Oh, it’s been longer than I’d like since my fingers have been on the keyboard for something other than work documentation or new job tasks. While I love my job, it’s nice to step back, take off my speech pathologist hat, and put on my writer hat. Hmm. What would my writer hat look like? Probably a pink baseball cap with either some sort of profanity on it or a bad dad joke. Okay, as I typed that out I needed to know if there was a “writer” hat out there that I could wear that had profanity on it. It needs to not be offensive though, of course. I went over to Google and literally typed in “profanity hat”. Up popped up a hat that says “I do not spew profanities, I enunciate them like a f*cking lady”. Christmas isn’t too far away, people. Man, massive digression, all for what? A hat? Oh boy, can you tell I haven’t been sleeping much? Anyways…
I am about a week away from moving to Indiana to embark on this new travel SLP position. I’m extremely excited, a tad nervous, and a whole lot of anxious. It’s going to be an adventure unlike one I’ve embarked upon before. So far the hardest part of getting ready to leave has been the “goodbyes” (mainly because I haven’t even attempted to pack up my apartment at this point).
As chapters close in my life, I always like to try to look back and reflect. Sometimes looking back brings up feelings of joy and happiness. Sometimes looking back isn’t pretty. There may be cringe-worthy moments or ones you’d rather not relive because it brings up feelings of disappointment or sadness. Oh, but then there are those moments that make you proud. There are the ones that you can point to and label it as a “game changer”.
As I’ve been reflecting, I’ve come to realize my game changer has been not confining myself to a box built by narratives. Throughout our lives, especially our youth, I feel as though we allow these narratives we’ve been told by ourselves or others to place us in a box. I mean, take a moment and picture yourself in a box. Now, I’m not a small woman. My long limbs being crammed into a box would be highly uncomfortable. It’d be restricting, confining, suffocating.
Some of the narratives may have come from someone we love(d), while others come from ourselves. Maybe the walls were started by another’s narrative and sealed by our belief in it. “You’re too much” may have been the comment that began the side of the box that soon was built up into “I’m too much to handle” and before we know it, we are confined to the idea that we are too much to handle and we won’t find someone that’= will tolerate us. Then every time a relationship doesn’t work out, we revert back to that narrative as if that has anything to do with it. A guy could say “I’m moving to Yemen and I don’t think we can make this work” but if you’re bought into that belief, you’re going to think it’s because you’re “too much”.
Some of the walls may be put up by a diagnosis, a friend, a teacher, an experience. Somehow, as we’re not watching, these narratives that we buy into slowly begin to confine us and limit us. A person can only grow as big as their environment. I went to the zoo here in North Carolina a month or so ago and there I saw a giraffe. The tour guide told us the giraffe should be much larger and longer than he is, but the person who was “caring” for him before raised him in a garage, confining him, and limiting his ability to grow to his fullest potential. Oh, how easy it is to become like that giraffe.
We commit to the narratives. We’re given a role and we go all in. We allow it to limit the ways in which we can grow. Dr. Caroline Leaf writes a fabulous book called, Switch on Your Brain that goes into the neurological aspects of negative and positive thoughts. On a neurological level, these negative narratives are pretty well established in our brains and we have to consciously override them with positive ones. (Yeah, I know, easier said than done). After my mom died, it was so easy to commit to my role as “the girl whose mom died.” Super simple. I’ll teach you. You sulk. You cry. You act pissed off at the world. See? Not too hard. But it’s isolating. It’s scary. It’s limiting. It’s confining. So, after having some guidance from the incredible people in my life, I changed the narrative. Some days I do still like to reprise my role as that girl, just for a bit. But my narrative now? I’m currently living in the role of my lifetime so far as “the girl embracing adventure”. I can’t decide which is easier, though: living in the role I was given or the role I was made for. Some days it sounds so nice to shut out the rest of the world and sit in front of my laptop watching old home videos, sobbing over a pint of ice cream. That narrative gets this girl nowhere, though.
You know, I work with quite a few kids with autism and have worked with many in my short time in this field. I have not met one that has been allowed to be confined to the box that their diagnosis has placed them in. There’s always someone rallying behind them, breaking down limitations when they themselves cannot. One little girl sticks out in my mind. She has not only escaped her box with the help of her parents and the people around her, she has broken it down and fiercely displayed to the world that she will not be contained. Oh, my friends, if you could see this little girl’s eyes. They are an electric blue with a tinge of mischief and a depth that screams adventure. She’s inspiring. She’s going to grow far outside of that small box that her diagnosis initially placed her in.
I would go as far as to say this little girl has lit a whole new fire up under this rear end of mine. She approaches life with a tenacity and fierceness that appears to be innate. She, too, has her days that get her down. On those days, her mama is there to pick her back up, dust her off, and remind her of the role she was made for.
Stasi Eldredge wrote Captivating, an incredible book I believe every woman should read. In it she explains that us women want to be a part of a grand adventure. We want to be a main character in a big story. We want to fill the role as the heroine, the partner in crime, the beauty. Her husband, John Eldredge wrote Wild at Heart, which talks about who men want to be at their core. He explains that men want to fill the role of hero, provider, the romancer that lands the beauty. I believe, much like that little girl I mentioned above, we have an innate desire to fulfill the roles we were meant for. There is a narrative out there that speaks to our hearts and lights our souls on fire. By listening and committing to the negative ones, the roles we’ve been given, we place ourselves in a box that limits the ways in which we can grow and flourish into the roles we were made for. Be like that little girl. Escape the box, step into that badass role, and look cute as all hell while doing it, knowing that at our cores we were meant to change the narratives and on the days when the negative is consuming our thoughts we have a support system to help dust us off and remind us of who we are.