The Paradoxical Moment When You Know Yourself both Better and Worse than you ever have before.
There comes a critical time in everyone’s life where everything that was right is now left, and everything that was up is now down. This precise moment in time is when you wake up from the slumber of your normal unconscious lives only to realize everything you once believed in, and everything you thought to be true, is challenged by the blossoming evolution of your conscious self.
The path of self-inquiry my friend is not for the faint hearted, but reaps the benefits of an awareness of the totality of our experience of life.
Once you embark down the road of self-inquiry, you’ve taken the red pill and can no longer choose to ignore a harsh reality and live a life of blissful ignorance. Pandora’s box is opened and there is no way to go back to living the life you once had, only full steam ahead.
I’ve been living this moment for the last few years and I suppose I’m navigating my way through things slowly and methodically from an external perspective, but from an internal view – my existence is working at a lightening’s pace trying to both make sense of an outside world that for all intents and purposes seems upside-down, and reconcile it with my own inner thoughts and deeply-held value systems. During my feeble attempt to understand an off-kilt external world I’m desperately grasping for an identity to give myself.
When you dive down the rabbit hole you realize the power your ego has had over you and your previous life. Now, that you see it and all of it’s fallacies for what they are, you simultaneously are frightened to feed it any more new identifications than necessary to keep it intact and as powerless as possible. There’s really no way to destroy your ego…but the mere thought that it might happen is enough to make you shit your pants. I mean what would life be like without an ego? You’d have absolutely no sense of self.
I’m not going to paint this as a picture of enlightenment. I consider this more of a reflective point and a reckoning with my own existence.
There are many trivial things that I can point out in my life currently that reflect this turmoil and battle of my inner and outer world, in which I reside and happen to be stuck in limbo, but for now I’ll give you an anecdotal glimpse.
About 8 months ago I quit my job profession as a scientist. I’d given 15 years of my life to try to uncover the intricacies buried within the genetics of cancer in a great hope that I may one day be able to help humanity. It was after many agonizing nights of self-inquiry that I decided that this line of work was simply not fulfilling enough from me, for reasons both explainable and unexplainable.
Most importantly, I didn’t see the merit for me to work as a scientist anymore. I know right?! Who in their right mind would say that a profession in cancer research has no merit as a cause-worthy profession?
For me, being the operative word in the statement – I feel as if somehow I’m growing in ways I hadn’t expected and am now trying my best to reconcile external pressures of the world, with the wants and desires of what amounts to an ego that is nearly Tabla Rasa.
And therein lies the problem. When you find yourself in this juncture and you know for whatever reasons the life you used to see, taste, touch, smell, and hear, are not the life you want or require. You’ll find yourself at an impasse with your soul.
Everything you once identified with is now simultaneously absent, and the wish you would like to identify with has yet to materialize.
For growth as a human, I’m sure this is a necessary part of our lifecycle. But I fear it’s both a luxury and a curse not afforded to everyone. Millions of people face the harsh realities of the world on a daily basis, but with their self-inquiries hidden away somewhere in the darkest regions of their mind. They have no time for such ludicrous notions…they must act, act quickly, or be eaten alive.
This is a purely a problem of the 1st world and I am keenly aware of that – and believe me I’ve given myself enough tongue lashings in my head over this notion, that I’m certain no amount of public belittling would make much of a difference about how I feel. It is true…you are always your harshest critic.
In a metaphorical sense there are many higher order animals that go through passages within their lives that are phenomenological to what I’m describing – the most obvious being the lowly lobster. Yes, you read that correctly – I did indeed say the lobster – the same poor bastard that ends up in the boiling pot of water.
Aside from being the tastiest crustacean to roam the planet, the lobster has a curious life of continual rebirth. In case you’re not privy, lobsters have a hard external exoskeleton that is fixed in size. As lobsters succeed in life, they grow from the inside until they mature placing an incredible amount of stress on the outer shell – at which time it is finally shed and a softer larger shell more accommodating to the needs of the lobster takes its place. If the lobster were to never experience that pressure, he would never grow, but once he as grown and shed the external remnants of his life, he’s soft and vulnerable for some amount of time before his armor hardens.
Right now, I’m that soft and vulnerable lobster that’s recently shed its armor. Or perhaps, I’ve yet to shed the armor and am afraid to move on to better things? I’ve made tremendous growth internally through the practice of self-inquiry but am keenly aware that I have not reformed the shape I will one day take and grow.
