Archive for November, 2017

It took me a while to write this post. Over a month, to be exact. Yet, it is still a September 28th post, since all of it stems from my annual self-reflection exercise. It just took longer than usual for the conclusions to take shape. And shape they took…

One of the posts I wrote in the early days of this blog was The Lock and The Key. In fact, it was the first post that started the chain of “what makes me tick?” musings leading up to the one I’m writing now. Reading that seven-year-old post today feels a bit odd. Not because I cannot relate to its message any longer (I certainly can and do), but because of how confused that message seems. It’s a cry of a man who is lost in the dark and is trying to find his way to the door, not knowing where that door will lead or how he ended up in that darkness in the first place. It sounds miserable. And yet that’s exactly how I felt back then. Lost. Utterly confused by an inexplicable conflict between being obsessed with arrogantly bold aspirations and not doing enough to go after them. Searching for answers and finding phantoms of them at best. All the while leading a life that on the surface appeared solid, measured and devoid of any drama.

I did not plan to write that post, yet another one quickly followed. Than another. And as I was diving deeper and deeper and bringing back strange artifacts of my confused mind, a picture was emerging. A rather dark picture. Frustration, anger, shame, self-loathing were all making their way to this site, finally resulting in a no more! cry that replaced an active blog with an annually extended archive. None of that was healthy. Yet, bringing it all to the surface was necessary. Because that was a part of the process that led me to where I am today. And today I am in a much better place than the one I was in seven years ago. In more than one aspect.

In retrospect, I see how most, if not all of my posts over these seven years have been marking a progression. A path. First from confusion to anger, then to multiple rushed and quickly failed attempts to improve the situation, then to far more patient efforts to understand my predicament before trying to change it, and then finally to gradual and, for the most part, successful changes. They are not just posts, they are mileposts of what I’ve been calling my lonely journey. Lonely – because everyone has to take that journey alone, no matter how much support others may provide. Just like physical mileposts, each one does not amount to much on its own, yet gains a meaning in the context of a long road. And now as I look back, all these mileposts light up, tracing the contour of a road. My road. Not the straightest one. Certainly not the smartest. And yet at every turn – mine. Even the stupidest decisions and the weakest moments of that road are mine, and I would not trade them for all the smart choices and moments of strength of others.

So, a road, yes. But a road to where? Well, if your starting point is confusion then your goal must be clarity. And curiously, the direction from confusion to clarity was already set in that very first lock-and-key post. I did not see that back then, but I can see clearly now that it was anything but random. The question I was asking so desperately in that post was based on a wrong premise, but it was still a step toward the right destination. The premise that was so wrong, was the idea that unlocking whatever you feel inside yourself takes some single act of awakening. It is not. And hanging my hopes on that single mystical act was one of my biggest mistakes. When it comes to life there are no before and after states separated by a bright wall of awakening. There is only the state of growth. Or lack thereof. Seven years of soul searching led me to something I knew all along. Something we all know as kids. Only then most of us forget. Just like I did…

If there is one thing that universally defines childhood it is learning. Learning new things every day. That’s what we all do even before we become capable of realizing this. We learn. Not only about the surrounding world. But about ourselves. About what we can do. Learning to crawl. To walk. To comprehend words. To speak. To read. To ride that bike. And through all this – discovering what we are made of. Unlocking what’s inside. In those days we live in a constant state of pushing out the boundaries of our comfort zone. We do this out of necessity, but also for that thrill of adventure every child is familiar with. Sometimes it’s even hard to tell which one it is. But whatever the reason, every time we push the boundaries of the comfort zone, our life becomes richer. Maybe in just one tiny bit, but richer. All of a sudden we can do more. And yes, sometimes we end up with a scratched face or a broken arm. But while adults tending to us grumble how stupid it was to attempt that stupid thing, we quietly know that it was worth it. Totally. And so we keep pushing. Learning. Unlocking.

But then slowly yet inevitably adulthood takes over. By that time our comfort zone is vast enough to allow us spending days, weeks and months without ever running into its boundaries. It is so roomy that it doesn’t even feel limiting. And so we don’t bother touching those boundaries, let alone pushing them. There is enough space to spend our days in comfort, or at least without additional self-initiated hassle. Days that eventually add up to a life. There is just that strange nagging feeling of something being amiss. But a movie or a book or a game easily make that feeling go away. Plus, we’re busy enough with our jobs, families, everyday problems and well deserved downtime to even wonder about it. The pushing of boundaries still happens occasionally but in a very controlled way, far from the wild ride of childhood. Get a new job, move to a new neighborhood, visit a new place, learn a new video game. Evidently, this is enough for quite a few. It has not been enough for me. And interestingly enough, seven years ago is more or less when I stopped pushing my boundaries. At least, in the way I had been pushing them until that point. Prior to that I had been simply plowing forward – and not giving all the shoulda-woulda-coulda much thought. Within a year after stopping I was writing that should-I-unlock-it post, wondering what’s wrong with me.

That’s why I was looking for that door, for that key. I wasn’t just stuck. I was stuck in my own comfort zone. Which after a while can become very, very suffocating, no matter how roomy it is. In fact, a roomy comfort zone speaks about years spent expanding it. Slowing down means stopping the expansion process — and the results can be devastating. Because expansion of the comfort zone is not a luxury — it’s a necessity. At least, for me.

Why a necessity? Because everything that makes my life truly meaningful, everything that defines me can be traced back to some moment of getting out of my comfort zone. Writing that story, stepping into that gym, learning to play that guitar, kissing that girl. Whatever it is, there was a point where I had a choice of staying comfortable or doing something that in some way felt intimidating. And I can only imagine what my life would have looked like had I chosen to stay in comfort on those occasions. It would have been one constant misery with nothing worthy to show for.

I’m writing these words on a plane. This post was sitting unfinished in my drafts folder for over a month. Something was keeping me from finishing it. That something was taking different shapes. A mile-long to-do list. A constant lack of sleep. An interesting conversation. A book. Or in case of today’s flight, a movie. I could have watched another one. In fact, I had already started. But it just didn’t feel right. And writing these words instead does.

I don’t know where stepping out of my comfort zone will take me. But I do know that staying inside one for long is not the way I want to live. Because the moments of pushing my boundaries is where the magic happens. Magic that keeps fueling life between those moments. And so now, seven years later, I know that it is indeed all about unlocking what’s inside. But not once. Not twice. Not even a dozen times. It’s a way to live. Just like it used to be. Just like it is now.