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  • Chrishaunda Lee Perez

Staying In Our Own Lane

Updated: Oct 2, 2020

There was someone I used to know in my teens and early twenties who became very successful. What they brought to the table was unique for the time, and this person and their cohorts were sought after all over the world. I used to marvel at the level of their accomplishments, and stood on the sidelines while their profile continued to rise. Then, one day, this person had decided that they would be better off on their own, without the cohorts, thinking it would be more beneficial to follow a path traveled by others to gain what they believed would be a greater success. They were wrong. 

I recall listening to this person's reasoning during their career transition, hearing their frustrations about feeling like they had to continuously prove a certain uniqueness time after time, and that they wanted to relent to an easier, cookie-cutter career route to be like what they considered was 'everybody else', when all the while, it was clear that their remarkable qualities were what drew people close. Considering the idea that they stood out as a burden, I was told then, "It ain't easy being green". I replied, "at least you know who you are".

This person did end up following the crowd, until they became lost in it to a certain extent, and I felt like they had also lost who they were. While what they had created initially will always be remembered by some, due to the "breach" with their authentic self, this person will never know how supreme they truly could have become. All because they made the decision to not stay in their own lane.

I can relate to, at a time, wanting to blend in with 'the' crowd, wanting to not stick out, and feeling inadequate because of how different from others I felt I was. In my youth, I was encouraged to blend in by certain adult figures in my life, which, on the surface, could be perceived as a harmless suggestion then, but I know from wisdom earned today that that advice could have been not beneficial, had I listened, and if the core of whomever it was I was becoming downplayed that becoming to fit in. An inner, uncontrollable urge to be only who I was time after time prevented me from being, quote unquote, the same as everyone else. I have watched peers follow the lead not of their heart and gut and later regret it. I am grateful that somehow I knew to fight for me. 

The adults who advised me to acclimate were not coming from an ill place though, rather from a place of protection for my feelings. I understand that it can be hard for caregivers to witness a child feel ostracized or feel "not enough", only two of the range of uncomfortable emotions experienced by those of us whose extraordinary attributes renders us awkward not only to ourselves, but to others. Steering the child to whatever will make them feel better at the time can be the motivation of the caregiver, regardless of the lasting damage it might cause. It takes another kind of confidence in said child to help them navigate the waters of adversity to ultimately rise to the place where their difference will be valued in the end. From two particular women, I was lucky to have had that encouragement, and so coupled with my own inability to blend in entirely, I can say that I did have some support to be myself. I relate to that phrase from the famous Kermit the Frog song, declared to me by the person I once knew, "iI ain't easy being green". But boy, I feel 1000% connected because I am.

And there are many ways in which I do blend in. I take part in a number of activities widely enjoyed by more than a few all of the time. I can be found reading a book, riding a bike, running, or even sitting still soaking in sun rays. Quirky enough, I also enjoy doing some activities others might consider a chore, like ironing and tidying up. Being such a task-driven person, even with those things I take pleasure in seeing the end result.

But there is something about myself that is special, a blueprint that can be attributed only to me, and if I did not incorporate that or those traits into my life fundamentally somewhere, I would not feel as fulfilled. I think about the friend I used to know, who actually did get on with life with more success, relative to what they had accomplished prior, but that thing that brought on the most joy has not returned as it once was. 'Til this day I can see through their 'look' of contentment. If what we believe is our gift has been taken away not from our doing, I believe that happens to lead us to an even greater meaning in our lives, because the force of goodness, no matter what, only intends to guide us to our highest selves through experience. Yet, when we decide to halt our gifts in favor of something that our egos convince us is better, this self-imposed void will be hard to fill or replace. 

I think of those people who focus their lives to do one thing, and through a supposed unfortunate occurrence perhaps, their life evolves into something different. Oftentimes, if they can consider less what might have been taken away from them, and more the gift(s) that might have been brought in, the lenses through which they see would show them clearly a heightened sense of purpose on the horizon. I recall wanting a certain position in my upper teens so badly, I'd worked and earned every rightful place before it to put me on the path to achieve it, yet, when it came time to claim the prize, it was not mine to claim. I was devastated. At the age that I was at the time, it was the worst thing that could have ever happened. 

