Lifestyle / Making Lemonade

Making Lemonade #6: From seed to squeeze

And all the journeys we can’t see

Cross-posted from Substack. View original post

Hi friends,

I’m thrilled to be sending out my sixth “issue” of Lemonade (for want of a better word) and just want to thank you all for being here on this wild ride with me. 

It’s funny thinking about this journey as being something new, especially as I’ve been a professional writer for the last 10 years, but also because it’s taken me a long time to start this Substack. 

Not only has it been a journey, it’s also felt a bit like an uphill battle. Writing and showing up week after week has felt like climbing a mountainAnd, up until today, when the penny finally dropped, I didn’t understand all the feelings I was having around it, and why it felt so hard to put myself out there and be seen.

I still don’t really like being in front of the camera or putting myself out there, but this is all part of my journey to changing that

To backtrack a little, I decided I was going to write this week’s Substack about inner journeys. But, in the process of writing it, I not only discovered the root of a lot of issues I have around sharing my work publicly, but I also unlocked a core memory that I’d hidden away out of fear and shame and not-being-good-enough feelings. 

Last week I wrote about how we’re not actually our minds, and this week I have a real-life example of that; how we can internalise things and tell ourselves stories to protect ourselves for so long that a) we forget what we’re trying to protect ourselves from, and b) they actually end up doing us more of a disservice. 

As humans, we’re meant to grow. We’re meant to level up, we’re meant to evolve. 

But although our bodies and minds have changed a lot over the last few hundred thousand years, our inner defensive mechanisms, which evolved to keep us safe from existential threats like being stalked by a lion or having to save our children from a frenzied wildfire, now find the majority of us navigating slightly more… mundane threats, like phone calls or our email inbox or taxes. 

My accountant has tried over and over to tell me that “all life is maths” and “taxes aren’t scary”, but each time I look at him with the same bewildered look in my eyes like a deer caught in a trap (I’m guessing), obviously he doesn’t have mirrored walls in his office, that would be a special kind of accountant – and mine isn’t that kind of special (although he is pretty great).

Anyway, I digress.

As part of the book I’m “writing” at the moment (I’m still not sure if the “untangling of ideas” stage actually counts as writing), I’ve been thinking a lot about the types of journeys we go on in our lives, and how collectively, as humans, we’re on a journey, how all of life – even that of the Earth itself – is a journey.

I find it so interesting how one word can mean all these different things in different contexts, but how, at their root, journeys all begin somewhere and end somewhere else –  whether it’s a physical journey or an emotional one; a learning journey, a creative journey, a collective journey, or even a different kind of journey – like the transformation of lemons to lemonade.

For example, in its journey to become lemonade, a lemon goes from a lemon tree to a kitchen to juice and then lemonade (obviously with a few more additions along the way). 

Depending on how far back we go, we can also look at the lemon tree and how it started out life as a seed from another lemon, before growing roots and branches and leaves and flowers, and, of course, more lemons.

Anyway, thinking about seeds also made me think of one of my favourite quotes:

“All the buried seeds crack open in the dark the instant they surrender to a process they can’t see”

Mark Nepo

This quote always makes me think about the beginnings of things. Like how most journeys start off in the dark – be it in the ground, in our mother’s wombs, or in subconscious parts of our minds – as a seed, or a spark of an idea, before cracking open and growing into something bigger.

But, while we usually think of these as goodbad things can also start off as a seed of an idea that someone (this someone could also be ourselves) planted in our minds and, for whatever reason, we let that grow too, like a cuckoo replacing another bird’s eggs in the nest with her own.

In this instance, bad things can be things like: perfectionism, self-sabotaging behaviour, and thoughts like “I’m never going to finish this/share this because it’ll never be good enough so why even bother”, and all the other not-so-good thoughts that a lot of creatives (and other people) are plagued by.

However, with an open mind, a proverbial microscope, and a little support — be it friends, family, coaches/mentors, or even a regular journalling habit – we can actually start to examine some of these ideas and habits and look at where they came from.

If I look back, I can see a lot of the seeds for many of the journeys I’ve undertaken in my life – like travelling the world, becoming a writer, or even moving to Australia – were actually planted years before they came to fruition.

Like how, although I started this Substack six weeks ago, I signed up for an account around a year before that, implying that this Substack journey actually began sometime in September 2022. However, if I actually follow that thread further back, I can actually see the spark of this idea originated back in 2008, when I started my first blog.

I was 18 years old and I was on a trip au-pairing two kids around China. 

18-year-old Cassie in China, where the seed for this Substack was planted

Now, if you know me, you know that kids aren’t exactly my favourite, and I also don’t like being told what to do, which wasn’t exactly the recipe for a good trip. And so, it went about as well as you can imagine, and although the first few weeks of touring the country were surprisingly great, when we arrived at their relatives’ house it took approximately 20 minutes for me to get kicked out and end up on my own on the train to Shanghai.

