I’ve always made lists. I have notebooks everywhere and I still find notes in my apartment detailing what I wanted for my 5th birthday. Even though I want to, I really don’t have the time to read them all and laugh at my spelling mistakes before throwing them out.
I recently did an enormous winter spring cleaning, and every time I had to throw something out using the logic that “I haven’t read (or used) this in years–I’ll survive,” I would cringe. What if that piece of paper inspired a short story or comedy sketch? A song? What if I’ve forgotten to write back to my friend overseas 3 years ago and that paper reminded me to apologize?
In my quest to realize my passion, I find my compulsive scribbling, which hasn’t since subsided, both helpful and hindering. Lately, I not only find myself tempted to explore what I used to enjoy when I was younger (“I used to love basketball–maybe that’s in my future!”), but also what I haven’t even come close to trying (“I could become a skydiving instructor!”). And you can bet that this all ends up on paper and that I won’t find it again for 10 years, at which point I’ll throw it out because I’m 5’3″ and terrified of heights.
Writing down my thoughts is helpful because paper sort of serves as a pensieve (Harry Potter reference) for me. If it’s on paper, I don’t have to think about it all the time, but I can technically come back to it whenever I want.
However, writing it all down is hindering because if I don’t let go of those thoughts consciously, I subconsciously tell myself that I should come back to them later. Even though letting go of the ideas has lightened the load, the guilt that sets in from not following through with them weighs much more.
Sometimes you have to write things down, because some stuff sucks but needs to get done. For example, if I didn’t put reminders everywhere to do the laundry on laundry day, it simply wouldn’t get done. I value cleanliness, so wearing dirty clothes (for too long…) erodes my self-esteem. (N.B. No reminders needed for credit card payments. I’ve automated that shit. It’s amazing.)
If you’re a compulsive scribbler like I am and you find yourself overwhelmed by your own ideas, consider this: write them down, and then throw them out. If that scares you too much, try writing them down and tucking them away.
There are a few reasons I find this helpful.
Practically, it is impossible to follow through with everything. If someone knows how to become both a NASA researcher and a famous actress within the next ten years, talk to me, please. In the meantime, I’ll assume that it’s one or the other. I’m realizing, though, that I’ve never really had to choose my path. I’m following it, whether I like it or not. If I want something, I take it. If I want something but I fear it, one of two things happens. One: I face my fear and I take it. Two: I ignore my fear, convince myself I never really wanted it, and then I can’t stop thinking about it. The universe finds ways to nag me about what I truly want, whether I’ve told it to shut up or not.
Also, I find that in throwing away all of my ideas, I’m forced to trust my decisions, which means having to think about them thoroughly; a piece of paper isn’t there to tell me what I need to do–I need to dig deeper, and find inner validation for my next action. Either I find it, corresponding to a positive gut feeling, or I don’t, which corresponds to a negative gut feeling. If I don’t find this validation before beginning to take action, the negative emotions pop up later anyway and block me from achieving what I set out to do.
I also find that without my list-ly safety net, I begin to trust that I have an abundance of ideas, and an abundance mindset is always the way to go. I don’t need to “capture” every idea–I know I’ll always have more.
Finally, I’m on this “embracing your path and your wholeness” kick. It might have been this article by Jonathan Mead that got me thinking, but it might have been a different one. In any case, this one’s good. The idea is that there is nothing “out there” that you have to add to yourself to make you your best self; all you can do is realize who you already are, and expand. And whether you write it down or not, “who you are” will keep popping up.
I’ll be honest: I’m still getting used to this. I tend to write e-mails to myself (save the trees), and I put them all into a folder. Sometimes I leave one in my inbox because whenever I re-read it, it genuinely inspires me to take action.
But for the most part, it’s helped me immensely (as well as saved me so much time and confusion!) to listen to my heart and not my post-its.
Thank you for reading, everyone, and for your lovely comments!