If It Makes You Feel Alive, There Your Calling Lies.
To the person who was constantly encouraged and praised as a child and then learnt to depend on those praises, I see you.
I grew up in the most wonderful imperfect family. If you ask any of my childhood friends though, they’d probably disagree. On the outside, we were seemingly perfect. Both my parents were successful in what they did and they would encourage my sister and I to work hard and equally succeed from a young age. I won all the 1st prize academic awards in my school growing up till I was 18 years old. I still remember my parents’ proud faces when I first won an award. It felt nice to win, plus I had the attention of all my classmates, teachers and more importantly, my parents.
Even though my parents never forced my to study, I quickly realised how important it was for them that I did my homework and had good grades. All I wanted to do, like any other kid, was play, but homework was first. I still remember coming back from school, having a meal and sitting down with my mum going through all the new words for the Spelling Bee competition the next day. Then I could go play. Except that that’s not true. Then I would go to ballet class, swimming class or piano lesson.
I know plenty of adults today who don’t see absolutely anything wrong with that type of upbringing, and close friends of mine have even expressed their jealousy over the fact that they never had that kind of support when growing up. I AM grateful. Forever grateful. From a very young age I learned how working hard and being disciplined pays off. Equally, I learned how to please others by responding effectively to their expectations. The latter doesn’t pay off at all in life in my view, but I‘ve managed to somewhat unlearn it thanks to years of therapy and spiritual healing. I still stumble of course.
Being a mum myself, I know my parents were doing what they thought was best for us just as I’m doing with my child. I’m not here to judge or blame them at all. I’m here to share with you how I’ve discovered that whilst growing up I unconsciously started to believe that behaving in a certain way was actually the way I was meant to be. I know this happens to a lot of us. The environment in which we grow up has a definite impact in how we view ourselves. However, it doesn’t define us.
From a very young age I noticed two things about myself that filled me with joy like nothing else: racing and storytelling. My passion to race appeared first. I still have images of my four year old self running against my dad and all my cousins. I knew I was fast, I could feel it everywhere in my body and it gave me such a rush. My mum got me into all sorts of classes: ballet, gymnastics, swimming, etc...but at the age of six I begged my mum to take me somewhere where I could run. I know for a fact that this wasn’t in my mum’s plan; she didn’t have anything against it, but it wasn’t something she had envisioned either.
As soon as I stepped on the race track (a day I still remember and forever thank my mum for) I knew immediately that I was home, and I never left the sport until I was in my mid-twenties and was distracted by falling in love for the first time. Throughout my whole childhood and teenage years though, it was on that track that I felt most me. My friends discovered boys and parties when we were all about thirteen years old, and although I felt slightly on the outside because I was so not interested, I wouldn’t change those years of daily athletics training for the world.
Similarly, I felt equally drawn to storytelling from a young age especially through film. My parents were big into showing us the classics. The Sound of Music is still one of my favourite movies ever. I don’t remember going to the theatre as a child apart from this one occasion when I went to see my grandma play Bernarda in Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba in an amateur stage production. I was blown away. I remember asking my mum: ‘if abuelita does that, can I do it too one day?’ And here I am, a professional working (not always lol) actress.
Evidently, we are always evolving, we are never ever complete in the sense that there is always more we can discover about ourselves. Plus, we change; I still love racing but I’m not drawn to it as before. My point is, that contrary to how society sometimes seems to operate, we don’t necessarily have to be just ONE thing in life. Of course if you’re being truthful to yourself by being a doctor or a priest or an architect for your entire life until you die that’s great, but it’s ok if that’s not you. What matters is that we keep in tune with our inner voice. The voice that was pure as gold when were were children.
U.Leguin said: ‘A creative adult is a child who survived’. I couldn’t agree more. Regardless of our background we are all born with unique gifts, and we owe it to ourselves to discover them and bring them to life. What is that thing that makes you tick? It doesn’t matter how insignificant or stupid you’ve convinced yourself that it is, if it makes you feel alive, there your calling lies. We survive our childhood when we subconsciously trust that we are here in this world for a reason. If we are still purposely living, I assume it’s because somewhere inside us there’s a desire (even if sometimes minimal) to figure out what is our place in this beautifully messy journey we call life.
I’m in my late 30s, and it’s taken me years to understand this. I still want to be the ‘good daughter’ sometimes and seek for the comfort that being praised brings. But when I wonder if having gone a different route in life would have made the world around me prouder, I think: who knows...maybe, but does it matter? What matters I think, is that we don’t waste our precious time on Earth trying to be someone we are not. Being truthful to ourselves is a unique gift to the world, and more importantly, the biggest love we can give to ourselves. So, why don’t we all just get up and do it!