I was born into a large middle-class family. We didn’t go without. We had everything we needed. I had no inherent athletic ability, intelligence, or size. I was average in all ways. I felt like an outcast but wasn’t prone to exhibitions of rebellion though I considered it often. I recall a close friend spiking his hair up into a five to six-inch-long mohawk supported by glue and showing up at school. I couldn’t believe how extreme he was. I’d never do something like this. I didn’t want to stand out. I didn’t want to commit to the rebellion.
All around me, others experienced tragedy. Freshman year, before summer vacation, a friend of mine got hit by a car, nearly severing his leg. This left him with a summer of surgeries and spending the remainder of high school using a cane. Another close friend of mine got wrapped up in drugs and went to jail. A high school girlfriend battled severe depression and bipolar disorder.
I spent my early twenties traveling with my rock band and intermittently attending college at the demand of my father (that’s a real boo-hoo story isn’t it? Why’d he have to make me go…[sadface]). Another friend of mine, about to receive his Ph.D., ended his own life.
After investing our life savings in recording what we hoped would become the record that propelled us to stardom, I quit the band. I didn’t make an announcement or make a call. I just… stopped being involved.
I spent the next ten years working my way up in ‘Corporate America.’ I sacrificed a lot of my personal life and development to do so. I married but did not know how to be in a relationship. But I was there for the fun parts –the wedding, the honeymoon, and vacations – but for the rest, I quietly opted out, leaving the marriage just as I had left the band.
I stopped participating until she left.
I was there to step up and take a tough assignment at work, but when it got too difficult, the pattern repeated. I stopped participating until I was relocated. Looking back, I was let off easy.
Sabotaging the chance at a fresh start, I then found myself in a relationship governed by trauma bonds. The very nature of which bordered on abusive.
My best friend passed away after battling depression, addiction, and anxiety.
Tragedy everywhere. Yet, I escaped.
I don’t want to glorify the terrible things people go through. And I don’t want to poo-poo the fact that I’ve been blessed with a beautiful life. But the tragedy is that I wasn’t present for it.
I didn’t have clarity. I didn’t understand. I didn’t know… Blah, blah, blah.
Right or wrong?
Want or need?
Good or bad?
I didn’t know.
I didn’t understand my power. I didn’t understand my possibility. I didn’t understand what held me back. I didn’t take chances, and I hid from failure.
I was sheltered from tragedy. My parents set me up for success. I was blessed with upward mobility in my career. I had health insurance to cover my serious health concerns. I escaped addictions and ailments that my family and friends could not. But all this safety took its toll.
Looking back on my life, I see a man wandering through traffic on the expressway and, somehow, not getting splatted.
I didn’t start feeling empowered until I unabashedly began to work on myself. And I decided that if I was going to fail, it would be fully engaged. I wouldn’t stand back and quietly sneak off to die. I’d be there front and center to experience it fully.
You see, the tragedy of a tragedy-less life is that you’re a spectator. You’re not there. You’re not participating.
For many, tragedy forges us into who we are. For others, it completely destroys. I believe the distinction is choosing to engage it.
Let it burn you to a fine ash, and then build you back up. Again and again. Arising each time reforged.
If you’re not burning down or reforging, you’re stagnant. You’re most likely hiding from your life.
Build and burn.
Rise and fall.
Life and death.
This is the way of things.
So how does this translate into your everyday life?
You go after that dream and pursue it though your world falls apart around you.
You train for that marathon that you don’t know if you can complete.
You have that conversation that could destabilize your relationship but is necessary.
You apply for that job that you want but aren’t qualified for…yet.
You ask for the respect from your coworkers that you deserve.
You get the help you need.
Play the character you’ve been waiting to become.
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