Let’s face it – we are the products of our families, upbringings, and surroundings. And while these things don’t create the core traits that make us who we are, they shape us. At least until we decide to change.
I fought for many years against blindly weaving myself into the fabric of my family. I thought that if I settled for walking the path that they walked themselves, I would go against my own dreams. And when I decided to pursue the joys that made me happy, albeit hard to understand by my tribe, I found something else – fear.
I understood my own fear. I compartmentalized my hesitations and traumas on an almost cellular level; that’s how in-tune I became to what held me back from taking risks and opting to be vulnerable. As a writer and as a yoga teacher, I tossed my fear back and forth, and it was between how do I make this work? to do I want this to work? A lot of my hesitations about following my passions settled on me defining myself, and often, that led to boxed thinking. But amid my own fears, I started to uncover someone else’s.
I’m not a parent myself, so I can’t speak to what it’s like to be responsible for another life than just my own. I can’t even begin to imagine the kind of fears a parent must have, regardless of how old their child is. But what I do know is that fears are like hand-me-downs. We put them on because it’s what has always been done, and we don’t question. Hell, we aren’t even aware. Our fears link up together, from generation to generation, and they eventually create a chain. Because we crave connection as humans, we subconsciously allow this chain to play a role that isn’t true, nor healthy. We give it space to breathe and grow and continue, and because it has this freedom, it holds us captive more so than connected.
The fears of our parents become fears of our own. We adopt them and wear them like the hand-me-downs that they are; but they couldn’t be further from our truth. They aren’t what we believe at all, yet they live in our energy, body, and mind. When I decided to pursue writing and teaching and traveling, I understood my own fears and hesitations about it. But the real challenge was in acknowledging that I had other fears to put in their place, and they weren’t my own. More so, as I began to dig deeper into this family chain, I began to see how deeply rooted it really was. Conversations with family turned into eye-opening revelations that proved to me how blind we are to what we carry. And the oddly simple truth in that is that we don’t need to carry it, at all.
My responsibility to my family is not to change them for the better, nor is it to cut their chink of the chain so that they’re free. That’s their white whale. Mine is to write this post, and future posts like it, and continue to be aware of the truth. I am my parents’ fear. I am their hesitation and their quitting. I am their self-doubt and criticism. I am all of those things, grown from the root of our grandfathers and their parents, alike. I hold the chain with both hands, in line with them all. But every day that I am aware between the chance to stay in formation or drop that weight is a new day. I may be a lifetime of fears now, but I have the option not to be, for my present and future self, and for my own children one day. I have the open door through which to walk, chain-less, and enter my own life. And with that same token, I create power and a new space in which to welcome my own family. That’s the break in the chain. That’s freedom.
You don’t have to continue doing what has always been done. Recently, I wrote on my board in the kitchen – if your heart’s not in it, don’t do it. I believe that my parents and their parents before them had dreams that were wilder than my own. And maybe the reason why they aren’t living them now is because they never let go of the fears that they didn’t need to carry. Instead, they built lives on top of things that must be done, and being none the wiser, passed those boxes for me to place myself in.
But I choose differently.
And so can you.