Which leads me to a real life anecdotal microcosm of my life I’ve been toiling with over the last few weeks. The important and incredibly necessary introductory statement on LinkedIn, my elevator-pitch per se. Now you’re probably laughing – from Lobsters to LinkedIn, really? – But please hear me out.
I’ve been looking at my account everyday determined to try and hash out an appropriate pitch, but at the moment I cannot fathom what I want to pitch myself as. Sure, I could simply pitch myself as a scientist with 15 years of experience – a run of the mill cog in the machine that could certainly do all the DNA preps you want for a mind-numbing number of hours and a pittance of a pay, but dammit I’m more than that.
I refuse to backslide my way into a position that not only is beneath me both in terms of experience and expertise, but also in terms of direction and values. I left that world for a reason. I left that world for a new dynamic role where I can flourish and grow as a human. A role that I can use my gifts, share them with the world, and help people in whatever manner that presents itself.
You see, the thing that happens after you fall down that rabbit hole, and open your eyes for the first time in you life, is that you develop a keen sense of values. If you’d have asked me about values 5 years ago I would have laughed…”values, what values – I work hard is that not enough?”
Once you have values as a compass for the direction of your life you get the distinct feeling that you’re riding a crested wave towards a destination unseen. You don’t know what the outcome of your life will be, but you’re damn sure you aren’t going to compromise yourself to achieve a means not congruent with what you stand for.
Yes, I was a fine scientist. Certainly not the best, and far from the worst, but that world seems so little to me now. In fact, in no particular order these things that meant so much to me at one point of time mean nothing to me:
- Fame and Success – I don’t give a damn for it. All you reckless souls throwing your lives away trying to be the next greatest thing can keep on climbing that never ending ladder. You’ll never feel satisfied I promise you.
- Money and Possessions – You could offer me a million dollars a year to be a tollbooth worker and I would tell you to suck it. A year of my life is worth more than any amount of money you can throw at me. If you think I’m a nut, go to a hospital, talk with a terminally ill person and ask them what they’d pay to spend another year with their loved ones. Money is as worthless as the paper it’s printed on. It’s only a means for survival in my mind and possessions only end up possessing you. Think I’m kidding, the next time you drive your fancy car into a Wal-Mart parking lot look and see where you end up parking. I bet it’s somewhere distant from the rest of the lot – far enough away that it might not get scratched. Or how many times do you fret over keeping up with your neighbors? Buying more worthless shit, when that money could be spent on something else worthwhile (which I’ll get to in a second). I once went into a marketing agency who was apparently an agency for good causes…let’s just say it didn’t go well when we had philosophical differences about the type of advertising that works. Apparently, in the entire known universe – I’m the only person who doesn’t click on annoying Facebook Advertisements. I’ve stepped off that hedonic treadmill and only now see the insanity that has ensnared the majority of the 1st
- Giving a damn about what people think of me – You know why I don’t care what people think of me? Because it’s none of my business. Jesus I used to be such a people pleaser…I was so worried all the time that people might not like me. Now I feel nothing but guilt that I spent so many years of my life caring so much about what others thought of me, and coincidentally so little about what I thought of myself.
Values that mean something to me now are limited but incredibly strong. They drive my direction (even when I don’t know where I am headed). These values include brutal honesty, empathy and compassion, not yielding my convictions, always being myself, self-actualization, loving myself, and most importantly an open heart filled with love for everyone I meet. I may look like a Russian mobster, but I’m as sentimental as they come. I wear my emotions on my sleeve and always try to let people know that I care for them. The greatest feat of courage I’ve ever conquered is allowing my vulnerabilities to be shown so that I have been able to develop deep and meaningful relationships with lovers, friends, and family. After all…I know in every thread of my soul that the only thing that matters for us is our experiences and relationships.
The problem I have with an elevator pitch juxtaposed with a renewed set of core beliefs is that I don’t yet know where I’m going. I can’t tell you I want to be middle management at a medium sized matrix environment, lean six sigma practicing company. That sounds horrible…and any fool that would hire me for that would do us both a great disservice. The only thing I know is that I am a good and smart man, with a great set of values, who cares about people, and through 15 years of rigorous training is incredibly resourceful. And lastly, I’m doggedly determined to be the best version of myself possible. Hopefully someone out there see’s the amazing value of me soon, of I’ll just have to bootstrap it myself. If we’re all going to be thrown in the pot at the end…what the hell am I afraid of?