Living from the Heart
Trusting our intuition, following our heart and bringing back the feminine in all of us.
What should I do with my life?
This is the question that plagues high school students and university graduates alike. If you are anything like me, you went to the careers fairs, to the career advice centre, you asked your mum, your dad, your grandma. But answers do not come easy.
The nagging question remains. What should I do?
In my case, come my final year at school when we had to decide what we would take for our A-levels (the qualifications that we study for from the ages of 16-18 for those non-Brits among you), I was already dropping the subjects that (supposedly) wouldn’t get me anywhere careers-wise. Whilst I did choose subjects I enjoyed, anything that didn’t fit in with what I thought where those serious and valuable academic subjects fell down by the waist side.
That meant that like so many other youngsters, by 16 I was already cutting out anything creative- e.g art and design, theatre studies, English literature-they all disappeared.
Forget studying something just because you like it! You need to be thinking about your future career and study something useful. You might enjoy drawing but what how far will that get you?
Not that this is bad advice. But it isn’t very inspiring, is it? It doesn´t make you think ‘Wow, I´m so excited about growing up, maturing and exploring’. More like ‘prepare yourself for the doom and gloom of adult life’.
For me, this thinking led me on to doing a psychology degree. A subject that I wanted to study, but at the time I was also really enjoying sociology and was good at it.
But following the conventional logic, I took psychology because really, ‘what can you do with a sociology degree?’. Psychology seemed like the most career-oriented option and fitted nicely with what I felt like I wanted to do with my life, which at that time was a vague feeling of ‘I want to help people’. Plus, I liked talking about peoples lives so admittedly, it seemed like a good fit.
This was a time in my life where I had a very practical and logical approach to life. I was following The Map of Life that seemed to be good and true. I chose my university based on the league tables and so ended up at Newcastle University, which fitted my brief of going to a big new city away from home that was within the top 10 for psychology.
Ignoring any signs from my intuition that this may not have been the best choice for me, I went ahead and for the next three years, I lived and studied there.
However, despite outward appearences, this is where life seemed to awry.
‘University is the best years of your life‘
My 3 years at university did not live up to the idea of ‘The University Dream’ that I had been sold. I wasn’t being inspired by my course. As much as it was interesting and there were some subjects that I really did enjoy, overall it just wasn’t doing it for me. I got landed with some difficult flatmates and found it hard to meet people who I felt like I clicked with.
I had a vague feeling of something not being right but I just got on with it, because The Map Of Life said that this was the way and I didn’t doubt it’s validity. In fact, I already had my life mapped out based on its directions. It went like this:
- Complete my degree with at least a 2:1.
- Do a masters degree.
- Spend the next x number of years getting work experience in whatever way I can in mental health, slowing working my way up to assistant psychologist.
- After getting a tonne of experience, try to get on the very competitive doctorate course to finally become a clinical psychologist.
- Enjoy life being a highly esteemed professional.
- Earn good money, make a difference to society.
- Have a successful life (marriage, kids, a house etc).
And just like that, the next 10-20 years of my life had been mapped out!
Forget adventure, forget the mystery of not knowing, forget any room for manoeuvre. This was the way to live your life and everything that I had learnt thus far told me that.
Needless to say, life this was not a particularly happy time of my life, looking back. Back then though, I didn’t realise that. I thought that I was on the right track- there was simply no doubt in my mind.
So I just got on with it, did all those things that they said I should do at university, tried best to make the most of it. But I became insecure and anxious and I had a constant feeling that I was missing out on something. The party always seemed to be somewhere else.
By the time I graduated I felt very low in myself. I wasn’t outwardly sad and or depressed, but I felt like I had no self-confidence anymore, I didn’t believe in myself. I had lost my sense of personal power.
What had gone wrong? University was meant to be the best time of your life! I was supposed to have made a load of new best friends, met my future husband, and graduate with a shiny degree in my hand and lots of ambition to join the world of work.
Back to Bolton
And there I was being picked up by my Dad and leaving the place where I had spent the last 3 years of life without so much as a backwards glance. I was en-route back to Bolton with no job and no direction.
