The rules

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Once, David asked me whether I wanted a Magnum ice cream, and without thinking I replied No, I’m not allowed to have those. He looked at me strangely until I realised I’m an adult and can eat whatever I damn well please.

It’s funny, the things that follow us from our childhood.

Needless to say, I’m a rules follower. There’s comfort in rules. Structure. Certainty. If I do this and this, then this will happen. It narrows the odds, takes away the uncertainty.

In childhood, it’s easy. It goes like this: If I sleep tonight, Santa will come. If I do my chores, I get my pocket money. If I knock on wood, I won’t get jinxed. The boundaries give us a safe space to play in.

But one day you grow up and it’s no longer straightforward. There is no rulebook to live by. No one telling you what you should do. No safe space to play in. And the boundaries are gone and we’re all just wandering around the borders, trying not to fall off the edge. Looking for a GPS to plug in.

And so we read self-help books and how-to articles, we do cleanses and join courses, we get life coaches, career coaches, we follow celebrities, hoping if we follow their philosophies we’ll get their outcomes. We find new rules to follow. If I do these five steps, I will get where I need to be.

And then one day, you’ll do everything by the book and still not get the outcome it promises.

Because if doesn’t always guarantee then. Even when it’s important. Even when it’s the most important thing in the world.

That’s something I’m struggling with a lot, actually.

So, bit by bit, I’m letting go of that rulebook. I’m learning to live closer to that undefined edge, to play in the spaces that scare me. To walk forward where there is no certainty. And that’s a long journey.

But I’ll start with eating whatever ice cream I please.

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