The Secret Is Out
“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” - Norman Cousins
For a long time I lived with a secret.
There was something that everyone else considered a normal part of life, but each time it happened I felt a piece of me was being carved away.
I wanted to open up to other people about my secret. Maybe there were other people who felt the same.
So I tested the waters. I mentioned it a handful of times over many years, only to be met with:
“Really? I don’t think so at all.”
“It’s not so bad.”
“Look at the bigger picture, it’s worth it.”
“Oh stop complaining.”
“Come on, toughen up.”
These responses made me feel my secret was petty, narrow-minded, and perhaps even selfish.
This was something everyone experienced - what gives me the right to say anything against it? Who was I to want something different?
I’d love to say that when I read the quote at the top of this post, I had my enlightenment.
That I instantly decided to no longer be afraid, told everyone about my secret, and from that day forward I had a new perspective on life.
But that didn’t happen.
Without a near-death experience it feels rare that our decisions in life are ever that abrupt.
Usually, when inspiration happens a flame inside you is lit. Then you start to plan, the flame grows, and eventually decisions are made, then after a sequence of decisions you reach a point where you can look back and see the how and why you chose that path and what the outcome was.
We’re all guided by something. It’s what gets us out of bed and determines our choices each day. It can be a specific purpose, or it may be obligation, fear, joy, desire, responsibility, love, hate, power, or an infinite amount of other reasons.
For me, it’s wanting to make the most of life. Knowing our time is limited, how can I not take advantage of every moment?
I hate winter.
And I grew up in Chicago where winter lasts almost 6 months of every year.
That’s my secret.
Winter ruins me. I feel cold, damp, downtrodden, restricted, and completely different.
So much about who I am, what I love, and what inspires me, is affected by winter: being active, being outdoors, walking everywhere, feeling comfortable outside, dressing freely, feeling the sun on my skin, and being able to go without hindrance.
These things are what allow me to be the best version of myself, and I understand that everyone has their own unique mix of what allows them to thrive.
Looking back, it’s no wonder I received a defensive response from other Chicagoans when I said I hated winter.
It was a loud, subjective statement about a part of their lives that I didn’t enjoy - who wouldn’t take offense to that?
In order to be open about my secret, I needed to rephrase it.
For me, winter is restrictive and doesn’t allow me to be the best version of myself.
This time around, the responses were unguarded and empathetic:
“Oh, I didn’t know that. Thanks for telling me.”
“It’s great that you’re aware of what doesn’t work for you.”
“So what are your next steps? How can I help?”
There were responses I wish I heard years earlier:
“Oh yeah, I’ve always envisioned you living on a beach somewhere. I’m surprised you haven't’ done it already.”
And ones I didn’t expect:
“I’ve been feeling the same way actually, I’m so glad you mentioned it.”
I had been freed of my guilt, but I didn’t need to be pardoned by anyone for having these feelings.
Rephrasing what was not working for me, in a way that I could then lay it side-by-side with what guides me, made my next steps crystal clear.
Not Working: Winter is restrictive and doesn’t allow me to be the best version of myself.
What Guides Me: I want to make the most of life. I know our time is limited, and I want to take advantage of every moment by being out in the world, exploring, trying new things, learning, and feeling that I’m in an environment that suits my unique mix of me.
Chicago had everything I wanted in a city and we could have easily lived there forever. But there was 1 thing that didn’t work for me, winter, and that 1 thing had a huge impact on my life. The weather didn’t allow me to do the things I loved.
Now, we’ve moved to Miami because it allows us to thrive based on who we are and what we are drawn to.
The sun and its warmth invigorates me, and seeing the ocean every morning inspires me.
For me, this is my element.
What’s yours? And how can you get there?