I remember waiting outside the university library to open one morning amongst a big gaggle of students close to final exam time. Whilst we were all there jostling to get in (not so much unlike my metro journey to work now!), I remember that one girl commented to her friend, ‘Can you imagine doing all this when you don’t even have a job to go to after you graduate?’.
And I thought ‘shit, that´s me!’.
Needless to say, that was a particularly depressing morning in the library!
Now, this makes me chuckle to myself, but at the time it just confirmed my suspicion that I was definitely not following the Map of Life as I should be and that everyone was destined to be rich and successful and it increasingly seemed that I wasn´t.
10 years on, I can see that from the word go, my university career was destined to be an unsatisfying experience.
In my heart, I had wanted to go to Manchester University. My heart sang when I went to visit the student residence there and when I saw the lights of The Curry Mile and the cultural diversity of the city.
In the end, I decided that it was just too close to home but I didn’t dare go South (I was far too much of a loyal Northerner for that!) and Newcastle University marketed itself as being very cosmopolitan. Liverpool would have been my best bet but it didn’t feature in the top ten of the league tables for psychology and therefore it didn´t even get a look in.
In comparison to how I felt about Manchester when I went to visit, when I went to Newcastle I had no heart-singing sensation, no feeling of ‘yes yes yes! This is where I want to be!’. It was all red brick and traditional architecture and quite frankly it left me completely uninspired.
But it logically made sense. And we all know that logical equals good.
Logical equals safe.
Logical equals intelligent.
Therefore, the logical decision is always the best one, right?
Now when I look back, I can see that those beautiful feelings that I had experienced when I visited Manchester Uni, were those of my heart speaking to me, my intuition, my inner guide showing me the way. Equally, the stone-cold, uninspired feeling that I felt when I visited Newcastle was the sign that that was not the place for me.
Unfortunately, I didn’t know that at the time. No one had told me about intuition. My culture did not value intuition and would scoff at such a thing. Maybe one could say ‘I have a gut feeling’ but ultimately, rationality was the order to the day.
The rise of the feminine
Rational, objective, and logical. These are the celebrated values of Western culture and are woven into our education and conditioning from the word go. Masculine in nature, they are part of the parcel of the patriarchal culture of which we are part.
Now don’t get me wrong, these are not inherently bad qualities. Of course, we need this kind of analytical thinking- it has an important part to play in human life and society.
However, it is time that we also brought in the feminine.
In these testing times of an unbalanced world, the feminine in all of us needs to raise her head. I’m talking about intuition, of observing our feelings and seeing what they are trying to tell us, of listening to our heart.
Maybe this requires trust and surrender (more feminine in nature).
But it also goes hand in hand with courage and bravery (more associated with the masculine).
And just like that, we see how the two balance each other: the softness of trust and surrender are balanced by the toughness of courage and bravery.
In order to live from the heart, we need the humility to follow what it is trying to tell us but also the strength to follow it’s directions and face what needs to be faced.
If I had had more trust in myself back when I was 18 I sure as hell wouldn’t have made the choices that I did. It would have been a totally different experience.
If I had had more trust in life and in my heart, I would have followed the feelings of inspiration wherever they led me- probably to a different university all together or maybe not even to a university at all!
That is as long as I had the courage to follow my heart though, which maybe would have been tough since it might have meant leaving the familiar path and ditching the map altogether!
However, I don´t believe in what-ifs.
What’s done is done, what is important is that we learn from all our experiences and use put it into practice going forward. From this point of view, nothing is bad, everything is an opportunity for growth and where there is growth there is joy.
I have compassion for my younger self- she didn’t know any better. What 18 year old does? And if anything, I learnt at a young age that The Road Map of Life is a faulty one and should be followed with caution!
It is most often the tough times that prove to be the greatest teachers so I am so grateful for having walked that dark path away from my authentic self. It has shown me how it looks and feels to be on a path that is not your own and now I know how to spot the signs more quickly.
So, to return the original question:
What should you do with your life?
Ditch the map and let your heart guide the way.
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