It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. – E.E. Cummings
I’m sure you’ve heard, read, or seen the above quote before. Numerous times as someone’s social media post, on a magnet, framed, possibly even on a coffee mug. It’s Pinteresty and has no doubt been reblogged on Tumblr a few hundred thousand times in every single cursive font known to man. It makes people feel good. Gives them reassurance. And what good is the internet is for nothing else than to quote someone over and over again.
The truth is though that this quote goes beyond someone’s timeline, fridge, or cover photo.
Did you know salmon swim upstream? Of course, you did.
Taken straight from Wikipedia, the most credible source ever:
“The salmon run is the time when salmon, which have migrated from the ocean, swim to the upper reaches of rivers where they spawn on gravel beds. After spawning, all Pacific salmon and most Atlantic salmon die, and the salmon life cycle starts over again.”
“Salmon start the run in peak condition, the culmination of years of development in the ocean. They need high swimming and leaping abilities to battle the rapids and other obstacles the river may present, and they need a full sexual development to ensure a successful spawn at the end of the run. All their energy goes into the physical rigors of the journey and the dramatic morphological transformations they must still complete before they are ready for the spawning events ahead.
The run up the river can be exhausting, sometimes requiring the salmon to battle hundreds of miles upstream against strong currents and rapids. They cease feeding during the run. Chinook and sockeye salmon from central Idaho must travel 900 miles and climb nearly 7,000 feet before they are ready to spawn. Salmon deaths that occur on the upriver journey are referred to as en route mortality.“
So to paraphrase, salmon train their whole fish lives to swim upstream, do so, bust a nut, and then die. Or die before even getting to bust a nut. Again, I’m paraphrasing, don’t @ me. Now I’m not a fish expert so I cannot for certain say what goes on in their heads when doing this but from an outside perspective, it seems that these damn determined ass fish are going to swim upstream regardless of the consequences.
Just like the salmon, from the time that we are born, society has imprinted on us what we’re supposed to do with our lives. You’re born, you go to school, graduate, go to school some more, graduate, get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids, die. We all know we’re going to die in the end and we do all of it anyway. We swim upstream, against the economic shithole we’re currently in dragging all of our debt with us, accumulating more in the process, knowing that some grizzly life event can swoop in at any time and eat us whole, or that we can get to the end and spawn just to die afterward anyway.
Don’t answer that.
No actually, do answer that. Is the white picket fence what you actually want or is it because that’s what society has told you you should have?
My point is, straying from the norm is hard. Swimming downstream is just as hard as swimming upstream if not harder. There are no shortcuts, no proven trails to follow, no pack to swim with for protection or comfort.
Living your life according to your goals takes courage.
A close friend of mine quit his job yesterday. Gave his two-weeks notice after 3 years. Some of you may read that and think he hadn’t put his time in, that he’s some entitled millennial eating away his life savings on avocado toast. Doesn’t matter why he quit or how long he had been working there. What does matter is that he did it. He took the leap and jumped into unchartered territory.
Like this fellow salmon, I’ve done the same. Time and time again I have swam my ass upstream, downstream, sidestream, hell any which way my ass is allowed. And just like you I’m surprised I have not been eaten yet. Each time it’s scary as hell and more than courage, I think the only thing leading my decisions is stupidity. Blind, ignorant, selfish, entitled stupidity.
Jumping on a plane to live in Italy with no more than $200 in my pocket. Irresponsible.
Moving to a new city without an actual home to move into or enough money to last me the week, hell through the next weekend. Stupid.
Turning down a job offer right after graduation because it didn’t feel “right.” Entitled.
Quitting a FT job because I didn’t feel valued and had enough money to pay my rent yet I had absolutely nothing lined up. Severely disturbed.
It’s been one scary hell of a ride. However, each of those moments has led me to this exact moment in my life. I know what I stand for, what makes me tick, what motivates me, where my passions lie, and who I am. I am grounded in my beliefs and cannot be swayed for a fancy title, shiny coins, or the promise of something society says I should want to have.
I could follow the norm, clock in and out daily at a 9 to 5 with amazing benefits, come home to my family in my luxurious home, and do the same day after day. But the truth is I would only be a shell of a person. Appearing normal on the outside, smiling through it all because society has told me to do so but completely hollow inside unsure of the source of my unhappiness.
It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are because it’s scary, because there is no guarantee you’re doing the right thing, because society is quick to turn on you when you fail and wail their “I told you so’s” in your face. Lifes uncertainty is scary enough without voluntarily throwing more obstacles in its way. Why fix something that isn’t broken?
Some people can find themselves without all the extras, and I applaud them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with following the norm, just like there is nothing absolutely wrong with not following it.
Each person has their own path to take, I only wish you find the courage to take the one truly meant for you. The best version of yourself is waiting on the other side wondering what the hell took you so long.