Yesterday, I encouraged you to read Anna Quindlen’s commencement speech. It’s really a speech about being who you truly are, and I shared it because it struck a chord with me. For the longest time I felt like I carried that metaphorical backpack, striving to appear perfect, to live up to everyone else’s expectations. Anna encourages us to lay the backpack down, to stop trying so hard to be perfect. Which is far easier said than done…
Over the course of the last year, I began to notice major changes in my attitude. Essentially, I had taken on more than I could handle, and made living up to expectation completely impossible for myself. I had no choice but to let parts of my carefully crafted façade slip, and so they did. I didn’t make a life-affirming choice to be more true to myself, I genuinely had no choice in the matter. I had too many balls in the air, and as any juggler will tell you, when you drop one ball, the rest soon follow.
I had also spread myself thinly amongst friends and family who had widely differing expectations of me. Anna talks of learning the zeitgeist necessary to shapeshift to any situation, something I had become expert at as daughter to two vastly different parental units. But shapeshifting had spilled over into my friendships too. Major events had changed my role in certain longstanding relationships immeasurably, whilst new friendships were built on the new me, altered, as we all are, by experience. The two shapes could not co inhabit the same shell, and cracks began to show.
I don’t want to veer off down the path of self-analysis and evaluation here, so I’ll come straight to it: my point is this. Far from choosing to lay the backpack down, sometimes we are forced to. If we take on too heavy a load we can cause irreparable damage to ourselves and to others. I urge everyone to heed the lesson Anna preaches sooner rather than later, before the weight you bear breaks something truly invaluable.