We didn’t choose to be here. We opened our eyes one day and found a rule book written for us by our parents and the society around us. The rule book is a description of the path we’re meant to follow and the goals we are supposed to chase. In the beginning you don’t have much of a choice; your identity is defined by the world you are born into. For most of your childhood that identity will be protected by the very people who wrote your rule book. You only know what the world around you exposes you to. You’ll live safely under the roof they built until one day you’re kicked out to go build your own home. Your own life. You can keep the rule book to use as a blueprint, but from this point onwards your actions and their consequences belong to you and you only.
The day I was kicked out, my rule book looked a bit like this:
Go to University.
Get A Stable Job
Take A Loan; Buy A Car
Get A Baby
Take Another Loan; Get Your Masters
Get Another Baby
Take Another Loan; Buy A 1/4 Acre. It doesn’t matter where, just buy 1/4 acre.
Oops, There’s Another Baby
Ten years later, and I’ve only ticked one box on that list. It is the box that matters most to me. Somewhere along the way I realised that the rulebook wasn’t a perfect fit for the type of person I was becoming. It was a blueprint for someone else’s life. I was going to have to build my own.
I discovered two approaches for building my life. I could use the rulebook and copy paste what the world expects of me into my life story. Or I could finally leave the rulebook behind and design a new one for myself. For the person I continue to evolve into. It’s the difference between a builder and an architect. I chose to be an architect because no one, not even my 20 year old version, has any idea what it’s like to be me. I don’t even know what it will be like to be me 10 years from now. That’s the thing about being an architect, creating your blueprint is only the first step. In all honesty, it is a never-ending process of putting up and tearing down walls that no longer serve the purpose you have set for your life. In the home you eventually call your life, there are rooms that constantly reveal to you who you really are. They are the core personalities that explain how you came to be the person you are now.
I found my ego in one of these rooms. He is haunted by what others think of him. He lusts for attention and still wants to be defined by the things he achieved years go.
There was a room with my pleasures. These are the things I promised myself I would do when I got money, but as soon as I got money I didn’t have time for them because I was too busy chasing more money.
I walked into another room and found my logic. He is the guy who looks at my bank account and calculates how long I have before my landlord kicks me out.
The smallest room had my moral compass. He is the one who wants to make a change in the world but never seems to have time for it. He is surrounded by excuses.
In another room I found my passions. The 10-year-old me who wanted to be a lawyer, the 15-year-old me who wanted to be a journalist, the 19-year-old me who wanted to be a sports commentator, the 25-year-old me who wanted to make films and the 29-year-old me who rediscovered his love for writing. This is the most ignored room because life simply gets in the way.
All these rooms are just versions of who I am. They each have unfulfilled needs and compromised wants. My life is a continuous negotiation between all five of them. There isn’t a single decision that I’ve ever made which satisfied all of them at once. Trying to take control of your life is like being stuck at the crossroads of these 5 personalities. The only way to get out is to unpack how they each came to be. Somewhere deep within your subconscious, there is a trail of clues that lead you to understand how they were created.
Welcome to the basement.
It’s dark down here. It smells like fear and it’s crawling with anxiety. Here, the only way to turn on the light, is to ask deep seated questions about these core personalities. So I brought them down for a roundtable discussion. My ego, my pleasures, my logic, my moral compass and my passions. I wanted to get to understand the motivations behind each one of their wants and needs. This is when I discovered that the rulebook had never been left behind. It was hiding in the basement all along.
I asked my ego why it was important to win an Oscar and he told me it was because we needed to prove everyone wrong. Everyone who said I will never achieve anything if I don’t go to university.
I discovered that what my logic called financial security, was actually a mask hiding the fear of looking like a failure. In truth I needed much less money to be secure.
I learnt that my pleasures were mostly things that my parents couldn’t afford to buy me. When I could finally afford them, they never felt like they were mine because they belonged to an earlier version of me.
At their core, my dreams, hopes and fears were still referencing what the rulebook described as failure or success. This roundtable helped me unpack a lot of the baggage my personalities brought from a time when the rulebook was the only way I had of understanding the world. Even though I thought I got rid of it, a lot of who I am now is still rooted in the world I was born into. It’s not enough to just throw away the rulebook. You have to first understand the massive influence it has on who you are, even now. A real architect understands the meaning behind their foundation.
Once you understand what makes your core personalities tick, you learn how to prioritise each personality according to the different situations you find yourself in.
Right now it makes sense for me to be a filmmaker not because I need to prove anything to anyone, but because I want to use it as a tool for empowering the people around me. I mean those words and I do it every chance I get. My ego and my moral compass are both happy with that compromise.
I don’t have to drown in debt trying to buy things that I hope will make me happy. If I want something bad enough, I should be able to save for it and buy it in cash. That’s a deal that both my logic and my pleasures are willing to take.
I write because I can’t help it. I write despite myself. Right now it helps me contribute to the world around me. If 10 years from now I want to try being a DJ, my love for writing won’t stand in the way. My passions are growing to accept that there is room for everyone. It doesn’t have to be one at a time.
There’s some light beginning to breathe life back into my basement now. I am learning to make out shapes and figures from my past and deciding which ones get to stay. I’ve also noticed a small ventilation at the top, the air of uncertainty is finally finding a way out. Each time I make my way down there it gets less and less scarier. I’ll admit that interceding for these personalities can sometimes feel like reasoning with a bunch of toddlers. They disagree even when they want the same thing. Still, what I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that it’s a small price to pay for the life I want to create for myself.
It’s the difference between me being a builder and me being an architect.
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