Vision. Nothing has instilled fear in me more often in the last few years than vision.
It may seem like an exaggeration. It is clearly not the thing that is most frightening. It is, however, ‘the constant’ of frightening thoughts in my day-to-day living.
Some people are exceptional at listening to the signs the universe is sending out and paying attention to what their body and soul is telling them. Well, some of us are late bloomers in this respect. Some of us are even in denial. It has taken me a long time to face the truth instead of going about my life with my eyes closed tight to avoid the glaring neon lights and enormous billboards always sprouting up in my line of sight.
My reality has been shaped by the conditioning provided by those that love me the most. They received the exact same conditioning, despite being much more open and loving than their predecessors.
I am a product of my upbringing, of an older generation that believed a person should stay at the same job for as long as they could. Ironically, my father actually spent the first half of his work life doing the opposite of the approach he was advocating. I am a child of stability, gratitude, hard work and certainty. I made so many decisions based on fear. I didn’t want to disappoint my parents, I didn’t want to be viewed upon as an immature person, and I didn’t want to starve to death. Ah, yes! I didn’t want to starve to death. I did not want to be the cause of my own ‘undoing’ … inviting the friendly-looking monsters into my room just so I could be snatched without the possibility of escape. I believed they were unpredictable and had sharp, hidden fangs. It seems absurd that I was ruled by these fears. I was brought up being told that I needed to work hard and ‘climb the ladder’. I believed that I should be grateful because so many people have so much less – which is, in fact, the truth. I thought I should search for a life with a certain level of, well, certainty! This would make me happy and, at the very least, I would always have a roof over my head and the basics to sustain me.
As the years went by I realized I was increasingly unhappy. The only thing I was ‘certain’ about was that I felt suffocated by my own choices and lifestyle – because at the end of the day, they are my choices. I did alright for myself in the eyes of most: decent income, terrific pension, all the benefits and perks of working for a ‘stable’ corporation. The kind of place that has the great majority of people pausing and incapable of holding back a bewildered look when I suggested I was going to leave. Vision! What nonsense is that! No one gets what they want!
It didn’t matter that I was miserable and under immense stress. It didn’t even matter that I was unhealthy. I had a great job!
I found myself asking what that so-called great job would mean to anyone when I’m six feet under. It is a morbid thought but I spent more time working under tremendous stress than I did with my loved ones.
A good majority of the population goes through life obliviously working down a list of ‘to dos’ each and every day without much thought to the fact that the list is almost always identical to the one the from the day before and it is also meant to maintain a standard that we’re all too often unhappy with but are nonetheless too afraid to lose. This isn’t the same as the list that exists to achieve one’s goals because that can seem repetitive but serves a purpose.
For a good majority of people, the average ‘to do’ list is rarely about personal growth, vision or accomplishments that are in line with one’s values. The list is deceiving because it looks like so much is being accomplished when, in actual fact, things are being ‘maintained’. Personally, I believe these kinds of ‘to do’ lists are about giving up, throwing in the towel and rolling over for most of us. We may not realize it but it doesn’t make it any less true.
This isn’t the case for everyone. There are ‘to do’ lists out there in the hands of genuinely happy people. Most of them, however, had to hold on tight to another list first and getting through the first list meant overcoming obstacles and exhibiting grit. Hard work was involved but clarity of vision and confidence are so crucial because that’s what drives the hard work, right? Sometimes these souls believed in themselves and sometimes they had doubts but they persevered and pushed through all the ‘uncertainty’ that led them to go after what they wanted. When they felt weak and needed to find strength they focused on their vision.
There is an expression familiar to marathon runners: ‘hitting the wall’. When marathoners get to a point in their race where things go from rough to excruciatingly rough, their minds start to question what their bodies are capable of, but ‘the wall’ is known to usually be less about a real need for concern and more about panic and self-doubt in one’s own capabilities … the wall is fueled by fear. The ones that hit that wall and get passed it are the ones that push through and focus on the endgame and have the vision to make it to the finish line. It isn’t enough to know the course. If and when we reach this point, the visualization of busting through that wall is imperative. So, vision is about clarity of path and self at every step of the journey. Busting down that wall never required much effort – just a little push – for those that can hold on to the image of what’s on the other side and ignore the distractions and noise. The wall isn’t brought down by aggression … a passionate heart (one that is willing to put in the work) and a focused and strong mind disintegrate the wall.
There was a time when my reality and the concept of how the world works could be blamed on other people – or at least, the lessons they learned which were passed on through the generations. These lessons may even have made sense in their time. Yet, my father didn’t follow this advice and he travelled the world with his family taking jobs that were interesting and fulfilling to him. He took risk and he was happy. When he was attempting to explain why he thought I should keep my job, I could see genuine concern and love on his face. I asked him if he played it safe when he was younger. He admitted he hadn’t. I asked him why I would be any different … why I would be happier being stagnant. My father started over in a new country with many mouths to feed. We left our home because of political tensions and without speaking a word of English, he had to start from the beginning and in a dead-end job so he could feed his family. As an adult, I understand the decisions he made regarding the latter part of his work life but when he was younger, he was never the one to play by the rules or conform, yet he had been conditioned enough to feel he wanted something else for us … more for us! It just goes to show what programming can do to us … even when we’re not following it ourselves. It was like a light went on when he remembered the ‘standard’ never worked for him and he understands me much better now.
