile and shark infested waters.
But fight you must because if you don’t, you’ll become just like everybody else in the world. The world needs people who are not trying to be like everybody else. The world needs people to be who they are and not like each other. Yes, there are exceptions to this rule but you know what I mean. I’m talking about those unique characteristics and talents that make you, you. That’s what the world needs.
There is only one you and if you don’t let that come forth and shine, it is indeed a great tragedy. And this is no exaggeration because when you do that, you really are saying that you are not worth the gift of life as you.
In a way, we all fall short of the worthiness of this awesome gift but we are here, aren’t we? Shouldn’t that count for something extraordinary?
The world doesn’t teach us to celebrate ourselves nor does it teach us to be comfortable in our skins. In fact, we are taught the very opposite – to devalue ourselves and be uncomfortable with who we are.
As I stood in front of my fellow PhD cohorts, I couldn’t help but consciously recommit myself to myself and to growing and learning to be comfortable being me;
I will be emotional. I will love hard. I will speak of hope and beauty. I will look for the good in people. I will find pleasure in daffodils and sunsets. I will smile at strangers and bless them on their way. I will ooze passion. I will demand a love that rides on fiery shooting stars and crashing ocean waves. I will find a man that will want me to love him recklessly the way I’m longing to. I will trust completely. I will question convention. I will give empathy to those who need it. I will stand in the gap. I will fight for the feeble. I will speak for the voiceless and for those unspoken for. I will love again and again and again. I will be vulnerable. I will share my heart. I will grow and be transformed. I will inspire. I will change the world. I will be Me.
This is living dangerously.
And I invite you to join me on this incredible and challenging journey of a lifetime. There is only one condition;
You be You. Don’t cut and paste. Unfold in all your glory.
The world needs you. So, I dare you;