Fighting to Change Your Inheritance Codes

26 Sept 2020

One of my overseas Instagram friends had a conversation with me about my recent blog post The Fear of Being Left Behind. Ria is a poet, creative and clever thinker who I bonded with years ago on her thoughts on something or other and we’ve interacted via the app ever since.

The blog post really struck a chord with her and I asked her to go into detail for me about why. What she said to me has prompted another part of the conversation around that fear.

Her relationship status, thoughts around having children, what she is pursuing or not pursuing, where she is now, compared to where she expected or hoped to be at this point, the job she now lives with day in and out—all of it amalgamated into her looking with unrecognising eyes at her world and wondering how she could get to the place that would make her happy.

I read her comments nodding along. Every person has a different life experience but I have been there.

 My god!

I was dating this amazing ex-chef archaeologist. We were looking to buy a house. We could travel. I had a good, stable, interesting, safe job. I was at university with a whole career ahead of me. My life was safe and it was expected. 

What do I mean by expected?

Our world is set up by these inheritance codes. What we would define as indicators of success, that we are on the right path. Questioning your own choices becomes easier when you can measure how close you are to your success indicators and adjust accordingly if you are out of alignment. Does this get me toward a career that my peers will respect and will contribute to all our lives and our society? Does this fit in? No? Discard it or adjust it. Yes? Great, full steam ahead.

Perhaps at first feelings can be a little muddy when you’re trying to figure out if you’re choosing something because you know deep in your bones if it makes your happy OR if it fits into your inheritance codes. It definitely feels good to meet the standard success indicators. Which is what I had done every day until I found myself lying in bed in the moments between lights out and sleep wondering why with everything so perfect my heart was breaking. I felt like as the person I was, I could ask myself ‘who the fuck are you?’ as though I was a total stranger. Yes, I recognised the person in the mirror, but the life, the choices, my own heart, felt like they were for someone else.

Now before I go into detail on that critical moment, let me break down what a success indicator is.

Maybe as a child, you looked at your life into the future and you thought of all the things that would mean you were doing ok. Maybe you modelled this off your parents or someone else that really made an impression on you as a kid. This person was your idea of success. Their success mattered to you. For me, it was very much my parents and their idea of success that imprinted on me. So in my future, I saw: owning my own house (because they valued that), being debt-free (because they strove for it and talked about it constantly), being married and having kids (because that was their life with me and that was pretty great), owning my own car (because that was an indicator of prosperity), being married at a young age in a heterosexual relationship. These are just some of the basics. Financial security and stability were important. There was a very safe, risk reduced view of life, it supported and validated the choices of the people that came before me and I had a road map of how to achieve all these things.

So success indicators are like:
- The types of jobs you might have
- Who you might marry and when
- What sort of car you drive
- What sort of wedding you will have
- Your housing situation
- Where you might meet your life partner
- The gender of your life partner
- How many children you presume you will have and what age you will have them
- What school your hypothetical children will go to
- Etc.
And importantly, DO THESE LOOK SIMILAR ENOUGH TO SUCCESSES OF THE PEOPLE AROUND ME so I know I’m on the right path.

Back to me lying awake at night with a broken heart. Sure, I’d done some bigger things than kid-me had expected like going to university (that hadn’t been part of those inheritance codes), but for the most part, everything I had ever wanted was within my reach and I could have it all without rocking the boat too much. But, here’s the rub, the cost of it was myself. I hadn’t noticed but with every single little decision that I had made to be sensible, to reduce risk, to feel like I was keeping pace with everyone else, to have evidence that I was worth something in the world, I had compromised what my heart actually wanted.

That’s what success indicators are, after all. Evidence of worth. You’re doing it right. They are a societal pat on the back. A tick off on the list of things you should do before you die that SOMEONE ELSE WROTE FOR YOU. And I was living it. And my heart was rotting in my chest. When had I become so small? When had the shadow of me started running the main show? If I went back in time, would the child I had been felt proud? Powerful? Safe? Would I have made an impression on them?

The next parts of what I did, were agony.

I listened to my broken heart. Every time it resisted something I did, I let it choose. With every choice I allowed it to make, every time I didn’t ignore it, it’s voice got stronger.

I broke up with the boyfriend I was with because I knew it was right. I started adjusting long term visions of where I saw myself. I pictured everything under the sun in my future until I finally found one thing amongst everything that made my heart say “I want that.” Which, frustratingly, was wanting to be a professional actor.

The conversation went kind of like this.

Heart: That one.
Me: Are you serious?
Heart: That one.
Me: *pinches bridge of nose*
Heart: You asked.
Me: Did you see and consider literally anything else?
Heart: Yep.
Me: Are you insane?
Heart: You know that brief moment of happiness we had just before when you asked about it? We could go back to me being broken or…
Me: Do you know how hard it will be to get that?
Heart: Am I not worth fighting for?

The above might seem like a silly hypothetical conversation with an anthropomorphised organ, but it is in essence, the internal battle I had at that moment and leads directly to the most important thing I found.

My heart… your heart… is worth fighting for. If it is what your heart wants, if you honour it, YOU ARE CHOOSING TO FIGHT FOR YOURSELF. You don’t need to change your entire life in a day. It has taken me months, years to change the trajectory of my life. However, every step of the way, every time I made a choice to go with what my heart wanted I chose to fight for myself and every choice was like a fitness session in self-respect.

Which you need.

The strength and fitness of your self-respect are CRITICAL.

Because when you go off the map, the moment you start moving into uncharted territory there is no security from the success indicators to tell you are on the right path. The risks increase. There are dragons to fight. Holes to fall in. A thousand ways to fail. It is real and it is scary. Self-respect is like the fitness your heart and soul need to fight for you. The more self-respect you get the easier it will be to fight. The bigger the hole you can crawl out of. The bigger the dragons you will slay.

What do I mean by dragons and holes?

I mean you may have mental health curveballs. You may realise you’re not afraid of the dark in the real world, but you skirt around the darkness in yourself. You may start a business and though you have bled for it, it might fail. Your peers, your family your friends may be made uncomfortable by what you find because it challenges their understandings of themselves. You may have months and months where the only thing you know to be true is that one moment where you were honest with your heart when it said ‘that one’ and you followed it and now you both feel like you don't know the way.

Don’t worry about being lost. If you’ve found what your heart wants, hold onto it. Move towards where you think vaguely you need to be. If it is hard, if you’re still unhappy as you find your way, keep walking. With every step, you are fighting for you. Even if you don’t feel happiness yet, it’s so much easier to live with the struggle of the world, when you have your own heart on your side.

And if you are in those first few moments of struggle, let me tell you this.

It is worth it. You are worth it. You may get lost. The dragons are real and fierce. You may not feel like you can trust your own eyes. The only thing you may be able to trust is that one piece of honesty between you and your heart. No matter how dark, how fierce, how deep the world outside the road you were on before, trust that honest moment.

I promise it will be enough.

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