“The greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But, there’s no such thing as the unknown – only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.”
-William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk
Part of the human adventure is acknowledging that there are many things about who we are that pose a threat to our understanding of the universe. It’s part of our nature to be inquisitive. However, it’s also part of our nature to attack what we don’t understand as if it threatens our identity or our certitudes about our standing in the universe. As a species, progress requires that we push the envelope and expand our understanding of those certitudes.
It’s widely accepted that the beginning of wisdom is found in asking questions. My personal experience would agree with that. However, what questions do we ask? Why do we ask them? What’s so important about them? I’ll tell you why. It’s part of our nature. We didn’t come all this way as a people by just having it handed to us. We’ve done our due diligence to arrive at this phase of growth. We got here by being bold.
On an individual level, we have to be the same. It’s okay to ask questions. It’s okay to walk up to the wall and wonder what lies beyond. It’s the human compulsion and there’s no sense in denying it. Getting older doesn’t always mean that we get better. It’s a daily decision that we have to commit to. I, myself, am very poor about doing this on a daily basis. It takes nothing less than a shift in paradigm for me to take a good look at myself and wonder what could be different. There’s nothing wrong with a good kick in our complacency and it’s often an engine to make changes or to re-evaluate our understanding of our current standing.
One of the principal issues I had with getting older was that I started to lose interest in growing. I had made peace with who I was. I felt that I had done enough. I had plenty of friends. I made it through school. I got to experience love and live out a dream. I could have died with a sense of completion. However, as a result of getting older, I found that the sense of completion I once had left me empty and unfulfilled. This feeling was also a topic of discussion with Andy who had the same problem but it was presented to him differently.
So, part of his solution to me was to find something that I hadn’t done. Fair enough, right? One of the things that I hadn’t done was finished a project that I had started. I will say that commitment is an issue. Not that I’m afraid to; but, I justify my failures by using excuses to not follow through. I guess that would be a more relevant way to phrase it. I had, and perhaps still do, a serious problem with seeing things through.
The first part of breaking through our own boundaries is understanding why they’re there. I asked myself what the big deal about getting older was and a lot of reasons came to mind. But, the one that stuck out to me was that the idea of losing my youth was unfathomable. I wanted to always be in a state where I was able to do all of the things I wanted to do. I didn’t want to fall victim to the ravages that time proposes. I didn’t want to feel like I’m nearing the end.
Fear, being the consummate motivator that it is, inspired me to sit down with myself and ask why this whole concept was such a big deal. Change is part of life, right? I haven’t really been a big fan of it. I don’t handle it very well. I didn’t before I turned 30. The real challenge wasn’t really whether I should do something different or not but why I should. I needed a reason to see this part of life differently than I do. There was the doozy.
The more I sat down with myself about it, the more it became apparent to me. Everything changes. Maybe not for better or worse necessarily but it always does and death only comes when this process stops. Maybe that was the first step in finding a resolution: admitting that the problem scared me.
It wasn’t too long after coming to that realization that I found some courage to seek some guidance and maybe find some answers. One of the first revelations I received came from merely asking the question. Change is a process and it definitely isn’t easy or even peaceful. But, it was necessary. I had to adjust to this new phase of life if I wanted to adjust along with it. It is an everyday battle, to be sure. and one I had to equip myself for and remain vigilant in because I also knew that I could easily become a victim just as quickly and surely as I could make progress.
One thing about questions is that when you ask them, you can get answers that you wouldn’t expect or even recognize right away. Throughout this particular journey, I’ve had to embrace patience as an answer to many of the questions I’ve had. It’s a hard urge to break because I’m guilty of wanting things right away. Whether it be with my finances, feelings, or just fundamental issues… patience has always been an answer. It’s frustrating, annoying, and strangely enlightening all at the same time. It’s definitely something that piques my interest as to the direction of everything. Especially when an immediate resolution was required due to some of the circumstances I was dealing with.
