In November of 1998, I had what I would consider to be “the moment”, that pivotal time in my life when I had to make “the choice”. My options were (*if I can call them that) to let things happen in my life or to be involved and engaged in all aspects of my life. I was so scared, I was so lost and very much alone. I sat in our big tour van (which was our only mode of transportation at that time) for almost two hours crying when a very simple thing happened, my sons face come to my mind and so powerful was that single moment that I knew my only choice was to engage or keep passing down that fear of my own potential. I stepped out of that van and have since walked as best as I can my path.
I started with two lists, a list of things I can change and a list of things I can not change, I set about changing the ones that I can (although I have not yet learned how to swim or to dance in public) and I have walked away from the things I can not change and released myself from the guilt often associated with perceived failure.
I want to write about perceived failures first before I move on to the lists, below are three examples what were some of my own perceived failures:
1. I am not a natural learner, I loved school but I had to work very, very hard to retain certain things, I thought I was an idiot.
2. My inner artist or dreamer was not nurtured, I grew up basically institutionalized whether that be by the education system or the church, neither environment encouraged “free thinking” or exploring, if anything, it was discouraged to the point of a fear so deep that at the age of 46, I can not dance without some guilt and so I thought I was a failed artist for the first years of my “career”.
3. I had no “tools” to work with in terms of “engaging” in the early part of my new career, I did not even have the words to use to ask the questions, I thought of myself as undeserving of my new life.
Back to my two lists, to write my two lists I went to the places in myself where I felt weak or afraid and than I would identify this as an area or weakness and ask myself can I change this? For example, I truly thought I was an idiot and so I asked myself did I learn anything in school and the more I thought about this the more I knew I had learned a lot which told me that I could learn more, that I was capable of learning, that I am in control of my “idiotness”, so I put this on the list of things I can change and I set about changing this, taking control of this part of my life. I have now in my heart that knows I am not an idiot, I am in control of what I am capable of, no one else, my learning and capacity to learn is entirely in my hands which also gave me control over my life.
A consequence of this choice, of choosing to be a better learner also gradually empowered me to be less afraid of taking certain risks in my creative career, as much as my childhood did not allow for “dreaming”, something survived and it was this something that has carried me through the “I am an idiot” stages and has brought me to a place where my love for my career is stronger than my lack of self confidence to the point where its not so much about self confidence and more about taking on a challenge.
On this journey from self loathing to self confidence, I have also realized that what our previous generation has never had is the opportunity to develop this “tool box”, they went from one way of living to another way of living without so much as a guide to help them with the transition. I have come to realize that our experiences and what we learn from these experiences are the “tool box”, we must choose to learn, to take on the burden of this change, to expand our knowledge so that the next generation has more tools to work with, more words to use to draw from, this is what I saw so clearly in that image of my son those many years ago. I chose to stop being afraid, to stop being angry and resentful and to take control, this was my burden not my sons.
Slowly, my focus has shifted from what was broken to what has survived and how to keep strengthening this area, this is my challenge, not my sons.
© Dr. Susan Aglukark, O.C.