How I’m Learning to “Uncompromise”

I attended the TEDxVail conference this past Friday; the event was a feast for the mind, which I’m still digesting. As I do so, I’m realizing that I’ve been lacking some vital mental and emotional nutrients, which were served at the event.

Lately I’ve been feeling adrift, like I’m wandering in the woods without purpose (and not in a good way) and really, just plain lost. I’m not happy in my job; the stress is heavy and constant and I keep thinking I’ve never worked so hard at something I feel like I’m constantly failing at.

And I’m just going to say the things no good strong, independent, dare I say feminist, should say – and certainly no single girl should say lest she be labeled desperate and pathetic – I’m lonely and I want a partner. Not a couple casual dates. Not a night out with friends. Not a roommate. I want a husband, someone who’s in this life with me. A family of my own and people I belong to and who belong to me.

I want someone who’s there when it’s 11 PM on Thanksgiving and I’ve locked myself out of the house. Someone who’s there when it’s 3 AM and I feel like my abdomen is being ripped apart by what now appears to have been a kidney stone. Someone who’s there when I come home in tears after a Board meeting, with whom I can talk through what upset me and who can weigh in on the daunting question that is currently my future.

Independence in my decision-making, the knowledge that I can do anything and go anywhere whenever I want without worrying about another person, used to make me feel light and free. Recently, though, the thought paralyzes me. I know I need to take some action in my life, make a change, to put myself on a more solid path toward happiness, but the endless possibilities overwhelm me and I don’t know where to start in order to make that happen.

And then I heard World Champion Freestyle Kayaker Emily Jackson’s TEDxVail talk on “uncompromising.” Here’s the promo description for her talk:

“Everyday we are faced with the challenge of comparing ourselves and self worth to others. In this process we are losing our true identity and creativity. We live in a society that determines how we feel and think about things to be based on other people’s observations and perspectives. How are we supposed to be trail blazers and living the life that only we have dreamed if we spend our time comparing it to those around us constantly? By creating our priority list we can go confidently in the direction we choose, all comparisons aside, and no compromising.”

She told us about her 5-item priority list and explained how, every day, she makes sure the things she does and the decisions she makes are in honor of, and in the best interest of, the things on that list. She talked about how much happier she is when she lives this way, as opposed to when she has acted in honor of other people’s priorities and expectations.

Watch Emily’s TEDxVail Talk: 

I’ve been obsessively thinking about Emily’s talk, and my own priority list, all weekend, and about how maybe that’s what’s really missing from my life at the moment.

Maybe I’m lost because I’m not living in honor of my priorities. Maybe I feel like I can’t make a decision about my future because I haven’t taken the time to ask myself what’s really important and to let those things guide me. Maybe I’m unhappy because I’m trying to make other people’s expectations and values my own.

So, I came up with my own 5-item priority list. I asked myself what is really, truly most important to me – things, goals, people – and challenged myself to question whether each item is something I value or something I think I’m supposed to value, something that might be a goal or a priority to someone else but not necessarily to me. I cautioned myself to not worry about judgment, to not worry about what other people will think when they see that I don’t prioritize the same things they do, or the things they expect me to. And here’s what I came up with:

  • Family. My mom and dad, my siblings and niece- or nephew- to-be. My grandparents. My friends who are close enough to be family.
  • Writing.
  • Place. Living in a place where I’m surrounded by natural beauty and where I feel like I belong.
  • Health. Physical and mental health. Fitness. Feeling whole and well. Faith. Spiritual wellbeing. Gratitude.
  • Balance. Between work and life. Between time with friends & family and time alone.

I think it’s important to note that these items are listed in no particular order, they are, together, the list of my top 5 priorities, each one is as important as the other. And I recognize this list may change in a few years, or even a few months.

This year I’m going to strive to live a life that first and foremost honors the items on this list. I will let them guide my decisions and actions, big and small, and I believe that doing so will help me find my way.

If you’re feeling as lost as I have been feeling, I encourage you to do the same.


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