Who do you think you are?

Mind now.

Do they have that expression where you come from?

Where I come from, mind now belongs to a hard-working family of expressions. You may know too big for your britches or you need to be taken down a notch or pride goeth before a fall. You say mind now to someone when you think they’re acting entitled or pretentious. It’s a cheeky way of telling someone to check their expectations. It’s like saying: Who do you think you are?

I carry mind now in my psyche like a conscience. It mocks me whenever I consider doing something extraordinary, like write a novel or buy a pair of Fluevog shoes or ask out that guy Todd who used to be a model. I think the spirit inside the expression is a belief that high expectations could lead to disaster. And who knows, perhaps in a culture of scarcity like the one I grew up in, a high level of ambition may be for-real risky and result in serious real-life consequences. But the mind now that controls my decisions is more primal than that; it’s rooted in shame. It’s a fear of being caught in the act of hoping high.

For much of my early adult life, I felt trapped in bad decisions. Not the kind of high-visibility bad decisions that get people into rehab or jail. Mine were the kind of bad decisions that I hid inside myself, while I tried to lug around the attitude of this is a great job/apartment/life for a girl like me. That is a heavy attitude to carry for very long. I dreamed of being a writer, but I had bills to pay. I longed to finish my unfinished bachelor’s degree, but I had bills to pay. I wanted to travel, but I had bills to pay. To be sure, there was more going on than those bills, but in my case that was the most compelling reason not to take risks.

I can’t pinpoint an exact time, but at some point in my life I started to hope higher. It was a gradual process: I wanted to be a writer, but the act of writing without some assignment or deadline still seemed a bit too mind now for me. But signing up for an evening course in creative writing, that much I could do. Fast-forward ten-or-so years from that first writing course. I’m still working on that dream, but the brazen decisions I’ve been making since then led me to complete a master’s degree, to write a draft of a novel, and to create a freelance career that has enabled me to travel for the last three years.

I keep expecting the other shoe to fall–yet another sibling in that family of anti-hope expressions. To counter that anxiety I’ve taken to gratitude–it helps to have someone outside of myself to attribute my luck to, both the good kind and the bad. I’ve also taken to indulging in wonder, a generous form of mindfulness. Paying mind doesn’t have to be about self-correction; paying mind can also look outwards and see that life is full of possibility and opportunity. These days, when the old mind now rears up, I try to look my audacity square in the face and say with as much brazenness as I can muster: Yes, I think that’s probably who I am. 

Now, you there. Mind now. Who do you think you are?

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