“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.” – May Sarton
One winter when I was in college, a giant snowstorm clobbered Chicago and essentially closed down the city. Classes were cancelled and we were snowed into our apartment, so my friends and I worked on a 1,000 piece Harry Potter puzzle for two days.
We first constructed the rectangular outline of the puzzle so that we would have a framework of where our project was going. All was well, hours danced along, but as we filled in the middle pieces the entire shape of the puzzle began to shift. The outside border, which was supposed to be a solid rectangle, was inexplicably stretching into an oblong shape as we added pieces to the inside. The whole puzzle was fighting to stick together.
Playing around with the existing edge pieces, I found one that seemed awkward in its place. This little piece looked, felt, and technically worked as an edge piece. The piece was dutifully holding the whole outside border together, but it was tightly stuck and seemed as if it had been pounded into submission. I took the piece out and stuck its two neighbors together – they fit, and we were back to a solid rectangle.
That piece later turned out to be to be a crucial part of Harry’s cloak somewhere in the middle of the puzzle, where its unique shape was necessary to complete the full picture. If the piece had stayed in its original place, acting like the edge piece it really wasn’t, we would not have been able to complete the puzzle.
We do this to ourselves all the time. We have unique paths and dreams and a wild spark of divine potential within us, but instead of authentically owning our desires we fearfully try to fit into stale molds. Perfect daughter. Accomplishing son. Future lawyer. Sustainability queen. We burn out trying to shove ourselves into places in the larger puzzle that do not fit us, and we ignore the possibility that we have our own glowing corner where we can thrive as who we truly are.
“I play a part, I have a role, and the Universe would not be complete without me,” charges Rev. Ellen Debenport in her book The Five Principles.
(I tried to speak those words out loud as an affirmation, but it felt funky somehow – a sure sign that a doubt-plagued piece of me still resists this concept.)
The Universe would not be complete without you.
You, yes you. You in your wisdom and your pimples, you in your faltering moments when you don’t know whether to laugh or whimper or fall into a heap on the floor. You in your desires – both the ones you share freely and the embers of daydreams you guard close to your heart.
You are a vibrant and alive piece of this wild universe. Wherever we come from and wherever we are going, this blip in time is changed and sacred because you are here. Your existence changes the world for the better. The Universe would not be complete without you.
We already know this to be true about the people we adore: we know the special light they each bring to our lives, and it pains us to watch them fumble into self-hatred, doubt, addictions, or worse.
Yet when it comes to applying this to ourselves, we falter. We fear that being who we are signals a bratty entitlement problem. We have been told one too many times that our dreams and interests are nice, but they are a tiny speck on the radar of Real Life.
We are absolutely capable of limping along in roles that don’t serve us. The puzzle piece in the story could act as an edge piece, and it did for a while, but at its core it had a completely different function it needed to fulfill. The longer it tried to fit somewhere else, the more confusing and frustrating the puzzle became for us to solve.
What kind of world could we create if we chose to believe that the Universe would not be complete without us? Perhaps we would start taking our innate gifts more seriously, or we would cheerfully say No to opportunities that threaten to pull us further away from our vision. Maybe we would feel less aimless, and maybe we would start to trust that our lives have purpose – even if we aren’t in a place where we can articulate that purpose right now.
When do you feel like you’re trying to be someone different than who you are? Let’s examine that.
When do you feel most like yourself? What gifts do you bring to the table? Let’s foster that.
Love and messiness and reclaimed authenticity,