It is well recorded that the one thing people on their death beds regret most, is that they were not more true to themselves. “I wish I pursued my dreams and aspirations, and not the life others expected of me.” Or “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” These two statements or much the same; one alludes to dreams and aspirations not met, while the other remarks on not having the courage to live true to oneself – to not have the guts to let the child within run free. Both point to a big mistake we all tend to make: living a life based on the expectations of others. Or rather: based on what we believe to be the expectations of others.
From a very young age we learn to conform – we are taught to “fit in”:
“Don’t make so much noise – people are looking at you!”
“Don’t wear that – they’ll laugh at you!”
“Don’t say that – you’ll sound stupid!”
“Don’t do that – its not done around here!”
And then the inner voice kicks in: “Don’t try that, they will scorn you if you fail.” And so the fear of failure kicks in: “What if I don’t have what it takes?” It takes control of you – sometimes for life. Based on the fear of not conforming with others’ norms and expectations, we allow others to dominate and control the way we set out in life – to control (and destroy) our dreams and aspirations. For the sake of conforming. For the sake of being bland and boring. Killing our uniqueness.
An old man lay dying in his bed. As he looked back at his life, at the little time he was granted on this Earth-school, he noticed how much time he spent trying to be, trying to live like others expected of him.
The truth is, no one expected anything of him – they couldn’t have cared less. They were far too busy living their lives the way they thought others expected them to!
My wife described our first three months in Austria the best: She compared the craziness of it all to the first three months after the birth of our triplets. That precious human messiness that changes your heart and soul forever – beautiful and brutal at the same time!
At times we wanted to cry (and did!) and at times we laughed and laughed ‘till our bellies ached (we did that too)! But probably the most beautiful thing I have learned from our new Austrian friends so far, is the concept of “egal”. It is usually used in a sentence like: “Es ist egal” meaning: “It is all the same” or “it really makes no difference.” But for me, there is a deeper meaning to “egal” and the way it is used. It also means “let it go” – almost in the same way that Elsa meant it in “Frozen”. It is like dropping a small twig into a stream. A gentle but intentional act. You are letting go of the twig by opening your hand and letting it slip out. You see it dropping into the water and watch as it is slowly carried away, going further and further, being carried away with the flow of the stream until you see it no more. It is gone.
A child drops her melting ice cream into the grass beneath her feet and begins to cry. “Es ist egal”, her mother says softly. Let it go – it is not that important.
A businessman just heard he’s been retrenched. “Es ist egal”. Just let it slowly drift away. For when it is gone, it can do no more harm. Things can only get better.