Dreams change. I know this is true. I know that my dreams from ten years ago are much different from my dreams that I have now. I know that my plans have changed. My intentions have changed too. Or, is that I have become more focused? Maybe I’ve matured. Maybe I’ve learned a trick or two. Perhaps the answer is that life has changed; therefore, my experience has changed and as a result, my visions have changed.
In fairness though, my vision is still to find the ultimate answer. I want to know more about my purpose. I want to understand my reason for living. I want to know more about my “why?”
Yet, I have grown. I have matured. I have learned and I have reached different levels of awareness. I have seen that life changes without warning. I have learned that my expectations are not always met. Plans fall apart. People change their roles in our life. Goodbyes can suck and separations can be painful but sometimes, changes are necessary. It was hard for me to understand this but with the exception of our past, nothing in life is a permanent thing.
I can remember business promises, which were sworn to me.
“It’s gonna happen,” I thought to myself. And I believed this.
Each time, I believed this but words and intentions are not always on point. Things fall through or, more accurately, sometimes life has a way of falling apart.
This world is filled with disappointments and letdowns. Make no mistake about this. There is certainly enough rejection to go around for everyone. There are people that look to change the face of our dreams. There are people that look to stop you. There are people that look to steal your thunder because your storm interrupts their stagnant little lives.
My dreams have certainly changed. My visions change. Or should I say they’ve only matured and improved.. My ideas and my intentions have always led towards one main goal, which is to be happy. However, as I grow my understanding of happiness is much different than say, back when I was in my early twenties. In fact, my goals are different from what they were in my early thirties and even my early forties.
I used to think I would be happy if I made a certain amount of money. Since then, the amount has gone up quite considerably. I remember my first job that paid me $15.00 an hour. I was making $600 each week, which I thought was great. I remember thinking if I could double this, my life would be even better.
Eventually, I worked my way up. I made double and still, life has its share of complications. By the way, none of life’s little pitfalls and disappointments stopped because my salary increased. They might have changed faces and names, but I was still me and my challenges were still mine.
I thought if I learned to make even more; and by more, I mean a lot more; maybe then I would be happier. And then I made more. I made a lot more.
I thought if I lived in a big house that I would be happier. I thought this way until I lived in a big house. I thought this would make me happy but I was wrong. I thought a certain life with certain things, like two cars in the garage would be the remedy to my internal discomforts. I was wrong.
The truth is I was living the wrong life. The truth is I was living with and surrounded by the wrong people. This is not to say there was anything wrong with them. No, not at all. This is only the realization that not all people are made to fit with one another. And that’s okay. This is not an insult towards them or myself. Instead, this is more like a comparison to a key that is meant for a different door. Neither is better or worse. Instead, it just wasn’t the right fit.
I was not living my life according to the design I wanted for myself. Instead, I designed my life in accordance with the ideas and dreams that I believed I was supposed to have. It took me a long time to realize that life in the wrong lane was the reason behind so much of my discontent. I was irritable. Yes, of course I was. I was angry and resentful. I was always trying to fit someplace or be something because the results of my estimations were that I was nothing. I was nothing and I would never be anything. I suppose this could have been true if I stayed in my surroundings. I was always trying to mold myself to adapt accordingly. I acted and behaved. I pretended to be what I thought I was supposed to be yet, I never felt the true thrill of personal satisfaction.
I remember one night, teary-eyed and literally drained of all my energy. I was tired. I was emotionally bankrupt to say the least. I was working as a building engineer on Park Avenue. I was tired of myself. I was tired of the people around me; and no differently, the people around me were tired of me as well. It is important that I say this because I do not want to spew any blame towards anyone. I say this because true matches cannot be forced. True matches cannot be coerced or trained either. And me, everything about me was forced, coerced or contrived.
I wanted to be real. I wanted to fit and I wanted to be comfortable in my own skin. I wanted life to be easier. I wanted the pictures in the magazines. I wanted to be “that guy” that people invited and included but yet, there was something about me that seemed deformed or misfitting. I was tired of believing these things about me. I was tired of believing that I was unable and incapable. More and more, I was tired of the lonesomeness, which I commonly felt at home with my so-called family or in crowds with my so-called friends. There was something off-center about my life.
This is why I had to make a decision. I had just pulled into a divorce. I was alone. I finally found a way to construct the bravery it took to pull away. I made the choice to step away from the tables where I sat for too long. I can recall the warmth of the upcoming season had finally arrived. I was at the tail-end of spring and summer was on its way.
