Do you define yourself by achievements?
Do you speak of activities to define your success?
Is your pride in the things you have acquired?
Or is your story of awakenings and internal evolution?
I believe that how we tell our story is important – the words matter. The truth of this hit me one time when I was being introduced to a group of people that I did not know. I was visiting a friend, in a foreign country. I would probably never meet any of these people again, so really our interaction would be limited to a passing occasion at a random drinks party. My friend introduced me as Christine, her friend from New Zealand. If she had stopped there, I would have been happy. If someone was curious to know more, they would ask. Enough.
But my darling friend is a networker and for her, joining dots and making connections is important. So, she regaled these poor people with factual snippets of what I had done – degree, where, how, job etc. It felt a bit like providing my name rank and serial number to position my suitability. I felt so embarrassed and awkward.
We spoke about it afterwards, when I explained my discomfort. In many respects we had experienced a cultural difference, but in truth I realised that the things I value about my life journey are not the facts about my activities, but rather the story of my awakenings and soul growth. For me, the facts are just what I have done, they are not who I am.
Recently I was asked to write a bio about myself. I thought that I would share it. This is how I describe my story. A mixture of what I have done, how I have awakened and grown – how I see myself.
Who am I? I’m a kiwi, raised in a small town, one of six kids. I’m the number two child, the one who can be a bit stroppy and struggles with rules and being told what to do. As a teenager I decided to study engineering, I wanted to do something different and engineering meant I’d have to move to a big town. In a way, engineering held an allure of freedom, not necessarily the smartest reason to choose the degree! But I made it through, just, but it was a slog, my heart wasn’t in it and most days were joyless. I figured the best thing would be to just put my head down, get my degree and then I could go find freedom. It never occurred to me that freedom was in my attitude.
Nowhere during that time did I stop to think that perhaps I should find the thing I loved to do. Rather my mindset and attitude were focussed on get the ‘good’ degree, take a safe option, think about the future security of a profession. Let go of dreams. Don’t be frivolous.
Six weeks after I had the last exam behind me, I was off! Europe here I come. I travelled. Russia, North Africa, Greece, Morocco, Spain, England, Italy and of course France. That engineering degree came in useful and gave me the means to explore, I was happy, when I was travelling and existing when I was working. I still didn’t connect passion, to dreams, to joy, and to daily happiness. I guess I wasn’t ready to.
When I returned to New Zealand after four years away, I realised something had to give, somewhere during my travels I became hungry. My ego kicked in and I realised that if I wanted to continue travelling and living periods of joy, I needed to up my game. There was a scholarship being offered, but you had to study something unusual. I proposed to study airport design (in 1994 that seemed an innovative choice), won the scholarship and set off to the USA for a year of study. What a difference passion makes! Suddenly, there was me a straight A (4.0) master’s student completing a 2-year degree in 12 months. Who was this person? Talk about girl on fire! Passion fuelled every day. Extra short courses were done, and I even found time for a trip to Paris. I lived each day to the fullest. I was happy. Not because I was distracting myself with numerous travel adventures, but because right here, right now I was fully present and living a dream based on passion, purpose, place and people. I had a voice. I felt good about myself. I was fuelled with an A1 Attitude for life. I was energised. Happy.
Returning to New Zealand once more, it was time to crack on with adult life. Passion and purpose fuelled my days and my career grew, but somewhere in amongst it all and over the course of a dozen years I lost sight of the importance of being in a place that enabled my soul to breathe and surrounded by people who valued my voice and supported my dreams. Then tragedy struck. Sudden death. It sucks your breath away, shatters your illusions and leaves you wondering what’s it all about. Life’s cataclysmic events can force re-evaluation – bizarrely I believe that is a good thing.
I remembered one life. I remembered a long, forgotten dream to live in Paris. I decided – NOW. I figured I didn’t want to wallow in a lonely village, so decided to challenge myself and apply to study photography at Spéos, The Institute of Photography in Paris! Eeeeek what was I thinking. I had never held an SLR camera. I had no idea about shutter speed or aperture. I figured I would learn. How hard could it be? Got to love the naivety of ignorance!
Courage was garnered. Application was sent and accepted. House was sold. Job was exited. Apartment was found. Ticket was purchased. One life – take a leap, what’s the worst that could happen – I’d get another job. Paris awaited.
Paris – she taught me patience. She was gentle and showed me how to soften. I began the year defensive, fearful of people, sad and lonely. I ended my year compassionate, patient, empowered and reflective. The biggest thing I learnt from Paris is that I get to choose my attitude and how I want to live my life. I can choose to suffer, or I can choose to live with joy. I choose courage as my daily path to joy.
It’s been ten years since my Paris revolution. During that time my camera has turned to focus on capturing portraits of people, be it the citizens of Paris, or Soul Beauty images (www.christinespringphotography.com). I’ve embraced the beauty of words and written “Liberating Self – A Soul’s Journey” – a book about the journey to balance ego and soul. I’ve won photography competitions with my images and I’ve found great joy and balance with a new approach to my corporate career. I’ve focussed on balance, making dreams come true (for me and those I love and care for) and working to live daily with joy in my life. I’m happy.
It doesn’t mean life is perfect. It doesn’t mean I don’t have frustrations, or periods of getting down – I do. But Paris taught me resilience and mechanisms to work my way out of darkness – Paris showed me how to keep looking towards the light and holding hope in my heart. When I am struggling Paris reminds me to stand tall and commit to my truth – that City has been a beacon of light and hope for millennia – when all else is imploding in my life I look at an image of the Eiffel Tower and I remember to hold on, believe and breathe.
I don’t have to walk the streets of Paris to remember to focus on the lessons I have learnt. But, just to make sure I never forgot, I decided to capture them in my book “Passion & Paris – A Soul’s Prerogative”.
So that’s my story. What’s yours?
Passion and Paris – A Soul’s Prerogative, explores the evolution of the soul’s courage that is often needed to embrace passion, purpose, place and people and live a life true to self.
To be further inspired, download the entire E-book from my store www.passionandparis.com
Thanks for being curious to connect and be inspired.