How much closer does a year bring you to knowing yourself?
I am convinced that the process must span a lifetime in which most of the questions that arise will go unanswered. But along the way, some truths will emerge. For instance, Courage – rather than being fixed, is a quality that appears in no pattern, like the rain that sometimes drizzles in a soft mist and other times pours endlessly.
In certain instances, I have been courageous – against creatures (like the massive cockroach I stomp-killed when I was with my high school girlfriend on a subway platform), against people (domestic abusers, verbal attackers whom I would not tolerate), and enervating change (maybe COVID, maybe internal restructuring at an old job). However, in other instances, I felt afraid (not stepping in to help a kid who was getting robbed on the basketball court), unsure of myself (could I ask out the girl I liked?), unable to make a decision (should I leave my job to join the Navy?).
Life threw at me the difficult questions: When is it right to exit a relationship? How do you exit a relationship without hurting another person? Should I leave my job? What should I do with my life? Could I form a relationship with my father when my mother has hated him since their divorce? Would this reflect some form of disloyalty? Despite knowing the answer, there existed a delay factor between when I became sure of the decision and when I executed my plan.
These internal conflicts, because they’re all internal, would sometimes arise from my unwillingness to cause harm/offense to other people and from the constant need to appease. As such, many relationships were formed under conventionally hierarchical structures – with me as student/servant/servicer and another person as teacher/master/guide.
The benefit of such structure was the immense knowledge base that I was able to create – essentially, I harvested my teachers’ talents, lessons, and wisdom (seeking to extract only the good). I gained praise for my ability to learn, assist, and support a mission or cause. But frequently, in my role as the gatherer of knowledge, I lost sight of my own influence – and neglected to develop my own theories, strategies, and methods.
In some way, my influence has been limited to a type of leadership by example. I do things the best way I see fit, but I would never attempt to convince you to follow in my footsteps. Maybe it is a humility (maybe not) that prevents me from acknowledging my way as the right way to live. For my way is just A way. But as I continue to learn and grow, my way is the one that I will teach – and I hope that if you read this, you find some hope, but definitely not the confirmation that your questions have answers.