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I was rummaging through my dad’s old files one day. It was a couple of years after he passed away but he left an entire filing cabinet filled with all sorts of odds and ends that we thought we had thrown away but he apparently kept. Things such as my little brother’s drawing of a blue chicken, and my sister’s baptism invitation, and a collection of my writings from grade school.

I sifted through my papers looking for things that could be potentially embarrassing. There was nothing much, really, but one teeny, tiny thing caught my eye. It was an essay I wrote when I was nine years old. I couldn’t remember what the entire essay was all about, but I ended it on a rather surprising note. I said, “Others laugh at me because I’m different. I laugh at them because they’re all the same.”

I was in my late 20s that time. Although I was doing very well financially, I was stuck in a place where I constantly wondered if the thing that I was doing (writing blog content for various clients) was what I wanted to do. I had already known I was not going to do it for the rest of my life. In fact, I also had already known deep, deep, deep inside that it wasn’t what I wanted to do at all. But I didn’t know what else to do—or so I thought—so I couldn’t force myself to quit my old career and leap into the unknown.

And so when I found the essay written by my nine-year-old self, it felt like a huge smack in the face. My inner child had finally found a way to get to me and show me who I was all along. More than two decades ago, I didn’t care if I looked funny or talked awkward or scared away all my peasant little classmates by the fact that I was reading all day every day. More than two decades ago, although everyone thought I was nicely turning out to be the shy, quiet, goody-two-shoes they wanted me to be, I was actually already rebelling against the status quo. More than two decades ago, I was quite the badass. What happened?

I had no idea what happened, except that perhaps I had allowed myself to be swayed by the expectations of others, e.g. the grown-ups. It wasn’t that they purposely wanted me to stray from the path that my soul had laid out for me. They wouldn’t have known. No one would have. And if it weren’t for me straying, I wouldn’t have found the path again. None of this would’ve happened. I wouldn’t be writing to you at all. You wouldn’t be reading any of it because it wouldn’t have existed. And I wouldn’t have left my freelancing career to build a blog and a business that’s based on me just being myself. The true self, the one that my nine-year-old self clearly knew and was proud of. I was meant to have strayed from the path so I could pick up the lessons I needed to learn so that I could find myself again.

And this true self? She’s creative and she’s courageous. She’s passionate about becoming more and more of herself every day. She’s badass, and she knows she can do anything she sets her mind and heart to. To hell with what everyone else thinks. She’s on a path to fully expressing the gifts and talents God has bestowed on her because she knows there is no other way. And if she hadn’t strayed from her path years ago, she wouldn’t have learned that you and every single soul on this planet are just as talented, intelligent, and beautiful as she is.

And, sometimes, it’s sad that you don’t know. I know but you don’t know. We all stray from our soul’s true path. We all learn to be someone else we’re not. Early on in life, we do. Maybe it’s a parent telling you that you couldn’t afford to dream big enough. Maybe it’s a teacher who said you were never going to amount to anything. Maybe it’s just TV shows and magazines and Facebook posts giving you a subtle but clear hint: that you’re simply not as good as everyone else. And there it goes. We start putting on a mask just to please others. But as time goes by and others pat you on your little head, saying, “What a good little girl you are,” the mask stays on far longer than we would’ve liked until we had moved along our years thinking the mask was who we truly were.  

But your true self, the one that’s content and happy in who she is, will always come back. She always does, whether in your 20s when you’re learning to find your place in the adult world, in your 30s when you’re starting to question your place, or in your 40s and beyond when the slight nagging in your 30s has blossomed into a full-blown mid-life crisis. Your true self will always find a way to make herself known.

She’ll drop hints, ranging from the subtle to the glaring. At first, she may lead you to start asking the hard questions. What is my true purpose in life? Why am I here? Do I even exist at all or am I a holographic image in a Sims game played by aliens? And if you don’t start going within to find the answers, she’ll start getting a little bit more obvious. You’ll begin to feel dissatisfied at work. That’s one of the easier ones to spot. You’ll question your major life choices and start toying with the idea of packing your bags and leaving it all so you can stay at a secluded beach cottage or mountain cabin 500 miles away from everyone you know.

And if you refuse to get it yet? By this point, some people start getting it, but most refuse to get it. For sure, they do get the hints. They feel the pain of not looking. But they’d rather stay where they are because they’re scared of what their minds don’t know. So they begin the slow descent downhill, where everything they do in life is done simply because they have to. There’s no fun anymore, except for the one-off vacations they take every year if their boss allows them to. And even then, vacations are always stressful, especially if they’re with family. They start having health issues. They find no satisfaction in their careers and relationships. Living, for them, becomes nothing more than the bag of flesh and bones going through the motions.

Sometimes, life gives them a huge slap in the face, one you definitely can’t ignore. Like a death in the family (yeah, that one happened for me), or getting fired from a job they thought they’d have forever, or becoming sick and getting told by the doctors there’s no hope for their condition. Some people fall into depression, and they get even more depressed because, aside from all the things they’re going through, they’re also now mentally ill. Others stubbornly keep refusing the urgent call from their inner selves, doggedly going about their lives trying to figure things out from the head and make things happen by themselves.

And all throughout everything that’s going on, there’s the voice of your true self calling out to you. When you wake up in the morning dreading another day, that’s your soul calling out to you. When you question God why He let this misfortune fall upon you, when you cry yourself to sleep every night and you have no idea why, when you feel like you’re falling into a darkness with no end, it’s always your true self calling out to you.

None of this is happening because you need to be punished. None of this is happening because you’re just one of the millions of unlucky souls to have found themselves randomly incarnating in this so-called shithole. All of this is happening because it is the only way for you to find yourself again, the self that is bigger, stronger, and way more powerful than whatever adversity you may find yourself in today.

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