I have lost a lot of friends in my life. Each time I came face to face with the pain of loss, I was presented with a choice. In looking back at my life, I have come to realize that the choice was always the same.
At the age of 16, for one and a half years I squandered away my existence, lost in a world of drugs. Two friends who shared this life with me are no longer alive today due to the degree to which we immersed ourselves in despair and self-destruction. As cliche as this may sound, the truth is, almost overnight, my life changed forever.
It seems like a lot of people who write about how to change are the ones who successfully made it happen for themselves. Logically, it makes sense. Who else better to write about how to accomplish something than people who have done it?
I love reading articles about how to successfully improve your life and truly appreciate the writers behind them for generously sharing their wisdom. However, it can be discouraging. Before reading an article, I sometimes skip down to the writer’s bio in hopes that they are perhaps in a similar position as myself: just starting out and very green as to how to go about accomplishing their dreams.
It was a hard thing to admit – that I’d done everything I was told to do… and felt empty. Western culture tells us “Get a degree, get a job, get a home, make a lot of money, and happiness is yours.” I’ve tested the theory… It doesn’t work.
I used to be a teacher in the inner city. Every morning I would wake up at 530 am to go teach in the poverty stricken neighborhoods of Los Angeles, California. On some level it felt good. On paper, it looked great. Here I was – in my mid 20’s giving my heart and soul to educate america’s underserved youth. But if I’m honest, with you, with myself – I did it for the wrong reasons.
2,100 square feet holds a lot. Three bedrooms means three beds. Dressers, night tables. A stacked kitchen. Two living rooms includes two big screen TVs, two sectional couches and tables. Then there’s the decoration. Paintings, statues, flair. Books, DVDs, candles, electronics. You name it, we had it. And probably a few more of it, stuffed in a closet somewhere. Plus a two-car garage, without an inch to spare. We had it all, plus a bit more.
And then, a revelation. A forced awakening, brought on by a series of tragic events, the kind that impose questions of how and why. The kind that speak to the brevity of life, the importance of imagination, and provoke an acute compulsion to change direction. It was too powerful to be ignored. We were ready, oh-so ready, to act on it.
To love someone is to love them without possessing them, without owning them. In the past I thought that jealousy and possessiveness were a sign of love, but then I realised that they are only a sign of an inflated ego. The ego that wants to own things and people.
I have been in relationships where I have felt restricted, to a lesser or higher degree. I knew that my partner disapproved of some of my ways or disagreed if I did certain things. This felt suffocating.
I’m going to share a skill that a child can learn in just a few minutes. But even though it’s a very simple to learn, it takes a lifetime to master. First, a story.
I’m usually a light sleeper. But a few months ago, in the middle of the night, my wife had to shake me awake. “David, I’m scared,” she said. “What’s happened now?” I asked. For the past three nights we’d been kept awake by our neighbour, Kendrick*. He’d been banging the walls with what sounded like a hammer. He’d been having a midnight bonfire in his garden, burning furniture that he threw out of the window. He’d been playing booming music. And he’d been wandering the streets outside our house with a large knife in his hand. Kendrick was a drug addict, and we’d been having a merry time of it.