“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Someone recently posed the question, “Why not make your own history?” and I began to turn over this idea in my head. As a history teacher and someone who has an insatiable curiosity for the past, I couldn’t help but ask the question, how does someone consciously go about making their own history?
As young children we are influenced and molded by the people who raise us and counsel us – for better or for worse. Unless we are able to step outside of the inner circle our family has created or have parents that allow us to see more of the world offering us a broaden perspective of all the different ways life can be lived, it is easy to be ignorant of the possibilities the world can offer. Ultimately, whether a child has been offered the opportunity or not, there must be something within an individual to create a life for themselves that is uniquely their own, tailored to their talents, passions and abilities. And in tapping into this inner curiosity, one must be willing to face adversity along the path toward their most fulfilling and content life.
An example that immediately comes to my mind exemplifying the ability of someone to write their own history regardless of the limitations their childhood may have presented is my father. While I won’t go into specific details as they are his to share, needless to say his ability to create a life that wasn’t even modeled and to soar to heights that were merely dreams in other family members’ eyes demonstrates the importance and extraordinary outcomes that are possible to those who dare to make their own history that is not harnessed by others’ lack of vision.
So how does one go about making their own history? This is what I’ve learned so far:
1. Understand the past.
I have always been an independent person. Beginning in childhood and continuing until the present day, I refuse to be afraid to try something simply because no one else wants to join me. With that said, I value my independence, so when I began to understand the history of women and their fight for equality, votes and financial independence, I too began to appreciate my independence much more greatly. And it is in the understanding of the past that helps us to determine how we want to proceed as we create our own history.
I may sound like a broken record, but I can’t reiterate enough the importance of getting to know yourself. Admittedly, to know who you are when you’re in your pre-teen years is far different than knowing yourself in your twenties, thirties and beyond as so much will change (although some things will simply become more clear), but the key is to continue to challenge and introduce yourself to new ideas and listen to your internal response in each instance. It is in these moments of stillness that allow you to truly understand what makes you feel comforted or unsafe, inspired or bored, curious or apathetic, so that you can continue down the path that feels best suited to your authentic self.
3. Respect and befriend yourself.
Once you accept your quirks, your strengths, and your weaknesses, it is important to stop apologizing and start capitalizing on the best person you can ever be – your authentic self. And when you begin to respect yourself, you refuse to let people speak negatively about the person standing in front of them that they don’t understand or want to understand. You can either speak up or ignore and more on, either way, refuse to be belittled for being the only person you can be – your best self. Everyone needs a friend who will have our backs every single day. And guess what? You’ve always had them. Now stop ignoring them.
4. Create a vision
“You are capable of more than you know. Choose a goal that seems right for you and strive to be the best, however hard the path. Aim high. Behave honorably. Prepare to be alone at times, and to endure failure. Persist! The world needs all you can give.”
-E. O. Wilson
Do this simple activity. If you knew you would not be judged, laughed at or criticized, what would your dream life look like? Write it down.
Now, let’s step back into the real world. It’s understandable why some may choose a path that is less fraught with friction, adversity and questioning, but to not choose the life we desire in order to avoid these trials is to live someone else’s history and not our own.
If you remember back to your last social studies course, history is not smooth sailing. It’s littered with blood, uncertainty and loss. But remember that throughout history, all of the turmoil is what had to occur in order to institute the change that was sought.
5. Set small goals
Once you have your vision, break it down into small goals. So long as you are making small steps forward, the history that you are creating is slowly taking shape. And before long, you will turn around and notice how that first step so very long ago was necessary to get to the milestone you may have initially thought was never possible.
6. Create a resolute belief in yourself.
Perhaps at this very moment, no one understands why you would want to live the life you have created in your vision board. But more often than not, it is ourselves we have to convince. So long as you are being honest with yourself about what brings you joy, contentment, satisfaction and a sense of positive societal contribution in the best way that you can and want, then stop being afraid of becoming your best self. And for those moments when you lose your nerve, but you know without question you are on the right track, make sure you have a friend or family member who is there to listen, support and get you back on your feet to prod you forward.
7. Get started!
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