You Don't Have To Explain Yourself

Freeing yourself from conventional expectations.

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I've spent nearly the last calendar year working tirelessly to gain a sense of clarity on what it means to be me in this world. Where my strengths come from. Why they don’t fulfill me. What’s beneath it all. And how I can make room for more happiness to ensue.

I’ve gained a tremendous level of insight. More in the past year than the previous decade combined — during which I read hundreds of books, listened to thousands of audiotapes, and consulted what I perceived to be some of the greatest minds I could verbally get in contact with. Lots of knowledge and accomplishments in those ten years, but satisfaction eluded me.

This isn’t a knock against reading, audiobooks, mentors, or anything else in the realm of traditional self-education. But through all the trials and tribulations, discomfort and heartache, I gathered a very valuable lesson that eventually freed me from what I felt I should be doing.

Your life is art, not a science.

Now, at first glance, it seems like another cute little cliche. But if you really think about it, there’s a message hidden underneath that may bring much of the calamity in your life to a place far more serene.

Imagine you’re attending an art show as a general spectator. You peruse through the gallery and find a few that catch your eye. You may even consult with an artist or two on what their vision was while constructing their masterpiece.

Unless you’re an expert, it’s often difficult to make sense of what you’re looking at. Sometimes you may think you know what the artist’s intentions were, but the true meaning ends up being something else entirely. Art isn’t held to a rigid set of laws — that’s why it’s art. It’s not easily digested. It requires a dense degree of thought, as a painting itself can hardly ever tell the entire story.

An artist can focus on fully expressing themselves through their work or making their meaning clear to the eye of the beholder — rarely does both simultaneously occur.

Sometimes — rather than struggling to make sure the vision is carefully explained — it’s best to simply let the person’s mind wander.

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If you excuse my out-of-turn speaking and probable inadvertent minimization of the timeless field known as art, you get what I’m saying. This is your life. Yes, certain things can be held to account in the ways science breaks things down to the minutia, but ultimately, you’re on an untraveled road. People have come before you, navigating their own roads, but no one has ever ventured down yours.

Because of this, things don’t always make sense the way you want them to — and therefore make it increasingly difficult to communicate to others what exactly you’re doing with your life. Sure, set some goals and roll up your sleeves, but be conscious about holding all the happenings in your life to a rigid set of laws. People will ask you what you’re up to and where you’re headed much like the spectator will ask the artist what his intentions were with his masterpiece. Don’t feel obligated to provide a traditional, run-of-the-mill answer to something as complex and indistinguishable as a work of art.

Adopting this mindset works in your favor in two ways:

  • You get free from having to explain yourself to others, knowing that art can only be described to the level of which the other party is willing to look beyond. And even then, there’s still some injustice done to the masterpiece by even attempting to make sense of it.
  • You get free from having to explain yourself to yourself, knowing that art is art for a reason. It’s okay to not know what the hell it’s going to be until you actually paint the damn thing.

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If you’ve ever engaged in creating a work of art — whether it be a painting, an essay, a musical piece, or something else entirely — I doubt you could put the feeling you had while you were creating it into words (if it was written, then I’m referring to the feelings behind the words). If you truly poured your entire self into its production, it’s highly unlikely you’d even want to try to tell someone what you were going through while making it.

The maelstrom of emotions that erupted within you. The rollercoaster of venturing from your past to the present. Everything that went into it was extracted from your innermost essence — something imperceptible to anyone but you.

We want to feel like we’re not so mortal — if for no other reason that to subside our fear of death — and the soul is one of those areas that’s truly limitless. So channel it.

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Your life is a work of art. You don’t have to explain it to anyone — not even yourself. If you’re proud of it, by all means, share. But if you’re still kicking the tires, don’t feel like you have to fake it. I’m proud to say I have no idea what my life will look like in the next five years, nor am I locked in on a singular deliverable. Does that scare the hell out of me? You bet your ass. Does it make me any less excited? Not even an ounce.

Your life is worth far more than simply a distinction of how much money you make, what type of work you do, or whether or not you have a significant other. These are simply the boxes that all of us use to make basic sense of something we couldn’t possibly understand the depth of: another person’s essence.

Share as much as you authentically can with the people who will listen — essentially those that will willingly suspend their judgment or disbelief to really hear you out. It will bring you closer in an increasingly lonely world. But never feel like you have to be ashamed when you don’t have a “good” answer to the overtly general question of “What do you do?”

Whereof one cannot speak, there must be silence.

Do you, and focus on creating your masterpiece.

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