I had lost my job. I didn’t even see it coming. But, in a way, I was glad to have lost my job. I was getting stressed out by it. On top of that, I was two weeks out from a trip to Baltimore. That trip was already paid for but that was two weeks I could have spent looking for another position. Strangely enough, I was at peace with it. I had faith that the two weeks between my firing and my return would all work itself out. It did. I didn’t really worry about it. I just went about my business as I always did. But, as time wore on, I began to worry more. I was running out of money and I needed answers about how I was going to pay all my bills and make sure I didn’t wind up homeless somewhere. It’s a pretty scary thought to know not when your next meal will be or where it’ll come from. Don’t ever take choices like that for granted. EVER. In the back of my mind, I had to just stay calm and have a little faith. Stress really motivated me to ask some of the hard questions about where I stood in my faith and how far I was willing to go to make sure I was going to be okay.
It’s not always fun getting a dose of cold water. However, I’ve always found that it isn’t necessarily getting kicked when you’re down. It’s a matter of being someone who isn’t afraid to accept a helping hand. Pride, among other things, is big deal to me. I am the type to want to do things myself. I’m not afraid to ask for help. If I don’t have to, I won’t. It’s one of my personal boundaries. Pride, to me, is a statement of independence. Once you have it, you’d almost rather die than to give it up and be dependent again. You fight like hell to protect it and find yourself willing to offend your own sensibilities to get it. I’ve done things I’m not proud of. Not just in regards to this, but in other things as well, to say that I didn’t need any kind of help. It didn’t yield me anything worth having when I look at it now.
But, there’s a silver lining. I’ve come to appreciate getting the wrong answers. The wrong answers demonstrated to me what not to do. To me, knowing those things is more useful than knowing the right answers. Just because they’re right, doesn’t mean that they are right at the moment. Being so antsy about getting everything sorted out in a timely manner doesn’t always serve you.
There was a time earlier this year where I just took a three-month vacation from working. I just quit. I didn’t offer any explanation. I just quit. I can’t explain why I felt so compelled to. Maybe it was a message from God. Yes, I’m a Christian. Well, I try to be. Anyway, I took that time to do a lot of things I always wanted to. It felt like the right thing to do. Then, when the time was right, I went back to work. I didn’t worry about where I would wind up or when I would get there. I just knew that I would.
One of the issues I struggle with daily is faith. However, I’ve learned that faith isn’t necessarily just a belief. Faith is a tool. It is a skill. If you use faith like you have some sense, it can deliver some insight and give you answers. The challenge that I was issued by Andy is a testament to that. But, there is a process. There is a learning curve that we all have to endure and I was no different. There were times when that the path to resolution was so long and dreary, I wondered if I would ever get there. My relationship with Tyler came from that. Conversely, there were times when I just told myself that I’ll know where I’m supposed to be when I got there. Many times I wound up in the wrong place for the right reasons. But, the journey was always the center of it.
For a good while, I had known that there was going to be meaning in the time spent getting where we want to go from where we were. However, the journey takes time. Time isn’t something we necessarily like to spend. But, one of the nuggets that I’ve been able to use every day is that time offers opportunity. Any amount of time I’ve spent in a vehicle, I’ve managed to reach some kind of conclusion or gain insight about what had been troubling me. It may not have been the right answer. It may not have been the right now answer. There have been plenty of wrong answers. But, there was always an answer. There was also meaning in arriving at the conclusion as well. Whether it came from the music I was listening to or the road I was traveling and everything that laid in the middle, there was always a lesson to learn and how I learned it.
As a result of a new resolve to travel new roads and go places I had dared not to, I quickly had to establish boundaries. What about myself would I think was off-limits? The answer to that was a quick and resounding: Nothing. We can all stand to grow in areas of our lives. Change is important and served a pivotal role. I had to be willing to change. Because I was, my perceptions were challenged and evolved alongside. It wasn’t always pleasant or peaceful, but it was necessary.
Sitting here as I am now, one such lesson was that I needed to stop comparing my life to those around me. That, perhaps, was one of the biggest walls to break through. I would like to think that I’m not better off or worse because of the journey I made; however, I would like to think that I’m different because of it.