It’s a tradition to celebrate birthdays at my grandmothers — dinner then a cake.
We had all just finished eating and started preparing to light the candles and sing happy birthday for my baby cousin, Shiwoo (pronounced Shee-you). He was turning four at the time.
As the birthday ritual came to an end, he was told to make a wish and then blow out the candles. And he did so effortlessly due to much practice at other people’s birthdays. Then, Shiwoo held onto the edge of the table, started rocking back and forth, and made this motion with his head that he was going to face-dive onto the cake.
Every parent in the room caught onto this, and at the same time, everyone stopped him. “No, Shiwoo, you can’t do that.”
Shiwoo and I had the same reaction (except his sounded cuter): “Huh?”
As I watched his face go from someone who had just won the lottery to being told the ticket was a fake, I stopped my grandmother from cutting the cake into perfect little pieces, and instead, told Shiwoo that if that’s what he wanted to do, today is the day to do it. His face came back to life but with a hint of uncertainty. He looked at mom and dad to make sure this was okay, and with their understanding, they smiled and nodded.
Shiwoo, reinvigorated, made the motion again but this time more excited than ever, and finally slammed his face into the cake. Everyone laughed. Shiwoo went crazy, jumping up and down. And at that moment, I realized that sometimes we need to ignore the advice we are given and instead, figure it out for ourselves.
Hell, we may even enjoy it.
Go and do you
Do you is a term that simply means, “Go and do what you feel is best for you.”
As we get older, we receive more advice and are told not to do many things. Although the advice may be insightful and based on experience, I think listening to that advice is easy, but figuring it out for yourself is a lesson that no one can give you. You experience it, and in turn, you own it.
What we can also notice is a certain kind of fearless when given permission. At first, Shiwoo was about to do it with his own permission — until a bunch of “adults” stopped him. Then, he had to seek it after someone else (me) said it was okay. I think this happens a lot in our adult life. We are fearless at first, then something stops us — maybe we fail, maybe we receive admonition, etc.. Instead of retaking permission, we wait for it, just like Shiwoo did — sometimes we wait so long that we never know when, or how, to initiate something. He would have sat there that whole night, completely disappointed, if he wasn’t given the okay to safely land his face onto the cake.
He just turned four, and already the world is telling him to be something other than himself…
Another thing to take into consideration is how quickly the adults in the room stopped Shiwoo. Why? What were they protecting him from? Icing in his baby eyebrows? Equally important is the act of asking yourself why you are doing certain things when the risk of failure or pain is close to zero — ask yourself what’s the worst thing that can happen? I can guarantee you that none of those parents in that room never face-planted onto their birthday cake. So what were they afraid of?
There’s a lot of needless fear in life. We all have it. But in order to truly experience life — to live, taste, and breathe it — sometimes we need to ignore what everyone else is saying, take our own permission, and try it for ourselves.
Go. Do you.