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The Highway of Discontentment
The Highway of Discontentment Leads to Self Discovery
Twenty Years Of Detour To Acceptance
Over the last two years, I have been reflecting on my life and what I would like to achieve going forward. You could say that I have arrived at middle age and is trying to determine what my legacy or contribution to the world will be. I feel like I have a lot to offer and about a half of a lifetime to do so. While it is not productive to wallow in regrets, it is useful to reflect on your past to effectively chart the way forward. I am therefore taking stock of some of the mistakes, failures, successes, and gains that I have made over the first forty five years of my life. I am optimistic that the next forty five years will be more productive and successful.
I have been reflecting on my aspirations in a more conscious way over the last two years,. However, this is not new to me as I have always reviewed the progress of my life from as early as grade school. I have always thought about what I wanted to achieve within five or ten years. I have been keeping journals since I was a teenager. I do not journal on a daily basis, but whenever I feel the inspiration to write something down. I find that writing in my journal helps to clarify my perspectives on whatever the present circumstances were. Whenever I was going through highly charged emotional times I would write in my journal. On reviewing the entries over the last twenty years, I have observed some angry entries; some happy entries, such as the birth of my children; some sad entries, such as the death of my grandparents and entries about disappointments and lack of recognition or major achievements. About ten years ago, I wrote down a personal mission statement, and I still live by those values. I have also written down my dreams/goals or 'bucket list' as some people call it. This bucket list consists of fifty things that I would like to do before I pass on. I also have a top ten list of things that I would like to achieve within the next ten years. On observation of my top ten list after ten years, I have achieved about eighty percent of my goals, yet I feel this sense of underachievement. I was surprised that I had been on course, even though I did not feel that way.
What does being on course mean to me? Well, it means achieving the goals that I have set for myself using my chronological age as a marker. For instance, when I was seventeen, one of my goals was to be a teacher by the age of twenty. Even though I achieved that goal by the target timeline, I did not celebrate my achievement. It is weird how one can forget to acknowledge their accomplishments, but remembers the setbacks. For instance, it has often bothered me that I did not make it to senior management by thirty years old which was one of my goals fifteen years ago.
So this brings me to the evaluation of my past twenty years. I arrived in Toronto, Canada from a small town in Jamaica and immediately faced culture shock as I adjusted to life in the big city. I immediately noticed that people were not as cordial as I was accustomed to. It appeared that no one acknowledge each other. They were too busy going about their business to notice the other person or to exchange greetings. It took me some time to understand life in a metropolitan city.
I migrated to Canada as an international student to study Public Policy and Administration at one of the universities in Toronto. I had aspirations of returning to the Caribbean where I would make my contribution to the educational system. I was going to return as an Education Administrator; to develop policies for teachers and students. Needless to say I detoured from that path. While I have many positive experiences in North America and have gained tremendous life experiences living abroad, I still have the uneasy feeling that I made a detour. Here is the analogy of how I summed up my last twenty years.
As I drove away from the Pearson International Airport, I headed west; I had missed the eastbound ramp to the 401, and inadvertently headed the wrong way. I was not alone as I had my three buddies, Intuition, Self Worth and Spirituality with me. We headed west on the Highway of Discontentment when we meant to go east to the city of Authentic Me. As we started on our journey, my companions were very engaging as we drove along observing all the new and exciting things, people and events along the way; things that we have never seen or experienced before. Intuition was the most excited. He was protesting vehemently that we were headed in the wrong direction. I was taking no notice of his tantrum. We met people who were friendly, confident, insecure, hateful, considerate, helpful, jealous, kind, caring, generous, prejudice, pretentious, mean, greedy, ambitious, competitive and uncaring along the way. Some taught me to trust, others to distrust.
Even though Intuition tried to warn me of some pitfalls ahead, I completely ignored him and forged ahead. I told him to be quiet and that I was in charge. He was very persistent that I was going the wrong way, but I refused to listen to his advice. I got so frustrated with him that I cut off almost all communicate with him. Every time he tried to speak, I would stop him and told him to be quiet. He stopped communicating with me and soon, I could not hear him. I missed him because he had served me well in the past, but I was too proud to seek him out. Sometimes, he shouted at me because I was forgetting my values but I had my way. I did the opposite to what he suggested. He was very frustrated with me. He just sat back and watched me go further into the detour. He had severed all communication with me.
Self-worth also tried to redirect me back to the east, but his advice was low on my priority. I was intent on finding my own way. I felt like I did not have to work with Self-worth; he was making too much fuss over insignificant matters. He was telling me to put myself first, but isn't that selfishness? I looked to Spirituality for backing but he told me that he was staying out of the argument. I felt that Self-worth was preventing me from having fun and feeling personal advancement. He wanted me to turn around and go back the other way. I thought ironically how silly of him for wanting me to go to some uncomfortable place; I might get lost. This path was clear with many lanes of roadway going in the same direction. Why would I get off and go back? This road must lead to my destination. After much arguing back and forth without any success, Self-worth closed his eyes and doozed off to sleep. He was leaving me to my own vices.
Spirituality was my constant companion, looking out for me as I made this detour. He defended me wholeheartedly. He didn't mind that I used him as a crutch when I got tired, burnt out, disappointed, frustrated, betrayed or lonely. He was always willing to help. He was pleasant, kind, understanding, non-judgemental, patient and forgiving. I could always turn to him anytime of day or night. He preferred to drive up front with me and to be my constant source of inspiration and direction as long as I asked him. He never imposed his will on me. Sometimes I got very self- assured and sent him to the back of the car because I didn't need his help. He never resisted or asked why. He calmly did as he was told. My eyes well up with tears as I think about him because we had some of the best and worst times together. He supported me through the twists and turns of the journey, even from the back seat of the car. He defended me when I was challenged by tragedies and setbacks along the detour. When I was hit by debris from the roadway, he helped me to pick myself up and get back on the path. He allowed me to make mistakes. He always said "Failure is the best teacher." Whenever I was sad, disappointed or lonely he was always there for me. He never said "I told you so." He taught me important lessons without saying a word. He listened to my whining and complaining without judgement or criticism. He smiled re-reassuringly at me and I always felt better.
Then one day as I travelled along the Highway of Discontentment, I made a realization. I understood what my trusted companions were telling me all along. I had to make a change as I was driving without a road map. I was lost and had to do something about it. I decided to take action immediately and got off at the next exit. I decided to take the path that pointed to Authentic Me. Now I travel with my buddies, Intuition, Self-worth and Spirituality and I listen to them. I pay attention to their advices. I sometimes make mistakes, and go the wrong way, but thank goodness they are my GPS. Even though it took me twenty years to realize it, I have learned many lessons along the detour. I would not change anything about the journey.