Life is not a contract: Our blood is not ink
Onto this earth we are birthed. Each one of us plucked from the deep and nourishing womb of our mother and thrust into the harsh reality of an earthly existence. Even as the first gasp of air shocks our systems and our skin is slick with amniotic fluid we have already been given an identity.
We are born into a family and a society that is not of our choosing. Into a culture that is not of our making. Our bodies are given value – our gender is defined for us and our skin colour given consequence. Our unique quirks are given neat and convenient labels. Our fundamental and deep-rooted being is identified, stamped and packaged. Pigeon-holed. We are prescribed our lifelong role to play. Each of us either venerated and honoured or despised and condemned for something we had no choice over.
And so it begins. Our life-long agreement – drafted by our parents. Our teachers. Our society. Our government.
And it is impossible to deny that so many of us are obedient. We comply. We do as we are bid and attempt to live up to the expectations of others. For when we are young we are malleable and we must submit to it – what choice do we have if we are to be accepted into our family? Our community. Our culture! So as we grow, we allow ourselves to be fashioned. We are moulded, whittled and carved by hands that are not our own, in order to become more like the image someone else has decided for us. We are chiselled into shape and sanded down.
We are sculpted carefully into a prescriptive reality.
So we perform our part until we cannot distinguish where it ends and the true self begins. We believe what we are told. We trust that the notion of reality we have been shaped to fit binds our flesh and bone together. It is the stuff we are made of, without which we will come undone – nothing more than ashes and dust. And so we also learn to fear anything that will challenge it. We move through this world with our designated part to play – some of us never breaking from that mould. From cradle to grave some set their sights upon the horizon, never wavering or faltering from the specific viewpoint etched skilfully into their psyche:
This is me, set in stone…
That is you carved from rock.
This right here is my place in the world…
That over there is your place.
This is my way of life (and it is the only way)…
That is your way of life (and it is different, therefore wrong).
Some fight it from their early years. You see them kick and scream, pummeling their small fists at the institutions and the conventions that hold them. They are different and never try to fit the mould they have been poured into.
Yet others of us come to a slower and more gradual realisation. We are awoken from our sleep – and it is so often such a rude awakening! Painful and messy. Characterised by a deep and agonising crisis of the psyche that is followed by the death of an old self and a re-birth of a new self.
And we may be faced with the distressing reality that we must break away from the old. Old patterns, old cycles, old relationships. For they are what keep us from carving out our own path and sculpting ourselves into something new. This can be a harrowing experience for us and for those who think they know us – those who we love and care for may not be ready for the change. Our parents and siblings, our partners and children, our family and friends. They are often not prepared to relinquish their hold upon us in our old and familiar shape. For the change in us challenges their own reality. Their own viewpoint.
So we may be spoken of in hushed tones. We may become an embarrassment – someone to be ashamed of. We may be whispered about behind our backs. We may be incriminated – more labels heaped upon our heads until we doubt ourselves. Mad. Crazy. Insane. Irrational. Unstable. Selfish. The accusation hurled at us as an insult or a lament:
“You have changed!”
But I tell you this: Change is not the enemy. No matter where we are born, nor what we are born into, no matter the expectations we have placed as a heavy burden upon our shoulders as children and no matter the role we have taken as adults – we are never obliged to stay the same. We are never obligated to follow the path we were set upon. We are never relentlessly tied and to our past opinions and life-choices. We are never bound to the expectations of others.
Quite the contrary! We should embrace change and expansion – for though it is rarely a comfortable or easy process, without breaking apart the mould growth will not occur. The narrow horizon will never broaden. We should challenge ourselves and our own limited viewpoints. Yes, we can allow the flow of life-experience change our shape like water shapes a rock – smoothing our edges and revealing what is beneath but then we should learn to take up the tools in order to shape our own lives. Our own destinies. As individuals, as families, as whole societies! We should learn how to awaken to our passions and turn those passions into actions.
For our lives are not contracts written before we were born, amended when we are children to fit our society’s notions of what we should be. Nor is our blood the ink with which we sign away our sovereignty and autonomy. It is time to give ourselves permission to take up the tools to write our own lives and fully shape our own future.