Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Forest for the Trees

2 March 2011

What kind of man am I?

Not the kind I thought I'd be. But not the kind I feared I'd be, either. I consider myself a coward--afraid to take hard steps toward being a better person--but I know I'm far less a coward now than I have been in years past. I have learned over and over that more regrets are generated by chances not taken than those taken. I have no idea how those things I've opted out of in life would have changed me, but I'm pretty clear that this path, the one without the risks I decided not to take, has become less spectacular than I imagined.

But what is that a comment on, the choices I made or the expectations I had? It's not hard to understand how one's choices affect the direction of one's life, not at my age, but it's very difficult to know whether my expectations were in line with the direction I was comfortable starting in, which also begs the question: were my skills and confidences suited, or even applied, to the goals I made?

Truth is I made no goals, not real ones anyway. I followed a motivated crowd right to the edge, but when they all took flight on wings well-prepared, I went right over the cliff. I relied heavily on positive words given me by mentors, but had no substantial understanding of their meaning. I'd only adopted those goals of my friends which sounded close enough to be within reach, but still lofty enough to impress my parents, and pretended to my teachers and counselors that I knew how to realize them. Because my method was twice-flawed, my end was twice-doomed.

Now, twenty years later, I'm so far along a path I barely know how to navigate I have no clear memory of what led me this way. I still have a token idea of who I was when I started, and what brought me to this place, but no real clarity and no real direction. When I think I get these ideas, I realize more often than not that I'm only seeing an old reflection of a situation that seems familiar, not anything real. What I think I've learned only has meaning in the moment. The most objective clues I have are the trail of breadcrumbs I've left, marking the way with scars of the people I've hurt or used over the years. It's a pitiful map that, when seen for what it truly is, reveals only the circular wanderings of someone who is hopelessly lost.


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