“Captain, why are we out here chasing comets?”
-Jonathan Frakes as Commander William Riker
Wow. All I can really say about this one. As I mentioned earlier, I had been having trouble coping with the idea that I had gotten older. All the dreams and ambitions I had when I was younger seemed so frivolous now. I didn’t understand that it was those things that I needed to find again instead of investing in non-relevant and detracting pursuits that took me away from the path.
One of the most emotionally tumultuous things a person can experience is feeling like where they are, whether it be in a professional, spiritual, emotional, or social sense, is not where they need to be. It’s hard enough having to cope with the consequences of the existing situation much less compounding them with the notion of a fundamental change. But, if there is anything that resonates true, it’s that change is an essential process. Embracing change is a task in itself and most people, myself among them, have difficulty because there is comfort in stagnation. It’s so much easier to be where you are than to pick up and progress onto something else.
I’m going to preface this part by saying I don’t like to openly discuss my personal life. I just don’t feel like it’s something that really needs to be discussed because I don’t feel like my personal experiences are important. I guess now that I’m writing about the experiences I’ve gone through, I’m going to have to just get over that preconception now, aren’t I?
For a good while in my adult life, I was completely lacking in a spiritual life. I felt empty. There wasn’t much, if anything, to inspire hope and convince me that something needed to be different. I was in a pretty dark place and more to the point, I chose to be there. In retrospect, it was because I was still hurt from the whole experience that leads to my crisis of faith. As a result, I was in a world away from where I could have been chasing things I may not have necessarily needed.
Lots of things played into the decision to eventually move on from that place. It started with me just taking a risk. I’ve always been the one to analyze the consequences but eventually succumb to the fear that I would just be let down again. It was crippling. It was irrational. It definitely wasn’t the best thing for me to do. However, at the core of it all, I would like to think that if the right situation came along, I’d take a step in faith and at least try. That was two years ago.
Two years later, it’s one of the bigger victories that I’ve gotten to enjoy at this stage in life. I am a lot more amenable to developing a spiritual life and I would like to say that I’ve become wiser in such matters. I’ve developed lasting friendships, rekindled ones that suffered because of that experience, and had a rejuvenated sense of belonging that offered experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Here lately, I’ve found myself asking similar questions as I did then and for the same reasons. However, I’m equipped with knowledge and skills I didn’t have then. I’ve been asking if I’m where I’m supposed to be or if I’m just chasing something meaningless except in a different stage of life.
Being thirty has some perks. I’ve learned that what’s right isn’t always what’s best. However, determining which is which has been trying at times. I’ve been able to look at the situational parallels from when I was younger and compare to them to how I see them now. There is a lot of commonalities and there is a lot of contrast and one of the conclusions that I’ve been able to reach is that the situations themselves aren’t really any different. How I perceive them and how equipped I am to deal with them have changed since I was a teenager, however. One thing that I’ve found that isn’t necessarily changed by the passage of time are my personal triggers. My biggest one is doubt. I have a strong tendency to not take risks and to this day it haunts me.
Doubt, I’ve found, really is a catalyst in making poor decisions. I’d like to think that I’m big enough to admit that I’ve made some boneheaded decisions in my time. I’d also like to think that I’ve made some good ones as well. However, all of my good ones transition seamlessly while all of the poor ones create ripples. Funny how that works, isn’t it? But, my friends, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve come to know that the instances when doubt is an obstacle, it only is one because it wants to compel you to stay where you are.
I have a huge fear of meeting new people. It’s crippling and in that two-year window, it showed. The only socializing I really did was with people I already knew, most of which were old roommates, coworkers, and family. I didn’t want to go out and meet new people. Quite honestly, I just wanted to be a hermit and live in the memories I had instead of putting them in the past where they belonged. It was hard to admit that those days were over. To this day, I find myself thinking about them because through it all I’ve managed to maintain the friendship I had developed with all of them. It’s an interesting thing to see how all of those old memories have a way of creating new ones.
I’m a huge advocate of Ultimate Frisbee. I love it. Absolutely. But, it was one of those things that were part of a past life that I wasn’t ready to move on from. As fate would have it, I was invited to play around with people I didn’t know. My first thought was that I was invited through a collegiate church ministry. I knew the director and one of the people I was playing with. They were good people but I wasn’t ready to confront all of the issues that lingered because of my past experiences with a church family. I wasn’t ready to venture on to something new. I guess the old saying is true, “You never know until you try.”
