Do I want to be good or do I want to be free?

This morning one of my favorite humans on the planet, Elizabeth Gilbert, posted something on Facebook:


and it was so good and so timely.

This very summer, I finally figured out my calling.  It’s the thing that I get out of bed in the mornings for, it’s the thing that everything else in my life revolves around, and it’s the thing that I have been pulled towards all my life.  Funny how for all of these blatantly obvious signs it took me years to arrive at.  But of course, there were obstacles.  There are always obstacles.  There are obstacles now.

But what matters is that I found it: my calling.  My purpose.  My passion.  My thing.
My freedom.
I’ve distilled it down to its pure essence and bottled up an infinite supply.  And I have been deeply and joyfully immersed in it.

But I find that the high of following my freedom dwindles the most when I am in front of other people who may not agree with my path.

I get fearful, nervous, defensive.  I have trouble standing in my truth without immediately taking on the tone of a defiant teenage girl (aka my former self).

What I want the most is to be kind and firm simultaneously, but insecurity keeps me from achieving this.

I worry that in not knowing how to properly externally express my reasons why I’m doing what I’m doing, it somehow lessens its validation.  My mind, always the eager saboteur, says, “If you can’t explain it to others, do you really understand it yourself?”

(The answer, of course, says my spirit, is yes.  Not everything that is understood can be understood through words.  Words are only one form of language.  Any music fan will tell you that.)

But though spiritually I know this, layers of mental and emotional conditioning refuse to budge.  And it’s not only that, but it’s the idea that I somehow owe others an explanation. That it’s the “right thing to do” to make sure people properly understand.

And I guess that’s where being “good” comes in.
Because in reality, bestowing understanding upon others is not my responsibility.
Because there is no “proper” way to externally express one’s deepest, most heart-centered truth — but the “good” in me is determined to try anyway.  And the “good” in me is often synonymous with “perfection” and/or “outside approval”. See also: people- pleasing.  Hesitant.  Non-confrontational.  Overly self-conscious. A bit of a martyr.

And you know what?  I am not entirely pooh-poohing any of those things.  Though I definitely used some phrases there that typically come with bad connotations, there is a light side to everything.  Being the “positive version” of these things means I am aware of others’ feelings; I am sensitive; I am empathetic; I am flexible and adaptable.  Tactful, considerate, amiable.

And yet.

Everything in moderation.

There it is again: the “good”.  I am a good person because I care about others’ feelings.

But am I a free person?

When I am doing things with my life that I have been called to do: Yes, I am.
When I am loving others even when they don’t love my choices: Yes, I am.
When I am releasing the need to prove my own choices worthy: Yes, I am.

But you know, easier said than done.

I dream of one day being able to look my loving skeptics right in the eye and say softly and happily, “I know you are coming from a place of love and concern, but I am so happy, and the choices I’m making right now feel so amazing and empowering, and I trust myself.”

But until then, I’ll just continue to walk my path, honor my intuition, and constantly remind myself that even if it never makes sense to others, that is not the goal anyway.  The goal is, has been, and always will be to make sense to myself. And what I’m doing now makes the most sense anything has made to me in all my 28 years of living. I’d say that’s doing myself a “good” one.

And in time, when my happiness is evident — when it shines out through my face and the air is positively glowing with it — I think that will make all the sense to anyone.


Further exploring?


Header image via Mara Hoffman

6 thoughts on “Do I want to be good or do I want to be free?

  1. We cannot fly while we’re chained by the opinions of others. I am so happy to see you flying, my dear. You are doing and creating beautiful things and your bravery is an inspiration. ❤

    • “while we’re chained to the opinions of others” SO well said, girl.

      I could say the same of you! Let’s keep flying and creating together, always. ❤

  2. Exactly how I felt about this when I started to write my first novel, and never finished it. The problem was that at the time (2011) I cared too much about other people’s opinions. And do you know what I learned from that and looking at it now? That all the people who didn’t believe in me had never once read anything of what I wrote! Or ever shown any interest since then in reading it. That, alone, shows us that we tend to care about opinions that really don’t know what the hell their talking about! You go, Ashley! Follow what makes you hustle!

    (PS: I’m @vcondez from Instagram)

    • Yes! That’s another huge part of it: We need to realize the perspective that people only ever judge what you’re doing (or not doing) by their own standards or interests, and that those may vary vastly from yours. I’m glad that you have continued to write and create, that is so important! ❤

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