I’m sat at my desk, swiveling on my office chair, looking out the window and back to my desk. And again. I’ve started to sweat and my breathing is becoming shallow. The idea of jumping out of the window was becoming a lot more tempting than staying at my desk for one second longer.
That’s the exact moment when I realised that a) me and offices don’t get along and never will and b) something in my life drastically needed to change.
I was working in what was supposed to be my dream job - a campaigner at a national organisation working to end violence against women. I’d been working to get there for years, driven with passion, purpose and a sense of invincibility that kept me going no matter how small the light at the end of the tunnel looked.
Your dream job shouldn’t make you feel like a shell of the person you once were. It shouldn’t make you feel completely powerless, and you shouldn’t be spending the five minutes on the bus before you get there shaking and crying.
That was happening on more days that it wasn’t.
I felt trapped. I’d spend months in survival mode, figuring out that I just had to find a way to make it work. My options - so I thought - were limited, and I’d put myself in a tiny box with nothing to help me escape.
The problem was that everything looked fantastic on the outside.
It sounded like a good job, it paid like a good job and I’d finally done something quantifiable. On the outside I was helping people, I was contributing things and I was putting good shit into the world.
The inside, though, was a completely different story. Rather than this heroic escapade, it was more of a melancholic drama with everything going wrong. I couldn’t help when every project proposal was ignored, I couldn’t help anyone when infighting took over the reason we were there to begin with, and I couldn’t help anyone while I was slowly being crushed and my enthusiasm said ‘fuck it’ and walked out the door.
But in that moment, looking out the window, I needed to put my activist skills to a different cause. It was time to fight for me; to stand up for myself and give myself a chance instead of always hiding behind the need and urge to help other people.
That started with addressing medical issues that had been building and building, taking time off work and going back to the basics and-
Giving up on that dream and going on the hunt for a new one.
I had to figure out a way to get to the end of the tunnel and to change out the broken light bulb. While I didn’t recognise it at the time, what I really needed was to start the search for doing something that gave light to the world without letting my own go out. I needed to start my own rebellion - against the things that were keeping me stuck, and my own trap I’d built around myself.
As I sit here typing, I have a huge smile on my face because I did manage to fix the lightbulb. It took a lot of sacrifice to get here - my home, my house bunnies, my sense of security both financial and otherwise, but I got here. And now I’m doing work that plays to my strengths and that not only gives light to the world, but gives me light at the same time.
In that time of fixing my lightbulb - I learned a lot about what it means to lead a rebellion for yourself, which is what I want to share with you today; the main things I learned during my own rebellion that can hopefully help you start your own.
1. You have to fight for yourself first, before you can fight for anyone else.
If you’re not fighting for yourself, you’re going to be up shit creek without a paddle.
There will always be people who don’t like you, who don’t get why you do what you do, who take advantage of your generous nature and want the world from you. And chances are, you’ll let them get what they want if you don’t stand up for yourself - I know I’ve been in that situation time and time again myself, there’s no shame here.
That’s not something that you achieve by a magic click of your finger, and it’s done for life. It’s about choosing yourself over and over again, especially when life gets hard. It’s about believing you have things to give the world that no one else can, and it might take a lot of experimenting to find out what that is, but you’ll get there. And it will probably be something that you could never have imagined before it suddenly dawns on you, and when it does dawn on you, your first instinct will be ‘of course!’ because it ties together your values, your strengths and the things that light you up.
2. Rebellion isn’t all shiny and glamorous.
I know I’m not the only dystopian fiction fan here, and I think we can all agree that things can get pretty gnarly. What you’re reading now isn’t the story of someone who decided life was shit and overnight changed it to this magical, fabulous life.
There have been many moments where I haven’t been able to get out of bed, or leave the house because depression and anxiety got the most out of me.
It’s two years down the road and sometimes hearing about anything to do with women’s activism makes me want to cry. I’ve lost friends, I’ve lost a lot of my old life and I’ve sacrificed a lot of my independence along the way.
That you are more important, and that it’s all worth it. Thing is, we’re not in the trenches alone and there are people in your shoes, or a couple of steps ahead who would love to give a pair of ears to help you.
Which leads me onto number 3...
3. Find fellow fighters and work together.
Katniss couldn’t have won The Hunger Games on her own, right?
It’s easy to push yourself so hard that you become ill (sacrificing everything for the cause) and it’s easy to sell out (sacrificing your cause for power).
But let me tell you, it’s easier to avoid that if you’ve got people riding along with you. It might take a while, but with the help and support of The Creative Rebel Academy, you’ll know that you’re not on your own and there are plenty of fellow fighters.
When you’re making difficult decisions, go back to why you started it in the first place. When you feel like giving up, reach out. And when you feel like you can’t remember your why, get creative.
4. Sometimes you will be wandering in the dark, not being able to find the light switch.
And sometimes the light switch will move - that’s okay too.
We’re all changing, all the time. When it comes to your own rebellion, that’s going to change too. As we experience things, we grow and we develop, and our passions, our purposes and our sense of who we are develops as well.
Don’t jar your passions and your purpose like you might a firefly.
They’re meant to get away from you, they’re meant to go wandering and they’ll take you on a journey - which leads me to the next thing.
5. Follow your curiosity and treat it like an adventure.
Curiosity led me to starting a blog, starting my graphic design business, starting a podcast, training as a laughter yoga teacher and spending 3 months travelling from one side of the US to the other using only public transport.
Your curiosity will take you places that logical thinking won’t let you, and that is one thing worth following, even if we don’t follow anything else because we’re rebels, right?
Give yourself that freedom, and see where it leads you. Think of it like an adventure. Uncertainty can be uncomfortable, but it’s also pretty damn exciting.
6. Once you find out what you stand against, you need to work out what you stand for.
It’s easy to name the enemy, but harder to name the solution.
We’re all guilty of focusing on the enemy and chatting shit about the enemy, and not giving hope our equal attention. But life can become one huge bitter mess when you only focus on what you’re standing against.
Write a list of what you stand against. Then, using that list, write a list of the things you stand for. It will make you stand taller, help you live with more conviction, and make the world a brighter place. Because we all need the rebels, the dreamers and the believers who have the courage to imagine that things could be different.
And my last piece of wisdom, fellow rebel, is this:
Being a rebel is so much more than going left when everyone tells you to go right.
And if you look hard enough at your own rebel stories in your own life, you’ll start to make sense of yourself in a way you never have.
Your story is important, you are important, and the world needs you.
Meg Kissack a multi-passionate INFP and founder of That Hummingbird Life and the Couragemakers podcast. Through her work, she encourages, inspires and rebel-rouses fellow Couragemakers to believe they matter and do the work only they can do.
When she’s not writing, creating or dancing to Macklemore, you can find her in London with Mr. Meg planning their next adventure!