So, I go play with them. I went into it with no expectations so I wouldn’t be disappointed. I also went into it with the plan that it was going to be just a game and that I wouldn’t have any further interaction with them. My “life” wasn’t very conducive to social activities like this so it was easy for me to have a little fun and leave it at that. At the same time, I did want to belong to something again. I wanted to be social and make new friends. I didn’t know how to proceed. I had been used to being isolated and alone. It’s a prison, to be sure. The one I didn’t feel confident in leaving just yet.
As a result of mingling with this group, connections started to develop with one in particular. What makes this stand out is that of all things I would have been okay with happening, this wasn’t one of them. I didn’t want another friendship that would require me to be vulnerable. I didn’t want to get hurt again. Yes… yes… men can get hurt too, folks. But, I didn’t really have much choice in the matter. I’m the type of person that if something is supposed to happen, it will. As much as you cry, kick, and scream about how you don’t want to, it won’t necessarily kill you to embrace another opportunity.
Something that Tyler told me whenever I decided to give him the chance to fail was that if the healing process was going to be successful, it had to be because that I had chosen to be around the right people. Since people were the source of my pain, it made sense that they could begin to restore my faith in them. At the time, it was clear that what I was doing wasn’t working. I didn’t know what I was looking for or even what I needed except the need for something different. It’s frustrating to be where you don’t want to be. I can’t deny that. What makes it worse is that if you’re in a place because you don’t know where else to go. We may have an idea or feeling of that destination motivating us; however, it doesn’t always take the shape of something we would recognize. For me personally, I had a very difficult time recognizing the shift because I had spent so much time “chasing comets” when I should have at least been observing the picture that was taking shape.
Don’t get me wrong, folks. I had to do a lot of soul-searching to just arrive in a place to take chances. There was a lot to learn by being in a place of isolation. Being alone taught me many things about living. But, perhaps the most important thing about being alone was finding the deeper meaning in it. I think most, if not all of us, would agree that being alone is worse than death. However, there is a hidden message in solitude. The most impactful thing I learned in “exile” was that I needed to learn something. What that something was, I could only speculate at the time. However, looking at it now, the lesson honestly was that being in the wrong place isn’t always a bad thing. It gives you an opportunity to look back and examine the events that lead you there. I didn’t appreciate what I had and there were many times I took all of it for granted by thinking it would always be there and that all good things eventually come to an end. Through my own insecurity and arrogance, I had allowed that abrupt change to influence future decisions.
Another thing I had learned… well, forgot and had to take a refresher in, was that asking questions isn’t a sign of weakness. There are things that you just don’t know. I didn’t know why I was so alone. I didn’t know why I felt abandoned. I didn’t know why I should take another chance. I didn’t know why I should listen. As a result of my ignorance, I shrugged off a golden opportunity to grow. At first, anyway.
As time wore on, I could tell that there was a lot of experience to be gained with Tyler. At the time, I was faced with another crisis of faith. There really wasn’t much of a reason to trust him much less invest myself in another group that I could repeat history with. However, there was one thing that was present that wasn’t necessarily accounted for and that was that he was genuinely interested. Now, I’m not saying that anyone in my life hasn’t ever been genuinely interested. I just don’t believe that their interest would have grown had I not walked away from them and gone back to exactly what I was doing. I didn’t give him enough credit and I had underestimated his faith that our relationship would be in a position to prosper. Days passed and as I got to know and understand him, I found myself more and more willing to listen to him. He was right when he said that being around the right people would inspire change.
I’m not saying that anyone and everyone before him were the wrong people. Some were right. Some were wrong. Some just didn’t fit and some still do. All of them had a role and their personalities left a unique print on who I am today. I speak to a number of them to this day. But, once those personalities left, I had to learn to appreciate their presence in a way that didn’t make them mandatory. I let them define my own existence and once you do, it’s a journey to separate where you start from where they end. I was very lucky to reunite with the ones I have and in doing so, I learned that relationships aren’t part of who you are. They are manifestations that accentuate your own unique combination of emotions and experiences. Because I was willing to sit down with myself and re-educate myself on why I had spent so much time away from them, I learned to appreciate them in an entirely new way and learn to ask questions about their importance. I stopped chasing after things that took me away from them and took the time to ask what could be different. Not necessarily what I was supposed to be doing or where I was supposed to be… but what could be different?
As a result of asking the hard questions, the lesson learned is that it was okay to ask. The realization being that time spent in a place doesn’t mean that you’re wrong to be there. It means that being there gives you an opportunity to look at all of the angles and make a decision that can introduce new characteristics you never thought you had and reacquaint ones that may have gotten lost.
After all, you don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.