Circumstances limited his choices later in life but he was in a unique position. He did, however, have an opportunity to do the work he wanted for the good majority of his life and had enough influence to help many people out. He looks back now and remembers those years fondly and it actually made it so much easier to build a more traditional life because he had nothing to prove to anyone or himself … his priorities had changed. His vision had changed but it was very clear to him when it did. He didn’t have any doubts in his heart.
These days I have no excuse. I can exist within the limits of what I’ve had or I can burst the comfortable bubble and expose myself to the elements, which are sometimes harsh, but I won’t find what makes me elated if I just sit in still waters because they’re familiar. This stillness ends up breeding a cesspool for our true selves to simply decay. I could deny myself a better life or I can be bold and resolute in my boldness. I can be influenced by bewildered looks or ignore them as I focus on my vision. I can hold myself back but I’m the only one to blame if I don’t reach my goals.
My parents weren’t wrong for the most part. God, am I ever grateful! I am grateful to live here where I’m allowed to have a vision and openly explore it. I have so much appreciation towards my parents for teaching me the importance of working hard … because, yes, that too is definitely part of the puzzle. I am so grateful for what I have because many do, indeed, have less. Still, I don’t think the answer is in ‘being small’ because we feel guilty for having opportunities that others don’t; nor do I think that shows gratitude. I think gratitude can come from staying grounded and humble but taking confident strides and working towards a vision that will, in fact, allow us to have more influence and a greater impact on the world. The more we make, we’re heard and we rise, the more opportunities we have to make life better for others. We have more to donate and the ability to be better servants to those in need and the global community when we attain more power and use it responsibly to fight corruption. Being small is not the answer and guilt doesn’t make those in need – the poorest in our society – get more in return. The war is between the wealthy with a sense of social responsibility and the ruthlessly rich with greedy aspirations.
I’ve come to realize that there aren’t any monsters but the ones in my own head. Doubt and uncertainty are natural and will always be part of the human condition … and it doesn’t matter if you live in a shack or a mansion. So why don’t we just embrace them? I’m even wondering if the uncertainty and doubt I’ve been feeling is triggered by the life I’m fighting for or residual phantom worry for the one that I left behind. Maybe those monsters are fuzzy little facets of ourselves trying to push against the bed so we roll off and wake up from this constructed reality. It’s real easy to get confused when we’re overwhelmed with emotion but emotion is good – it means we’ve snapped out of this ‘Stepford stage’ of acceptance!
First and foremost, my vision is to live my life with these new perspectives and philosophies in mind. Still, vision scares me every day. It scares me because I’m still breaking out of these old thought patterns. Sometimes my brain has a glitch and reverts back to the older software version. I am also frightened daily because I know I want to be self-employed and I want to live my life creating and making a difference in the world, but I’m still hammering out the details of what that actually means to me and looks like. I can see through the fog but the image isn’t as clear as it may be for some.
I want to get paid to write and to take photographs. I am taking steps to get myself out of a nine-to-five lifestyle so I can be self-sufficient and spend more time being with people I love. I am working on myself because I am my brand. I am taking more photographs and learning new tools. I have projects laid out and goals I want to meet by certain deadlines. I am writing every day although sometimes it feels like I’m producing trash. Sometimes. Other times I’m impressed with what I’ve accomplished. Either way, I’m still pushing through. I’m making my vision the constant.
I’m trying not to be so hard on myself because it will only slow me down. There’s no time to sit down, maybe hunch over and catch my breath, but not a ‘sit down’. Time is not an issue for everyone trying to attain their vision but we need to be true to ourselves … and I run on momentum.
What about that thing that’s so important: certainty. People buy into this lie of certainty. In many cases, the things that matter the most are out of our hands, so we must try for the life we want because we are fortunate enough to have control over those choices. Ironically, feelings of uncertainty are often the emotions that tell us we’re truly fighting for something we know with all certainty that we want! Searching for a life that is ‘stable’ won’t necessarily help us to live our vision.
I’m done with climbing ladders. I’ve got my hiking boots on and I’m ready for the mountains where I can enjoy the scenery and the fresh air along the way even if I get tired, the ground is bumpier, it won’t be as straight of a path and the trek is much longer. Everything great takes time, work and a certain level of risk. I can only minimize the time so much without cutting corners; the key is that I don’t lose my own sense of drive or shave necessary steps along with the time.
I was a child of stability, gratitude, hard work and certainty – and now I’m daring to master how to be steadfast and carry on with the utmost gratitude, grace, resilience, strength and confidence to attain my vision of the life I want and to become the vision I have for myself.