Go with the flow has been a sort of unconscious life mantra of mine for a long time. I remember realizing in middle school that I was holding myself back by being too anxious and self-conscious, and I needed to change. I had been starting to notice the qualities that stood out in the people I really enjoyed spending time with vs. a person who I didn’t get along with. I’m not sure people-pleaser is quite the right word, but I’m definitely the kind of person who likes to get along with everyone, so in the rare occasion where I find someone I don’t particularly like, I try to understand why.
In this case, I found that the qualities I especially admire are a certain lack of self-consciousness and a more free-spirited, spontaneous, and up-for-anything attitude. The person who just enjoys having fun without caring about how they appear. Self-awareness is good, but self-consciousness can be a real buzzkill, for the self-conscious person and the people around them. Before, I was hyper-conscious of wearing the right thing, doing the right thing, saying the right thing. Now, I’m still a thoughtful person, but not worried about being impossibly perfect all the time. It’s human to make mistakes and look silly sometimes and it’s healthy to not be so afraid of it.
It’s been a decade since my middle-school days and I’ve come a loooong way, but it’s taken that long for this mindset to become second nature and I still sometimes have to remind myself not to try to control everything. In the early days of implementing this, when I was just a few months into high school, I was blindsided by a falling out with my previously lifelong best friends. It was a conflict of these very insecurities, where suddenly my friends wanted to branch out to new friends and climb the social ladder a bit, and I was too shy and complacent in what was familiar for their ambitions. I had been a much more outgoing kid than I was as a teen, and this was my wake-up call that that shift had been noted by others. In a matter of weeks I had confronted the conflict, officially took my leave from that friend group, switched lunch tables and subsequently felt very lost for a long time.
It was a classic high school scenario that I never expected would happen to me, but looking back it was the perfect catalyst to force me to take the leap for this self-improvement goal I had quietly set. I wanted to be more outgoing and better at making new friends, but I couldn’t get there using extroverted old friends as a crutch. There are no hard feelings, especially because being more or less forced out of my old comfortable habits allowed me to fully become my own person and grow independently. In the process, another old classmate of mine who had done her own share of independent growth became a true best friend once we realized how much we had in common, and is the one friend from high school that I still communicate with daily.
This was the first major lesson in my life that what may feel at the time like a door slamming in your face, leaving you in a dark and stuffy room, might actually be a door slamming behind you, forcing you outside into the light and fresh air. It just takes time for you to really open your eyes and look around. So, when I was trying to think of an encouraging quote to paint for that previously mentioned best friend for a college graduation gift, I ultimately remembered that simple old affirmation that made all the difference in my life. It’s also appropriate because we have an inside-joke sort of thing that she is a mermaid, so “go with the flow” is the perfect mermaid-associated advice. I happened to need to harness that advice during the making of the painting as well, because I actually painted something else originally that I just really didn’t like! Haha. See, it’s okay to make mistakes or do things you’re not happy with, just paint over it. 😉 That applies to art and life, of course.
Now, I think I’m in a place in life where I could comfortably call all my friends mermaids– they are all deep-divers in this often-shallow world. I find that all the people I spend time with nowadays really share some important values of being empathetic, compassionate, smart, resilient, and not complacent. They all work hard to improve themselves, achieve goals, find their purpose, go with the flow, and make whatever large or small positive impact they can manage in their lifetime. And having friends of all ages and backgrounds and perspectives with these few significant core values adds so much depth to my life. Isn’t it lovely to have friends that are mermaids?
I’ll leave you with this quote that I firmly believe in…
“There are no chance meetings: either God sends us the person we need, or we are sent to someone by God, unbeknownst by us.” – Fr. Alexander Elchaninov