I view the striving for originality as, first, a struggle for life. To preserve, expand, and affirm oneself. To actualize one’s inherent, energetic potential. About a year ago, I published a post titled, When You Have Too Much Life…, in which I discuss what it feels like to have one’s creativity, attempts at expressing the full breadth and depth of one’s nature, or exercising one’s talents thwarted by external forces. Social, professional, institutional, or otherwise. A universal state that I believe is experienced more acutely and more frequently by the creatives among us. Looking back at that post, now a year after its publication, it occurred to me that, perhaps, what I was really attempting to discuss there was the striving for originality. The intentional direction of one’s energy toward the development of the most authentic version of oneself, a feeling that, when blocked, can be experienced as a “bottleneck.” The feeling that I have within me a tremendous amount of life, of creative potential, a vibrant identity that I am longing to express, and yet I am being forced, at nearly every turn, to stifle it.
To be sure, there is a much deeper relationship between how much life one has–animation, lust, intelligence, creativity, the drive for expansion–and the need to be oneself. Maybe, a deeper, more decidedly philosophical discussion for another day. What I am interested in talking about in this post is the experience of being one who strives for originality. What it feels like. Here are some thoughts on what it means to be an original:
When you (really do) have too much life…
Indeed, I have begun to think, since first contemplating the move toward originality (Individuation. Authenticity. By any other name…) that, in fact, it may represent the most noble (to me) use of one’s life, animating force, or instinct. It is my opinion, based more on observation (inward and outward) than any sort of scholarly resource, that those of us who strive to be individuals in the truest sense–who feel that assertive, inner pull–may, in fact, have more life—maybe even too much, in some cases—than others. That some of us are either possessed by too great a degree of internal force or are so sensitive to its urgings that we are compelled to act, to feel, to create, to view the world from a perspective of tremendous energy and originality. That the drive to be, to become, is none other than a focused expression of the need to be fully alive. “The diamonic,” Dr. May would call it. Eros. Dynamism. To be original is to dignify one’s very existence.
You act from the soul.
I often find that my creative projects and my growth in self-awareness and insight go hand-in-hand. My work on The Used Life, whose aim is to give pointed, meaningful direction to my interests, is no exception. As I develop my thinking around the topics about which I am passionate, I also develop myself. (This is especially true when I allow myself the freedom to approach my interests in whichever way I choose, effectively teaching myself, however long it takes.) I become more fully myself. I move in step with a purpose. Or, rather, I am pulled. By a force that is almost beyond my control.
This is, perhaps, often the case when our drive to create, to know, to do, to experience is singular and almost blinding. When we discover a pursuit that sets our soul on fire. When our vision of the world becomes overrun with possibility, with a lust for creation and transformation. I find that, to be so driven–or to be driven that forcefully–is one of the most authentic experiences I know. It seems to rise up from the very bottom of my soul. No masks. No pretense. No filter. It feels like succumbing to an amorous form of energy. Like I’ve just been loved. Or bestowed a gift. And, there is never a need to question it. Because to respond to its urgings is innately rewarding almost beyond description. From head to toe. It is the thing I must do. It is who I am. I find that when I allow myself to submit to my passions in that way, many of the other issues that distract me, worry me, or otherwise occupy my mind simply fall away. And, I am just me. Fully engaged in the pursuit of being alive.
You own your thoughts.
I sometimes have a dim sense that I am capable of big things. Perhaps, this is because the force that drives me feels so big. Immeasurable in impact. I, of course, have no way of knowing at this moment if that’s true. But, I am staunchly motivated by a sense that I have something original to contribute to the world. I sense my femininity project—however elusive its conclusions may be at present—is the beginning of that contribution.
Every time I try to fit my thoughts on the nature of femininity into an existing paradigm, I scrap them. I remind myself that I needn’t waste my time trying to make my thoughts align with someone else’s—no matter how accomplished or erudite the individual. I am better suited to learn what I can from the best sources available and allow those ideas to shape my thinking. Then, express my ideas accordingly. I am not the kind of gal who does what so-and-so says simply because so-and-so says it. I am the one who says. There is a tremendous power and satisfaction that comes with owning one’s ideas. And, it occurs to me that, in order to be an original—not only in intellectual pursuits, but in all of life’s endeavors—one must take responsibility for one’s thoughts. Originality requires flexibility and the courage to allow one’s opinions and beliefs to be changed when necessary. That means you’ve also got to have a center, a space within yourself that is always certain of itself—abilities, identity, and core values—no matter what.
To conform is to die a little.
More often than not, fitting into prescribed roles, be they social or professional, feels like an unusual form of punishment. Because in order to fit, in order to perform, to function in someone else’s environment, I must empty myself. I must become a caricature of myself, a lesser, dumbed-down version of some of my greatest attributes. I must become numb. To hem myself in and force myself to stifle what I sense is my potential. I must die a little inside.
I wish I had some sort of masterful solution or sage advice to offer here. I don’t. While I think I’ve lived a pretty rich, interesting, and adventure-filled life to this point, I am still trying to create a place where I “fit.” Where more of me can flourish. I dare not ask for “all.” I often ask myself—and have been asking myself as I’ve bounced from sultry adventure to sultry adventure over the course of the last 7+ years—if I should just settle. But, that’s the thing about being an original. You can’t. No matter how hard you try. Something formidable always rises up inside you that forces you to fight another day. I’ll figure it out. I’ll find it. Quitting is equivalent to a greater consuming, more permanent kind of death. Maybe, some of us really do have too much life. I mean, that is what I’m doing here, hanging out on The Used Life. Looking for it. If this experiment doesn’t work, I’ll keep looking. Although, at this moment, I sense I am close.