I have always known that story was important to me.

Always known that words were in my blood.

Tanya Valentin Author

As a young child one was my favourite pastimes was to staple bits of paper together and write stories on the scraps of paper. These were my first crude attempts at being a writer.

You might say, as author Paulo Coelho writes in his book The Alchemist, I have always known that being a writer is my personal legend. And yet, it has taken me till my mid-forties to trust myself enough to sell my sheep as the young shepherd did in The Alchemist, and to pursue the treasure that I have always known to be mine.

And I cannot give you a definitive answer as to why this is.

Perhaps it is that in the history of my family, no one has ever been a writer and so I grew up with no example to look to. It could be the fault of the culture I was born into. The culture valued doctors, lawyers, accountants and held them up as the epitome of wisdom and success.

Or, one might say I was born into a family who long held the belief that people of our family were predestined to do something practical and secure. Predictable jobs like secretary, having a trade or becoming a teacher. It could even have been the message that I received loudly and clearly through a bombardment of stories and sources throughout my childhood, adolescence and womanhood, that women’s voices did not matter or count.

Stories, stories, stories…

As Elizabeth Lesser reflects in her book, Cassandra Speaks;

The past is laced into the present on the needle and thread of stories.

Elizabeth Lesser

(Am I the only one who swoons at the lyrical quality of those words?)

The Curse of an Ignored Blessing in Pursuit of Your Personal Legend

Whatever it was, for years I disowned my personal legend.

I purposely stacked armour around my poet’s heart. I packed away my love for prose, my womanly, imaginary flights of fancy in a box and I buried it deep in the attic of my heart. I put my attention and energy into being “practical”, into being “agreeable”, into being “accepted”.

Every now and again my personal legend would nag at me like a frustrated housewife. And then I would allow myself a split second of self-indulgence. However, as I felt the pang of longing, entwined with guilt wash over me as I glanced at my gifts with the regrets of “what if?” I hurriedly banged the lid shut and ignored her once more.

Until I could stand it no more.

As it says in The Alchemist,

“Every blessing ignored becomes a curse… You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it is better to listen to what ithas to say…If it is still in your mind, it’s worth taking the risk.”

Paulo Coelho

I knew that something had to change – that the “something” was me. As a knower of the power of story, I had to change at a story level.

(To read about my journey towards authentically living my personal legend and how you can live your own personal legend check out my book When She Wakes She Will Move Mountains)

When She Wakes She Will Move Mountains by Tanya Valentin

Childhood Story

“I’ll tell you right now, the doors to the world of the wild self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door; if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much that you almost cannot bear it, that is a door.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes

As I reflect on the stories that shaped me there are many – far too many for me to even remember.

The best clues I have into the girl who became this woman is by looking at old photos from my childhood.

I presume that the photo albums of my childhood are not unlike the photo albums of other girls born in the 1970s. Photos of a father, a mother and three daughters at various stages of girlhood. School pictures of a girl with gaps in her smile. Class photos, photos with friends, pictures of me receiving certificates for academic achievement.

But there is this one photo that always catches me unawares.

It is a photo below. The cast photo of my primary school production of the Jungle Book. I was cast in the part of Sherkahn the tiger. Here I am standing in my tiger costume with the rest of the cast. All the boys and girls beam back at me with the confidence of childhood. All except me. I am clasping my hands anxiously in front of me as I look to the side, downwards, away from the rest of the cast shyly.

Like a ferocious tiger in the guise of a demure kitty.

Tanya Valentin

Every time I see this picture, I am reminded. Even at this early age, I knew that I was different – that I didn’t belong.

The Power of “Who am I?”

Wow.

What power these early stories weald over who we grow to become as adults.

Many of my childhood stories I have noticed, thanked, blessed and sent on their way.

However, for me, the story of not belonging is one that I fear will live with me for as long as I live. The insistent voice, my constant companion keeping me in check with the seemingly harmless phrase – “Who am I?”

Challenger of all my biggest dreams. “Who am I to dream this?”

The shusher, who twists my ear like the well-meaning “aunty” in the church pews of my girlhood. The force which seeks to silence me when my voice gets too loud, my opinion too divergent. “Who am I to speak up?” “Who am I to have an opinion of my own?” “Who am I to have a voice?” it hisses.

The great leveller, who cuts me down at the knees whenever I dare to rise out from the shadows and claim my spot in the sunlight. “Who am I to stand out?” “Who am I to lead?” “Who am I to succeed?” it admonishes from the gloomy edges of my subconscious.

In my upcoming book When She Wakes, She Will Move Mountains, I tell the story of how “Who am I?” and its shame twin “I’m not enough” showed up for me and nearly stopped me from writing the book.

Living With Fear

Perhaps the absence of fear is an unachievable goal. It seems that as long as we desire to lead a creative life or take a risk on something that is as important to us as our personal legend we will encounter fear. The very purpose of fear is to alert us when something is important to us.

As Elizabeth Gilbert speaks to her fear in her book Big Magic,

Your fear will always be triggered by your creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome, and fear hates uncertain outcome.”

Elizabeth Gilbert

I know that many people have similar stories of “Who Am I?” and that I am not alone in this. However, I am also aware that although I may not be responsible for the programming I received in my childhood, I am responsible for the upgrades in my adulthood.

Through the lens of my upgraded programming, I am able to accept the past and see the gift of the lessons. From this vantage point I take inspiration from the following quote:

An essential element in the life of a writer is to have been an outsider in childhood, to have been given the “gift” of not belonging.

Unknown

I smile as I recognise that in fact, everything is happening for me in its own perfect time as I claim the perspective my “otherness” gave me. I have learnt that ultimately, true belonging is the gift we give ourselves as we grow to accept love who we are.

If you are still looking for your soul sisters then Join The Feminine School of Unlearning my online community for Soul-Led, Midlife Women who are on an awakening journey. Is for you. 

Together, we are on a mission to support each other through the ups and downs of midlife, share what brings us alive and unlearn beliefs and behaviours that no longer serve us so that we can discover what it means to be the Queen of our own lives.

What is your personal legend?

Can you think or what is the thing that you have always known you were meant to do?

Please let me know in the comments below.


As a Midlife Mentor for women I support Soul-Led, Midlife Women who are on an awakening journey, to reconnect with, love and trust the woman behind the roles, the responsibilities and the weight of the expectations of others.

I help you to unlearn the beliefs, behaviours and stories that no longer serve you so you can live the next half of your life in a way feels true to who you authentically are as the Queen of your own life! 

Do you want to find out how you can live your personal legend? Buy My Book When She Wakes She Will Move Mountains – 5 Steps to Reconnecting With Your Wild Authentic Inner Queen.

Tanya

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