* 8 minute read *
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” ― Dr. Seuss
It’s the 21st of April 2010 and I’m standing in a dimly lit karaoke bar in downtown Tokyo. I’m joined by a handful of strangers and new friends that I’ve met at the hostel I’ve been staying at.
Life’s pretty interesting for me right now! Just a few months earlier my ex-fiance and I cancelled our wedding and went our separate ways and just over a week ago now I walked away from my comfortable job for a big design firm in Brisbane to travel around the world for 4 months. A volcano has just erupted in Iceland and destroyed my plans to travel to Scandinavia and so I’ve just made the spontaneous decision to travel to Egypt instead for a massive, random adventure!
After a group rendition of ‘More Than This‘ (recreating the famous Lost in Translation karaoke scene) it’s now my turn to step up to the microphone. For some reason I’ve chosen a Frank Sinatra song. The song starts slowly and softly and I follow the lyrics as if I’m reading them for the first time. Gradually, as I move through the first couple of verses the song builds up and I really start to connect with the lyrics. I start to get goosebumps and feel tears welling up in my eyes. As I reach the final verse, the room seems to disappear and with a clenched fist I am singing to the whole world!
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!
I realise I’ve had a slightly weird personal moment and I awkwardly shuffle off the stage!
At that point in my life I was in the middle of some pretty major life decisions. I “should” have got married, got a mortgage and had kids. I “should” have stayed in my safe job. But instead I chose to do it my way.
My late grandfather used to say to me “be yourself, because nobody else will”.
Yet choosing to truly be ourselves can be a bittersweet feeling. We have to give up a lot; the acceptance of others, the safety of conforming, the security of knowing how our future will turn out.
Here I am now, two years after choosing to put myself first and sacrifice the acceptance and approval of others and the security of “the known”. While the loss of security was painful at first, I’m proud to say that I have done it my way and my life has been infinitely richer and fuller as a result.
Recently, after 2 years of not practicing as an architect I agreed to take on a small residential project for some close friends of mine. A lot has changed for me professionally over that time and my client friends have been very supportive of my desire to experiment and follow a different process to a traditional architect, for their project.
Having two years to step away from the profession and expose myself to so many other ways of thinking has allowed me to step into this project with my own way of doing things. The process is so different to how I used to design when I worked for a big firm, yet it feels so natural and right for me. And thankfully it feels right for my clients.
At the end of a workshop that I held with my clients and some fantastic collaborators on Saturday, excited by the outcomes, my clients remarked that they were surprised more architects didn’t follow this kind of process. I responded by saying that if I could go back and give “Young Architect Me” one piece of advice it would be: “find your own way and do it your way”. I’ve learnt that there is no one right way to do anything, only a right way for each of us.
We all look to others for advice. We look for role models and people who have been in our situation before to help us decide how to live our life. Looking outward for support and conformity is natural; it helps us to make sense of a complex world and to feel connected to others.
But, the bittersweet side of attempting to follow in the footsteps of others is that nobody is ever going to have all of the answers for us all of the time. Inevitably, in some small way, we find ourselves in situations that nobody ever, in the history of the whole wide world has ever been in and we have to figure it out for ourselves!
Inevitably, at some point we have to go inward instead of outward to find the answers.
Are you different? Do you feel like an outsider, a niche market, a bit of a freak or that you’re difficult to pigeonhole?
Well…I think you’re awesome! Celebrate your uniqueness and be yourself because nobody else can!
I was the first person in my extended family (that includes grandparents, parents, uncles, aunties and cousins!) to graduate from university. I was the first person in my immediate family to travel to Europe. In the background I’ve grown up in, I am one of very few people who didn’t get married young, settle down with a mortgage and have children.
At times, realising that we don’t quite fit in can be really hard to accept. Plenty of times I have asked myself “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be like everybody else?”
It’s bittersweet. But the choice is clear; either we choose to live by the standards and expectations set by others and sacrifice our dreams and needs or we choose to follow our own path. Either we choose to measure ourselves against others or we choose to measure ourselves according to the values and standards we set for ourselves and live a self-approved life.
The more we simply just accept who we are (including our weaknesses and imperfections), the more we open ourselves to experiencing the full spectrum of human emotion and the awesome possibilities for our lives.
So, I’m curious:
- Think about some of the major choices you’ve made in your life; your study, your career, your relationships, even where you live. How much have these choices been influenced by others?
- For bonus points, I challenge you to find a quiet space (or a karaoke room) where you can be alone and belt out your own version of Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’! Seriously, read the lyrics! Imagine, being able to reach the end of your life and say with integrity that you have lived an authentic life, true to yourself, true to your values and you’ve done it YOUR WAY.
Til next week, Be Awesome!
If you found this post valuable, please consider choosing to support Be Awesome with a donation. Collectively, over 8 hours a week go into producing the content for this site and your donation can help this message empower a wider audience as well as contribute to future initiatives. Thank you for Be(ing) Awesome!