I became disappointed with myself a few years ago upon my realization that I don’t let myself do anything just for the fun of it. When I’m not taking care of my responsibilities, I’m either distracting myself from them or trying to relax from the stress caused by them. I didn’t do much with this realization, because I felt that adulthood took away my right to explore childlike fun.
I convinced myself in my early adolescence that by my late teens it would be too late for me to be new to anything. I often approached new skills with a toxic presumption that it was “too late for me” because I had this idea that I should have already figured out my likes and dislikes by a certain age, and I would look ridiculous exploring new things that differed from the image I already created of myself.
It feels like I’ve been 20 years old for three years now, and I’m finally realizing how wrong I was during my adolescence. I’m finally starting a new chapter of my life–my 20s– which has so far shown me how ridiculous it was to believe that the evolution of my personality ever had a deadline. I try not to think much about the time that I do, or do not, have ahead of me because it keeps me from focusing on what I’m doing with my life in the present. I’ve chosen to face the reality that I’m starting a new chapter of my life, and I have 10 years worth of pages to fill out. I have to accept the reality of not knowing where to start and that’s completely okay.
Overcoming My Own Beliefs
After keeping myself from exploring my interests for so long, I felt like I had to start from scratch when I set myself the goal of becoming comfortable being a beginner this year. I made a list of things I constantly wished I could do but never took the initiative with. The list came to me easily, and while some parts were a bit unrealistic given current circumstances, other things seemed pretty doable, like longboarding. However, I underestimated the control I’ve given to my presumptions about other people’s opinion of me.
When I was about 13 years old, my neighbors bought three longboards to add to the long list of things they do outdoors. They’d let me tag along whenever they wanted to go longboarding, but I didn’t like depending on their availability to be able to do something I personally enjoyed, so I often bugged my parents about buying me a longboard for myself. They consistently turned me down in the name of gender roles, claiming it was an activity for boys and that it didn’t look good on me.
If you ask my mom today, she’ll say that it was for my safety because they didn’t want me getting a head injury. Clearly, that’s not how I remember it. I kept begging for a longboard until I grew tired of their same sexist excuse and eventually grew apart from my neighbors, never to use a longboard again.
I should note that my parents couldn’t care less whether or not I buy myself a longboard now, but I haven’t allowed myself to get back into it out of the fear of judgment. I’ve been afraid of being accused that I’m somehow trying to be someone that I’m not. I’ve been afraid that I’d look ridiculous being a beginner to such a common skill at an age where most people who are interested in it have already learned. While my logical mind knows these fears shouldn’t stop me, actually letting go of this sort of thinking has been an obstacle in and of itself.
This fear of judgment interrupts many aspects of my life, and I’m not okay with being controlled by my fears anymore; taking control of my life is really the only option I can see now. I realize my constant burnout stages are because I never let myself play the way I so often did as a child; the cost of this fear has been too great. All I need to do is buy the longboard and remember how to ride it. I know it’s doable, and I know it’s easy, but my mental block has made this goal the hardest to take any initiative with.
It’s not exactly judgment about the longboard that I’m so afraid of but all of the steps that will follow. I know I’m supposed to be taking baby steps, but sometimes I can’t help thinking about the next goal I’ll set after this. I will have to overcome this fear of judgment and the scariest part is that I know the fear probably won’t go anywhere, I’ll just have to find the courage to take control of it every time it tries interrupting my life.
The second scariest part of taking control is having to ignore the criticism I’m so afraid of receiving. While I know my self-critic doesn’t have my best interest at heart, I also know she won’t be alone in her criticism. My goal isn’t to ignore her completely but to recognize when that criticism isn’t constructive. Yeah some of my bigger goals might seem ridiculous to some, but it doesn’t matter. It’s funny how simple of a reality that is while it’s so difficult to believe, but I’m going to get myself to believe it. It may feel like I’m lying to myself at first, but my logical mind will recognize the truth, and it will recognize how important it is that I believe the truth for the sake of my emotional mind’s well being.
Choose Fun Over Opinions
I took you through this thought process, because I know I’m not the only person who holds themselves back from pursuing their interests due to some status quo that they no longer have to maintain. I really think the first step wasn’t even recognizing that I need to invest time in my fun but recognizing the beliefs holding me back held little truth; I was desperately trying to maintain a status quo that didn’t serve me.
I often hear people around me say they don’t pursue their interests because they’re too old, not smart enough, not determined enough, etc. Their feelings of inadequacy prevent them from making their first attempt at pursuing their dreams because they haven’t questioned why they believe what they do. The best piece of advice I can give right now is to recognize the belief systems that no longer serve you and, more importantly, to let go of them. You’ll never know how much fun they’ve held you back from until you finally let them go.
About the Author
Born in Cuba and raised in Las Vegas, Cesia is a junior at UNLV pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in History with a concentration in Latin American history and a minor in French. Outside of her school interests, she finds herself particularly interested in astrology and travel plans. While she hopes to stay in the field of history, she is passionate about mental health and hopes to help others through her writing for us here at LYF.