I’ve always lived in the box. The box felt safe. Why? Because most other people are in the box too. I’ve always wanted to be liked by everyone, and by making certain that I wasn’t too different than anyone else I felt I was one step closer to that impossible feat. I’ve tried to fool myself into thinking that there is something comforting in being like everyone else. No one can judge you for being yourself because, well, by living in the box you are just like them. Living in the box means living a life that we think society expects us to live. In my case I interpreted that to mean: get good grades, don’t do drugs, stay close to home, get married, have 2.5 kids, take the family to Disney World for spring break, and know by the age of 30 what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’ve failed miserably with all that, despite the fact that I’ve spent most of my life trying to live in the box, hugging that Predetermined Rulebook for Life tightly to my chest out of fear of being judged for being different. I nearly suffocated myself in the process.
The funny thing about my trying to live in the restrictive box is that many of my closest friends are a varied, alternative bunch. I’ve always surrounded myself with unique, interesting free-spirits like musicians, artists, authors, world travelers, world-class athletes, rock star yoga teachers and cutting-edge scientists. I’ve long envied how carefree and individual they all are, yet I was committed to living in the box because somewhere along the line I successfully brainwashed myself into believing that if I broke the rules I would no longer be perfect and then people wouldn’t like me.
Well, what I’ve come to realize is that the box is boring. Here’s the thing: no one has ever achieved greatness by living in the box. Think about it. If everyone lived in the box, we’d never get anywhere. One of the most influential scientists of all time, Albert Einstein, had to step outside of the box and challenge all existing belief systems when he came up with the theory of relativity. Tony Hawk and the Z-Boys pushed the limits of skateboarding and changed the sport forever to become an extreme and acrobatic sport. There’s Richard Branson, a high-school dropout who founded Virgin Records and Virgin Airlines (among many other companies), and will be taking people into space with Virgin Galactic. Performers like The Beatles, Elvis, Madonna and Lady Gaga have pushed the envelope and forever changed the landscape of musical artistry. Then there are people like Mahatma Gandhi, whose unique message of non-violent protest helped lead India to independence.
I also want to achieve greatness. And by greatness, I mean personal greatness. To be the best that I can be. This doesn’t necessarily mean transforming others through my actions or doing anything seen as special on a global scale. But what it does mean is transforming myself. Being true to myself, challenging myself daily, and honoring those distinctive quirks that are undeniably unique to me.
Recently I went to TEDxHouston. TED is a conference committed to “Ideas Worth Spreading.” Each presenter is given 18 minutes to give the talk of their lives. TED delivered, and showed me that this city, the one of which I’m still having trouble calling “home,” is filled with inspiring and fascinating people. Each presenter lives outside of the box, and by doing so, has that certain glow of personal contentment while they speak. They have each excelled in their work and in their personal lives because they are living a life authentic to themselves, and nourishing those talents and passions that come naturally to them.
During the conference I got to know an equally inspiring man, Steve Rader. Steve is an engineer with NASA who not only is working on the lunar rover, but is also in a band, is very spiritual, is deeply devoted to his family, and has a sharp sense of humor. Make me laugh and I want to be your friend, so I was instantly drawn to Steve. He invited me for a tour of NASA. I sat in the Commander’s seat in the flight deck of the Space Shuttle, pretended to drive a lunar rover, watched astronauts run through fire drills, marveled at the toilet on the Space Shuttle (seriously, it’s way cool), and tried to comprehend some new full sized prototypes that have been built but have yet to be launched into space. All the while I looked around in awe at what people have been able to accomplish by living outside of the box. We’ve been on the moon. We’ve been in outer space. We just may land on an asteroid one day. And this is because of Steve and other innovative people like him who challenge themselves beyond their comfort zones.
I’ve only recently begun to live outside of the box. It started last October when I loaded up my car with Yoda and blindly embarked on a 5 month road trip across the United States. It continued when I immediately followed that ambitious road trip with a cross-country move to Texas to explore a new relationship. I’m still living outside of the box, learning to make a living consulting instead of agreeing to become a corporate grunt again. And just last weekend I leapt completely outside of my box by flying to Hot Springs, AR to attend a spiritual conference. I am beginning to learn Light Language, a practice that stems from the ancient Mayans and Aztecs, which creates healing by using colored light and sacred geometry. Trust me, publicly announcing that I am exploring Light Language, and even admitting I believe in its power, is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay outside of the box for me.
Yet, the more I take myself out of the box, the more I am beginning to like myself. I’m learning to be authentic, be original, and to trust that things will always fall into place if I am consistently true to me. In short, I’m just starting to find my personal greatness, and that’s a pretty wonderful place to begin.
Read me on The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christine-buckley/