True North is difficult for me because I made a conscious choice to operate without a navigation system when I was about 19. Before then, I was under a great deal of pressure to “plan my life.” My parents informed me I needed to pick a major, stick with it, stay at the same college if I could, should take no breaks from school ever … you get the idea.
My parents were setting me up to fail. They were using their map, one that went obsolete in 1969. When I pointed out that they had an obsolete map I got a lot of abuse and denial heaped on me. It was my mother’s “advice” that got me to pick the wrong school in the first place. She thought I’d “be able to study there, with few distractions.” Looking back I realize that she was insulting my work ethic and slut shaming me simultaneously. This conception of me was so outer-space and inaccurate that it took me years to process that that’s what she was doing.
Throwing away the navigation system completely was the only way to banish her influence.
My life – my happiness – improved almost immediately. The only true north my mother wanted me to have was her.
That’s not true north. That’s letting a narcissist ruin and run my life.
I knew for sure that leaving my family made my life better. It wasn’t total direction, but it was a start. Without the map, I still worked plenty hard. I still wound up on the dean’s list every semester. I still found a job even in economies with no jobs available.
But making that choice to abandon the map has had its problems. In graduate school I was hopelessly out of the loop on most of the reading. I had done undergrad in journalism. The MFA in writing was lit focused and most of my class had voraciously read all that stuff that just kind of bored me. I’ve missed so many opportunities as a writer I try not to think of them. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I’d just stuck out that Wal-mart job or applied for that program in Dubai my life would now have a grander, more interesting dimension to it.
The other part of this is that in writing, your True North shifts. I have already been published. I will have three books out by 2015. So what next? Those were my major, elusive goals.
Perhaps I’ll try writing fiction, going down the tougher road of getting that published. Mostly I want to gather up my wounds and get them healed and then look for direction from there.
All I know for sure is that I want to live a life I truly enjoy.