Why is WHYLD important? From tragedy to purpose.
When I was 16 years old, a friend of mine committed suicide. This event altered the trajectory of my life, forever.
I have always been the people-pleaser kind. I work to become a better person each day, to be kind, respectful, reliable, doing good. Before my friend passed, I had been this adapted person, a “plain Jane”, doing everything that was expected of me, working my ass off to be an excellent student, a “good kid”, not knowing how to put pleasure before discipline.
My friend’s death taught me that none of this matters anymore when you doubt whether the realm of the living is still for you. At the end of your journey, no one will thank you for lending your body and soul to live their version of life, pleasing their expectations and perspective on what is good or bad, what can and what cannot be. No one will take responsibility when you are on the brink of fading out of this world, unhappy, dissatisfied with the life you have lived up until now.
In fact, it is no one else’s responsibility!
You are the one person who is 100% accountable for making yourself happy. This doesn’t mean that life won’t give you challenges you have no control over. It doesn’t mean that you won’t need or get to ask for other people’s help. It doesn’t mean you have failed as a person if you aren’t happy. It DOES mean that, ultimately, no one else has the power – and the privilege – to make your decisions, to choose which meaning you give life’s challenges and how you respond to them.
On the day after our friend’s suicide, we sat together in the school’s hallway, processing and grieving, in a sad, heavy silence. I will never forget what a classmate of mine said out of the blue:
“I thought I would be the first. I thought I would be the first to kill myself.”
She said it so matter-of-factly as if it was a normal thing. It should have been a bomb going off inside me. Instead, I got her. She, too, was a hard-working, excellent student, fitting society’s mould of “a good person”: one who focuses on what is expected of us and then marching along that path with blood, pride, and sacrifice.
She, too, changed my life. Through the dead and the living, I realized that I had a choice:
Either, I would continue on along my trajectory, trading my health and well-being for stress and anxiety, chasing a phantom of happiness, and potentially ending up burned out by age 25.
Or, I could radically stand up for who I was, what I needed, and what would be a happy, fulfilled life on my terms.
It was time to choose the latter!
A people-pleaser’s nightmare that has not become any less scary for me since.
I still firmly believe in obeying laws and adhering to rules that protect other people’s boundaries. I believe in kindness, and respect, and taking care of each other. But to hell with social conventions that do no good but butcher our options in life!
The truth is, there are more options available to you than you can imagine right now.
If you feel stuck now and do not see a way out of the current version of your life – trust there is more out there. There are people who have done it before you and who can open your eyes to what’s possible. We are 7.9 billion unique souls on this planet. We can choose prejudice and separation, or we can embrace our diversity and tap into this incredible source of experiences.
WHYLD is the place for you if you choose playful curiosity over “cannot”,
kindness and compassion over closing off,
and authenticity over fear.
WHYLDers aren’t fearless superhumans. Bold is not our middle name. On the contrary, we are people-pleasers, perfectionists, asking-for-permission-ers, imperfect seekers, anxious self-doubters. Authenticity doesn’t come easy for us as we are so used to being attuned to everyone else’s voice we can hardly hear ours.
But deep down we know there is more to us than we give ourselves permission to express. And that in celebrating and learning from each other, we’ll get there. Doing it scared, but doing it anyway.
Back to the meaning we give our challenges in life: I chose to make my friend’s death mean the greatest gift I would ever receive. I chose to honour his memory by taking good care of myself. I had failed him by noticing the little changes in him, prior to his suicide, but not taking any action. I chose not to let that happen to anyone else around me, ever again. I vowed to dedicate my life to lifting people up, helping them see their unique value, and championing them in their decisions for radical authenticity. Do I accomplish that in all of my daily interactions, all my relationships? Hell no! That doesn’t mean I don’t get to show up better next time.
That’s my WHY. What’s yours?
Find it and then give yourself permission to live your WILDEST authentic life.
We are here to champion you.
Tina & the WHYLD crew
photo: Tina Hewelt