We’re all growing to be frustrated turtles.
In the days of our energetic youth, possibilities seemed endless. We carried no baggage, no prejudice and absolutely no concept of limitations. We had big dreams as children, dreams like becoming a super hero, a footballer or something that would be completely inconceivable to most adults – personally, I wanted to become a garbage collector on a garbage truck. I was (a small part of me still is) in awe of the mechanics of the truck and that you could stand at the back of it was just so cool!
We were children with innocent minds and we did not understand the concept of money, responsibility or fear. And because of this, we were free to dream, unbound by logic or reason. We simply had no time for worry, when it was time to play, we played our hearts out – we paid little attention to what happens next, only the now and we were always present.
So what happened?
Life – as we grew older, we went to school and listened to our teachers, parents and friends and formulated ideas of what life is. We learned to form structures, constraints and come to terms that there are things we can and cannot do. We learned from adults that had a tainted view on life. We learned social norms and the general structure of life. Good behaviour was tolerated but actions that were not aligned with social norms was punished. We were taught to conform and live life the way society expects us too.
So we complete school and go on to work. Suddenly, we’re thrown into more realities of life and realise that life has to be planned and is not planned out for us.
At first, as a fresh graduate, we have a keen sense of optimism and we’re full of energy – we’re about to change the world! But just like how our childhood dreams faded away with time, so does our energy. Stagnation, red tape and other work frustration slowly teaches us to accept the realities we face instead of trying to change them. We start to accept this as the normal way of life and grow tired.
With all that life has taught us, we start building our shells to protect ourselves and cope with the harsh realities of life. We develop a need to live life within the realms of safety and convince ourselves that it’s the normal thing to do. Without us even knowing, we’ve started building shells.
The stuff shells are made of –
Emotional Baggage – past failures, criticism and worry piles on and adds up. After awhile, it starts to weigh us down.
We hold on to these memories and use them as examples to avoid future experiences that might lead us to feel this way again. Such experiences have taught us to think logically and in a socially accepted way before acting again. So we start to think, over-think and strategise all sorts of possible outcomes before acting and we get frustrated by inaction and indecision.
Societal Expectations – expectations from friends, family and society puts pressure on us to become the people we are expected to be.
This expectation (sometimes imagined expectation) is reinforced until we forget the people we had set out to be. We slowly become consumed by material possessions, egos and social pressure and believe that we should act and be in a certain way because it is expected of us.
Comfort Zones – we all carry some level of fear cultivated both from experience and the unknown. So, to err on the side of caution, we try to stay well within the confines of our comfort zones.
Unpleasant life experiences and detractors have numbed our spirits and made us cautious in not only our actions but in our dreams as well. We’ve been disappointed so much that instead of trying to pursue a positive, we set the bar lower to avoid being let down.
Along the way, we also cynically pick up the concept that when we lower our expectations, we lower our risks of failure and by extension, remain rooted well within our comfort zones. So our dreams fade away and we stop shooting for the stars.
Before we know it, the shells we’ve created start to get bigger and bigger and it starts to really weigh down on us. The weight of expectation, emotional baggage and safety starts to become apparent in our everyday life in the form of envy, regret and self pity.
We have become frustrated turtles with heavy shells.
The natural human response to unpleasant life experiences is to develop a safe guard. This spirit is what’s pushed mankind forward and is a part of who we are. This is strength. But it is strength only if used correctly.
The challenge is having the wisdom and presence of mind to understand if what we’ve created is helping us or slowly eating us up. It has to be asked if we’ve been honest with ourselves or have we let the people and things around us dictate who we should be.
When in doubt, go back to the dreams of your inner child and embrace them. Were they really so absurd or have we created a reality to help cope that we’ve become cynical to even start trying?
Be true to the person you’ve always wanted to be and not the person you think you have to. Don’t let the imagined constraints in your life dictate what you should or shouldn’t be doing. You owe it to yourself to live the one life you get to the fullest and on your own terms.
It may sound daunting and it is, but know that you will always be stuck in your shell if you never take that first step forward and in a few years time you’d wished you had started today.