The earlier days of my life don’t prompt recollections of clarity and purpose. I can’t recall moments where I had a definite view of what I wanted to become and where I wanted to be at any specific point in my life. Of course, the one prevailing thought at the time was the premonition that death awaited me at the age of 23. Needless to say that premonition was wrong, and each time I experience a decidedly unpleasant moment in my life, I find myself wistfully recalling the comfort I drew from that premonition.
Beyond that point I found myself unprepared for what lay ahead. Apart from the typical considerations of wanting to be an architect, or something, I pursued whatever opportunities came my way with relative ease and minimal conviction. My naturally competitive spirit drove me to push the boundaries in everything I did, but at no point did I find myself driven towards a higher calling. I merely made the most of what I had access to, and that pretty much sums up my approach to life as well, for a while at least. Eventually, after several severe betrayals, and the sudden realisation of the additional responsibilities that surfaced when I wasn’t paying attention, I found myself compelled to define a path for myself.
I chose not to. Instead, quite sub-consciously I defined what it was that I did not want. What I wanted was too stifling to commit to. It limited me and defined me in ways that I did not feel comfortable imposing on myself. So instead, I focused on what I didn’t want. That felt liberating. Still does. I found that it allowed me to consider options that would otherwise have conflicted with a carefully crafted path in life. Little wonder then that I find myself restless when among those that have their lives planned to the last detail. They have this idea as to what they want to achieve, by when, and where to after that. It sounds too clinical to be life. Some view that as purpose, I view it as safety. Safety is something I’ve never truly craved. Comfort perhaps, but not safety from the fluidity of life.
Against that backdrop I found myself observing those around me. Those that fit the mould and ticked the boxes of success. I could never relate, and in weaker moments, those empty boxes that I could never tick were used quite successfully to pummel my spirit further into the dirt. Fortunately those moments never lasted. But each time I emerged from that space it provided me with insight into the constraints of leading a life well planned.
The plans that I saw unfolding in most people’s lives usually took a path that started off with youthful passion in wanting to change the world. That defined a mission for them that set them on a path to achieve the prerequisites needed in order to influence the segment of the world that they wanted to change. Those prerequisites ticked the right boxes and in turn unlocked opportunities that promised success, recognition, and importantly, wealth. Along with those familiar trappings of success came the distraction. Oh that painful distraction. The one that prompts us to indulge in the trappings as a token of celebration for our efforts to succeed in a world that we despised enough to want to change. Silently, and almost imperceptibly, they grew to define the very same world they set out to change.
All the while the responsibilities accumulated to the point where the trappings were no longer tokens of success, but instead they had become necessities that were essential for the fulfilment of those responsibilities. Purpose didn’t matter any longer, or if it did, it morphed into a shadow of its former self. And slowly they assimilated without realising it. What once defined their desire to contribute their unique talents to the world now only defined their taste in the trappings that aimed to set them apart from the rest. Discernment replaced purpose. And so the distractions overtook and death became a reality that only happened to everyone else. That is when they lost themselves.
I see many people almost totally bewildered when their carefully constructed path through life meets a forced detour. What started out as a great idea quickly unravels into empty stares when faced with the coldness that reality offers. At some point we all succumb. We set out with passion, get distracted by our ego, lose sight of what is important, and then shift focus to that which is needed to sustain the distraction while dismissing the passion for purpose as a whimsical desire of youth. We grow old because we undermine that passion for life. We grow weak and meek, and almost despicable when we believe that there is ignorance in youth rather than clarity of purpose. When we hold on to such beliefs of youth, we condition ourselves to accept that its abandonment is in fact maturity, while its embrace is foolhardy.
I choose to live a foolhardy life. The best part is that it is not a crowded space at all. Unfortunately.