Again, I say I was alone in such a new way. This was foreign to me. Yes, this is true. I was alone but at least I wasn’t arguing anymore. I was alone for the right reasons and not married for the wrong ones. There was no one to supervise me or tell me what to watch or what to wear (and what not to). My fears were, what if I say or do the wrong thing? What if it’s true, that I am socially incapable? What if I believed in all the inaccurate subconscious programs about myself?
At least I didn’t have to pull into a driveway of a house that never really belonged to me. At least, I was no longer part of a family that was never intended to be mine to begin with. I didn’t have to “Be” anything other than who I am, which is me, which is perfectly imperfect. But more to the point, I was allowed to face the world in whichever way I saw fit.
I could come and go as I chose. No one was around to correct my personality. No one was around to change my behavior or my sense of humor. There was no one around to coach me on how to talk to people; as if there was something wrong or shameful about me.
Finally, I was at the doorstep of my own freedom. And I admit this freely. I was scared. No, wait. I was petrified is a better way to declare this. I was scared to be alone. I was frightened that my life would never lead me anywhere. I figured at best, I would be like so many others that lived a bland, seasonless lifestyle. No energy. No excitement. I figured I would end up with no real passion and no true direction. I figured I’d end up somewhere in the land of mediocrity and be nothing better than average at best.
Each time a door closed, I was petrified that I would never find another opportunity. Each time I was promised the world, I found myself in the slumps of depression because nothing ever came true.
Malcolm Gladwell talks about 10,000 hours. In his theory (if we can call it a theory) Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become a master of your craft. Of course, since his claim, there have been others that looked to debunk Gladwell’s idea. And maybe Gladwell is wrong about this. But I get it.
Life takes a lifetime.
So, here’s my take on it.
I do not claim to say that I am right or wrong. I do not know if my 10,000 hours is up or not. I do not know if my direction has changed at say, maybe hour number 9,362. And because I’ve changed, maybe my hours do not apply. Maybe I have to start over and my experience is not transferable. Or, maybe it is. Maybe I just need to learn how to apply my skills, in which case, this means I have to deliberately practice to become a master of my craft.
My craft has changed more times than I can count. I’ve had to go back to the drawing board too many times. Maybe my ideas are not as realistic. Or, maybe my faith in others was too dependent. Hence, I forgot to place my faith where it truly belongs, which is within me and not hinged upon people, places or things.
I remember when I was in the early stages of my change. I remember a night when I stood on the roof of a tall building on 34th Street and Park Avenue. I remember my new, upcoming life, which I was afraid of. I used to think about the saying, “What goes around, comes around.” I used to think about how this applied to me. I believed in the diseased curses from my past. I thought I was paying for the sins of my history. In truth, I was far from kind. I was painfully selfish. In fairness, I never knew how to acclimate myself with new people. I was deathly afraid and intimidated by everyone; therefore, I had to defend myself (or so I thought). I never knew how to be socially comfortable. I was awkward. I was caught in the programmed belief that there was something wrong with me, which, of course, this is why I always looked to find someone to take care of me. I never believed in my own ability. Plus, I didn’t know how to.
If you asked me then, “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” I wouldn’t have been able to answer. Perhaps I thought that I would be at the same thankless job, doing the same thankless things and stuck around the same thankless people.
If you found me at say, five years ago and asked me where I would be in five years, I would have thought the same thing. In fact, I was asked this question and my answer was passionless to say the least. I had no idea about my purpose. I never thought about my direction. Instead, I was caught in a mundane idea that this was me at my best.
But it wasn’t.
For the first time in my life, I saw the crime in not following through with my dreams. I had no direction. I barely had a grip on my true identity. And, for the record, if you were to tell me then that I will be doing college lectures on a book that I wrote about my life and struggles with suicide, depression and anxiety, I would have laughed in your face. I’d have said you’re crazy. I’d have told you no one would care. But again, I was wrong.
Tomorrow night, me, the kid with a high school equivalency diploma that never thought he would be alive at the age of 48, much less be able to call myself a writer, a life coach, a mental health and peer advocate, is defying my old narratives. I am giving a lecture on my book, Operation Depression. I have my issues with the book itself, but this is because of personal reasons and internal criticisms. Nevertheless, it’s an achievement.
No, my plans have not worked out just yet. I’m still working on a few new tricks. I suppose the difference between me now as opposed to me back then is I’ve been working hard to find my direction. I can say the key ingredient to personal achievement is to be persistent and consistent. I can say that finances certainly make life easier. But I can say this too; you can improve your income and you can change the landscapes; you can change your geography, and your friends but success is finding the right blueprint that fits your life. This way, you are both the creator and builder of your happiness. More importantly, your goals in life are no longer hinged upon people, places and things. It’s all up to you!