Thankfully, in time, I got over it, and I allowed for that perceived setback to serve me so much that it ended up becoming a defining point in my life with regard to building my sense of character and resilience. The loss of one opportunity led to another door opening, where I was able to develop a talent that was waiting to be nurtured. But what if I, because of ego, being tempted to follow another, or tempted to take part in something else that I think other people thought better, ceased my own unique process in motion? What if I dropped a goal for which I had been working so hard, a goal that had always felt right in my gut, a goal that, despite adversity or despite a process of even feeling lonely at times always gave me a great sense of inner accomplishment, to 'follow the crowd'? Surely that derailment for ego's sake could have taken me off my life's course in a fundamental way, and even if I chose to later return to my previous state to carry on from there, how challenging would it have been for me to continue the trajectory that I had been on? 

"It takes great courage to be who you are", I have heard this saying various times throughout my life. Sage advice given, and so true. Imagine being born to a certain superior, unapproachable, ultra-protected stature in life, but you have always aspired to live a life more in direct contact with people? In some instances, bringing a common tone to one's position in the world can be met with the same level of opposition as someone trying to elevate it. It takes great courage to do either one, and if your gut leads you to it, you must do it. 

Usually it is our gut that reveals to us our light, and it is what lurks outside of us that can draw us to areas that will not serve us. It is up to us to discern what pull comes from where. Not all fame derives from an ego-driven desire. Not all seemingly altruistic goals flow from a spiritual place. If we allow ourselves to be led from a place within, if we can get to that place, where we end up will be our wildest dreams. And the journey to that wildest dream is not one free from trial, but we will know in our hearts that what we are doing is forging a path for that unparalleled space of balance, whatever it may be. 

When I became an adult, I put focus on a certain career road that felt natural at the time, and as I remained open, it and I evolved over the years. This resulted in me serving in a way that I did not, on the surface, ever think I would become: a writer and storyteller. In hindsight though, I realize that putting my thoughts and ideas on a page, sometimes talking about these ideas with people, or turning those ideas into multidimensional representations of art has always been the most natural thing for me. I have been writing in journals since I was still in my single digits, I have proof of how much I wrote as a child and teenager through the various short stories, and poems, and plays that I have held onto. Some I accomplished to earn a grade in school, many I created simply because it gave me a sense of inner joy to do it. As a theatre major in college, my senior play won an award, and I also produced it off-off Broadway. 

I have written countless pages that at first I thought were really good, and the very next morning, felt the opposite, so shelved it. And let's not talk about the copious writings that I did not feel were sufficient immediately after I lifted my fingers from the laptop or raised my pen from the page! Simply for the sake of the creating and building, I have written numerous pieces of art that have not earned me one dime. There was a time when I worked at another career and wrote in my spare time, taking lessons from screen writing pros and reading the works of others for inspiration. How blessed I feel that first, my life space welcomed these doings, then I feel grateful that I have been open enough to accept the layers of what it takes to write as a profession. I have learned to relish in the several hours of alone time while creating, figuring out how to balance sleep when an idea wakes me up at night (like now), and I have to sit up straight and get it out of my head and onto a page, and then feeling free enough to share it with the world where an audience might turn out to be large, small, in between, or even be just one person. Then, push through my vulnerabilities to give it another go. This space that I am in, the lane that I have created for myself is not easy, but it feels right. While I am earning a growing audience the more ideas I put out into the world, which does help me professionally, most importantly, my soul feels on time with where I am in my life.

For some, our singular footprint is expressed in something we end up pursuing as a career path, and for others, "being green", as my old friend said, manifests in other areas of our lives. Whatever the case, do not stifle what is your truth, be it for the crowd, a friend, a loved one, or anyone. Doing this will only hurt you in the end. Translated in the Bible it says, "What is it good for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" I believe that one's truth IS one's soul. Plus, when we trust and value ourselves enough to embrace what is extraordinary about us, thus, being proud of all of who we really are, we can accomplish fully what I believe is most important to every being: to be seen and heard. Hard to see and hear that which is not true.

We all have opportunities to aspire to and achieve all sorts of things throughout our lives. And amongst the various boxes of doings that we get to check along our journeys, each of us has something "all our own" to bring to the table to this world community in which we live. Believe it or not, every single human being on earth fits like a puzzle piece of an overall grand design of balance. I believe that each time one of us finds our sweet spot in life as a result of positive alignment, the world is made a better place. Yet, it takes a level of focus, belief, and inner certainty to inspire and encourage each of us to go for what is our God-given talents and uniqueness, even if those talents do not equate to great wealth and popularity. 

I believe that whenever we tap into what is a key destiny for each of us individually, whether it is to become a swim instructor, a diplomat, a teacher, an entrepreneur, or a guide for human life through parenthood, we will feel more fulfilled with our lives than any path we follow simply "to follow" could ever attain for us.


For you and All of Us,

CLP


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