I still swear it wasn’t entirely my fault.

And, even though I literally arrived in Shanghai quaking in my boots and went straight to the nearest Starbucks because I didn’t know where to go and wanted to be around something vaguely familiar, I still just had this innate sense of trust that everything would work out (as I also mentioned last week).

And, in the end, it didn’t just work out. Those few weeks were some of the most transformative of my life, with my accidental foray into solo travel ending up paving the way for plenty more solo adventures around the world. 

But, that trip also planted the spark of a dream of travel writing and sharing my words with the world. I started writing emails to my family from Internet cafes (remember when they were a thing?!), which turned into a very basic travel blog. And so, two years later, when I went back to China and through Southeast Asia on a proper solo trip, I decided to blog it all.

I told everyone I was doing it just to keep friends and family in the loop, but I also harboured a secret desire to be a writer one day and thought it would be a good place to start. I just didn’t want to set my sights too high and fail. I was no Icarus, just a girl with a backpack and a fragile dream.

About halfway through that trip, however, one of my friends, who I thought was so cool because he was a photographer and a DJ and was older than me, sent me an email criticising the blog and telling me it was awful. 

I don’t even remember what it said, I just remember the panic rising in my chest and instantly translating into this idea that I’d not only publicly humiliated myself, but I’d also let my little fledgling dream down.

My body went into autopilot and reacted to the threat like the email was a bear chasing me through the woods, and without even stopping to breathe, I tore the whole thing down and scrubbed every single iota of it from the Internet so no one could ever stumble upon it and read my awful work. 

I then promptly blanked the interaction from my mind (thanks, selective amnesia).

20-year-old Cassie in Cambodia after destroying her blog (and her dreams)

How I now feel for that version of me. How I wish I could go back and read her words. How I wish I could tell her that she’d make it as a travel writer, that she’d go on incredible trips around the world, and launch herself a thing called a Substack 13 years later from her little home under the gumtrees in Australia and it would reach readers across the planet.  

While it’s hard to judge someone else’s actions, I genuinely believe that he was either projecting – I knew he’d always wanted to travel and he was probably jealous – or he was even trying to help me make it better, but just went about it absolutely the wrong way. 

I guess I’ll never know, though. Because, while he was the spark, I still let myself be the kindling. I burned it all down and so deeply internalised that feeling of the bear chasing me through the woods that I would spend the next 13 years inadvertently sabotaging myself because I didn’t ever want to feel like that again. 

Saying that, it also gives me a funny sense of pride that, despite it all, I still somehow made a career as a travel writer; finding and exploiting a loop in the bad seed story that allowed me to write and publish my work, as long as I had an editor who would sign off on it before sharing it with the world. 

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve tried starting newsletters and websites over the last 13 years. It became a running joke in my family that I always had these dreams but could never seem to get them off the ground.

I got stuck every step of the way: I couldn’t think of the right name; didn’t know what platform or hosting to use; didn’t have time to dedicate to pipe dreams and should really be pitching/planning/working/writing for other people/making money instead.

In the end, the catalyst for change came from outside myself. My mum’s young-onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis brought the crushing reality that we never have time unless we make time. It was the wake-up call I needed. And so, this last year, after getting sick of getting in my own way, I finally launched my website and I started this Substack

I also took action on another couple of dreams and began running journalling and writing workshops and mentoring other creatives to help them sidestep and identify some of the obstacles that are holding them back.

Obstacles like this silly story I spent the last 13 years telling myself, without even remembering that the little bad seed that sparked it all wasn’t ever mine to nurture and grow and carry to begin with.

Here’s to planting the seeds of all the things I want to grow

Inner journeys are a fascinating thing. Healing journeys; learning journeys; caregiver journeys; writing journeys; confidence-building journeys; grieving journeys when we realise how much we’ve held ourselves back over the stupidest things; and take-the-power-back journeys when we realise we don’t want to keep living those old journeys anymore. 

It’s funny thinking of all the journeys we cannot see, but help get us to where we need to go. It’s funny thinking of all the steps I’ve taken in the last 13 years to get me here; all the lemons I’ve sucked while telling myself I’m not good enough, and all the lemonade I’ve denied myself by telling myself I don’t deserve it.

I’m sorry, old me, but we’re a different person now, and we’re never going to deny ourselves the lemonade again.

We’re going to show up, and we’re going to do the thing, climb the mountain, share our words, and live our dreams, because this life is too short not to do the things that set our hearts on fire. And yes, it’s still full of suffering — but we also get to choose if we’re going to be the cause of our own suffering, or the catalyst of our own change.

When we take that step back, we get to choose which seeds to plant and nurture and which stories we want to keep telling ourselves. And, although our journeys don’t always choose us, we still get to choose to take the first step, and we get to choose to be the change we want to see in the world.

I hope you never deny yourself — or anyone else — the lemonade again, either.

All my love,

Cass x

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