The Ego Has Landed – And The Eagle Has Taken Off
What animal are you? It’s one of those questions you often get asked as a child or in those ‘let’s get to know each other’ cringeworthy team building sessions. And it’s one I’ve never had trouble answering. I’m a chameleon. Yes, an old-world lizard, with a highly developed ability to adapt to its environment. (I hope it goes without saying, that I don’t have a ridiculously long tongue, or possess the ability to change colour!)
I see myself as a chameleon because of my survival instinct, my ability to adapt to any situation.
At boarding school, I was desperate to fit in – and so I did, compromising myself in the process. The same was true of my early working life – wearing a suit and tie, going to the office drinks party when I’d rather be somewhere else, saying what I thought I should say, even thinking what I’d been trained to think.
In my early life, I compromised my identity in a bid to be successful and in doing so, little by little, I lost pieces of me. You see the early part of life is all about the struggle to achieve; to fit in, be liked, climb the ladder, and shower yourself with glory and accolades. To do this, I believed, I had to conform.
Now, I’m older and wiser I can see the error of my ways. I realise I’m mortal and that life is way too short. And so, I’m no longer ashamed to be unapologetically me. Who cares what people think? Right?
My recent trip to the Modern Elder Academy in Baja, Mexico, reinforced this.
The school is the brainchild of Chip Conley and is dedicated to helping people, from all walks of life, navigate midlife and beyond. I enrolled on ‘Leading from your Essence,’ a course run by Chip and Vanessa Inn, and it was (excuse my French) f**king brilliant! (See, I would never ever have used language like that in my past life for fear of upsetting people!)
On the course we were encouraged to say to ourselves, and I quote, “I promise to be unapologetically who I am.” No masks, no disguises, no pretence. We were told to speak freely and to speak our minds. And that is what I did. It was wonderful. I felt liberated, honest, genuine, and open, and most importantly, totally, and utterly ‘me’.
The eagle takes flight
You may be wondering where the eagle comes in…
One evening on the course we were enjoying a Mexican fiesta, with a tequila bar, and beautiful music. One of the waiters, Gio, was playing a guitar and singing Mexican lullabies, and all twenty-two of us were watching him intently, taking in his gorgeous sound as it battled against the roaring of the Pacific waves crashing behind him.
I suddenly felt the urge to dance to this music and whilst in a previous life I would have suppressed this for fear of what other people would think of me, no longer!
Three shots of tequila and the fearful voice inside me was silenced. I stood up and took to the ‘stage’. People looked at me, but I didn’t care.
Without saying a word, I started to move my body and just let it do ‘its thing’. I listened to the beat of the music and followed it. My right hand started flapping, then my arm. Then the other hand started flapping and then the arm. My mind and body were in sync. Without any need for control, I felt free to move with the rhythm of the music. My heart, rather than my head took over, helping me to forget about the shoulder and back pain I’d endured for many weeks before.
I don’t know where my eagle dance came from, but I now treasure it as one of those memorable moments of my life. I felt free, majestic, and at peace with who I was and who I have now become.
I’m not sure how long I was up there, but by the end I was laughing so much my sides hurt. My audience too was in hysterics – not laughing at me, but with me. It gave me so much joy.
On that beach, being a people pleaser took on a whole new meaning. And that evening, I decided to shed my chameleon persona once and for all. I realised I no longer needed to adapt to the people and places around me. I just needed to be unapologetically me.
Books by George Jerjian
- Three fundamental ways our lives change in retirement - October 14, 2019
- A retirement that’s more like winning a lottery?Three ways to help make that happen - September 16, 2019
- My American dream - September 15, 2019