I believe that each of us is born into this world knowing who we are and what we long to experience in the world. We each have a little drum Dance to the Beat of Your Own Drumbeating in our souls, meant to guide us towards the most nourishing path for our lives.

Of course, we do our best to mute the sounds of the drum. Not as a conscious decision to ignore our music. We want to fit in. We want to be loved and accepted. In order to achieve this, we begin to tune out the drum, put on the masks of conformity, and amble along the paths presented before us.

If we’re fortunate, life’s circumstances will help us shift the patterns we’ve followed.

For me, one of those big shifts occurred between the years of 2005 and 2010, lovingly called “My Gypsy Years.” I was a Road Warrior Princess for those five years. I spent at least 150 (or more) days each of those years living out of suitcases and seeking the comfort of a serene hotel room.

I was grateful for the work that took me to cities like Tulsa, Kansas City, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Joplin, Baltimore, and of course, DC. I spent at least a week a month in DC and, to my heart, it was home.

Once I laid eyes upon the Washington Monument on each trip, my soul was soothed and my anxieties would begin to melt away.

Now that I’m several years removed from that period of my life, I can look back and see that it wasn’t that my anxieties were really melting away, it’s that the walls I had build around my tender soul were dissolving.

For the first time in my life, I was traveling alone and though I spent time with folks at work, I wasn’t living the way others (aka family, friends, and acquaintances) believed I should be living. You see, people in our lives will insist upon only seeing us one way.

People will insist that we live a life that looks like theirs. One that is normal by their definition.

Being away didn’t insulate me from the criticism of living life on my terms.

My mother regularly told me what a terrible person I was for always traveling. I had a vacation planned, and she told me how crazy it was that I would want to get on another plane and go to the Caribbean for a long weekend when I had just spent the last month traveling between Tulsa and DC. Any time family drama would surface, my sister would say “OH, I guess you are gallivanting around DC. As usual.” Even my doctor got in a judgmental jab one day, telling me that my lifestyle was frankly crazy.

When I got tired of the criticism, I isolated myself. Though it wasn’t the best way to deal, it isolated my heart from the constant barrage of judgment.

I began to learn that when you dance to the beat of your own drum, it will draw criticism and invite people to judge you. Not because you are doing anything wrong, darling, but because you aren’t living by their standards.

The person that I was born to be, but had encased was emerging. I’d say that the people who interacted with me in DC got to know the real me long before anyone in Texas. But then, I’d head back “home” and put the walls back up and “be” the person folks expected. Well, most of the time.

You see, you never can quite put things back in the box the way they were now, can you?

I had finally gotten a glimpse of who I really was. And though I was skilled at putting on masks and pretending to fit in, the constant construction and deconstruction was exhausting. Besides. I liked the real me so much better than the one that was hiding for all those years.

I also learned that the people who want to mute your drum, the people who question your choices, and make you question yourself, they’re the ones sitting on the sidelines of your life, not living it. In most cases, many of them gain pleasure telling you how to live because they’re too afraid to live themselves.

Why share this tale of my Gypsy Years? Because I don’t want you to be shocked when someone you love isn’t happy with the changes you create in your life. I share this story with you so that when you begin to follow your own music back to your soul’s path, you aren’t blindsided when someone you love criticizes you.

It was during those Gypsy Years that I began to unleash the shiniest version of myself. And it shocked the hell out of me that the people I loved most in the world didn’t seem to like who I was becoming. People will tell you that they want what’s best for you. You will be told that they just want you to be happy. Yet, in the next breath they may say judgmental or critical things to you that may cause you to question yourself. Frankly, you will piss people off.

It’s not about you, darling. Truly.  Just understand that the shadow side of following your desires is that you will lose friendships and some familial relationships may feel strained.

I can’t promise you that it will always be easy, but it will feel right within  your heart. Creating a life you love is totally worth it. Because you, darling, are worth it.

Life is a complex dance. In order to be happy and feel nourished by our lives, we have to make peace with the reality that we are surrounded by armchair critics who will try to direct our choreography and score our moves.

Ultimately, it is up to us to ignore them. We must find our own songs, bang our own drums, and dance to the beat of the music that comes from our own souls.

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Debra is a life coach, writer, and tarnished southern belle. She resides in Dayton, OH.