When I was 12 years old I already had years of singing experience. It was what I loved to do. If I can say so, I was pretty good at it. But, one night while performing, something happened.
The spotlight shined down. I took a deep breath and went for it — I belted my solo and it was epic. I closed my eyes and I imagined I was Freddie Mercury with no mustache and less tight pants. In the middle of the solo, I made a mistake. I opened my eyes. When I did I looked at the crowd and saw two of my peers — fellow 6th graders. Their mouths were not wide with awe at my Mercury-Esque vocal runs. Their eyes watering at the beauty of my craft.
No. They were laughing. They were pointing at me and laughing.
Later that week I went to my parents’ room to deliver some news that I knew would devastate their world. I announced that I was retiring from music. My career would be like Vincent Van Gogh’s, short and sweet (I never considered cutting off my ear, though.) Of course, they were not devastated but wanted to know why I would quit something I enjoyed so much and was gifted to do.
The reality was this: I was tired of being made fun of. I didn’t want to be laughed at. I didn’t want to be different.
This episode was only the beginning. For most of my life, I have given up my freedom. I have been in captivity. I have been enslaved to the opinions of others.
Have You Lost Your Freedom?
I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has experienced this. I know I’m not. I’ve seen it again and again. How many of us have given up on a dream because of how the dream would appear to family or friends? Instead we pursue a more conventional job. How many of us loved creativity as a kid — creating art, writing books, coming up with inventions? But gave up on creative acts because others told us we weren’t good enough?
Enslave-cause (someone) to lose their freedom of **choice** or **action**
For many of us, we rarely make a choice without deliberating about what others will think of the choice. We fail to take action because of the fear of what others will say about us.
The good news is that it’s not too late to learn how to be free. It’s not too late for me. It’s not too late for you.
Choices and Actions
What choices and actions do you want to make but are influenced by others?
- Do you have a difficult decision at work? You know what’s right but it will make you unpopular?
- Do you want to take a juggling class but are too respectable?
- Do you want to change a career path but it will seem foolish to others
- What do you want to start and create, but are scared about opinions?
- You want to ask him/her out, but can stand the thought of rejection?
- What do you want to stop?
The problem with dreams is that they don’t exist. Until we make real choices and put real actions into place — dreams are just fantasies. They exist in our heads and hearts, not in real life. Until you make decisions to put these dreams into place, they are just a form of escapism.
Here’s the deal. If we’re not careful, we will live our entire lives with these dreams enslaved in our minds. They will remain locked up, chained, and imprisoned. At the end of our lives, the harsh reality will set in that we have never put them into action — they’re still just dreams. Then, it will be too late.
The Life Others Expected of Me
You may have heard of this blog and story many times. Bronnie Ware worked in palliative care experiencing the vulnerability of people in the last stages of their lives. She would often ask these patients if they had any regrets upon reflection. Several themes emerged but this was the top theme:
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
We are aware of the truth. The truth is a voice inside, it’s a gifting, a passion, or a conviction. To live a life true to ourselves is to pursue these things. Here is the danger for each of us. We could spend our whole time on earth living what others expect of us. This is the opposite of true. This is living a false life.
My Friend Wants To Be A Writer
I have a friend named Kyle who wants to be a writer. Years ago, he moved across the country to be an intern at a church and attend seminary. This led to him getting a full-time job at the church. Over the past few years, his love for writing has grown and his desire shifted from ministry to writing.
He could have continued to work this job and daydreamed about writing. That would be sensible. He could have continued this job and taken a few writing classes on the side. That would have been reasonable. Instead, his desire was so strong that he decided to go all in. He quit his full-time job to enroll in a writing program at the University of San Francisco.
The Bay Area is the most expensive metropolitan area in the country. Who would quit their salaried position to go back to school and part-time jobs? Who would move across the country for one pursuit and then completely pivot to something new? Who pursues writing as a career? Where’s the money in that?
I’ve given him a hard time about a career as a writer. I’m sure many have. He’s surely fielded question after question about his decision. This is not the path that people take. To forsake security and the known, for risk and calling.
Hopefully, I’ve balanced out my ribbing, with plenty of moments telling him how proud I am. He is teaching me a lesson.
To be free, we have to forsake the opinions of others. We have to pursue the truth within us — the small, quiet whisper guiding us.
I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be enslaved. At the end of my life, I don’t want to regret not making choices and actions that I am called to.