“There is no ascent to the heights without prior descent into darkness, no new life without some form of death.” – Karen Armstrong
I’ve gone through more change in the past couple of years than the rest of my life. I left a job I hated, got in the best shape of my life, learned to be more open and vulnerable, and have changed how I look at life. I’ve become a better father and a better person. I stopped letting all the negativity rule my life and have embraced what life should be. Everything has changed, and if I take the time to look at my life, all the most important things have gotten better.
It’s been one of the hardest transitions I’ve ever had to make. I had to do a lot of changing to get this point. A lot of soul-searching. But it has been worth every second of pain, sadness, heartache, and wondering whether I’m doing the right thing.
Because I’m at a place right now where I am happy. There are certain aspects of my life which could be better, but even if those parts of my life didn’t change, I would be content. And for me, being content and happy is where I want to be.
So how did I get to this point?
That’s a question that would take a whole book to answer. It wasn’t something which happened overnight and I’m still changing. I will always be. I’m always learning about myself and changing my life for the better each day. It’s been a gradual process, one which will always continue.
Looking Deep Within
What got me started in this change, this process is I had to take a deep look at, and into myself. I had to get brutally honest with who I was as a person, what I wanted, and where I wanted to go. I had to look at my actions, my attitude, and my mindset, and I had to delve into my words and my thoughts. Everything had to be evaluated if I wanted a new life.
In this evaluation, I found I wasn’t a good person, and I learned I didn’t know what I wanted out of life. I had no idea where I was headed and wasn’t even sure where I wanted to go. I found my actions to be detrimental to myself and others and my attitude was severely negative. My words hurt and my thoughts did the same.
It took coming to grips with the fact I was the problem in my life. And it came down to me, and only me, to fix all those problems.
In this process, I found I’ve always been this person who thought I could do no wrong. I felt superior often. Why? I’m not sure. I had no reason to. I think maybe it was my ego or a defense mechanism. Maybe those two are the same. But I let my ego rule my life for quite a long time.
So I had to realize I’m not always right and I am not superior to anyone. Finally understanding others were not the problem was a revelation. This freed up my ego and now I am becoming someone who is more open. I have more empathy for others and instead of merely hearing; I listen.
There was a lot of hurt. I found a lot of self-esteem and self-confidence issues. I found pain hidden so deep; it was hard to see because I buried it for so long. It was telling me something for such a long time, I just didn’t want to listen. That hurt and pain were there for a reason. It was beating down my door, but I was so afraid of opening it, I let the knocking continue and continue. Until the door broke.
So I had to listen to that pain and hurt, and once I did, I realized I could fix it. I could rebuild the door, put on stronger hinges, and control who came and went. But I had to be honest with where that pain was coming from.
An Honest Look
In taking an honest look at myself, I had to wonder if anyone would want to be around me. I had to think about whether I was a good friend to others and if I were someone who would be considered a good person. Given the number of friends who were reaching out to me consistently, that answer was no. I was miserable, and it made those around me miserable too.
So I had to reevaluate what it meant to be a good friend and a good person. I had to understand it wasn’t always about what I wanted, and I had to relearn compromise and how to be selfless. I needed to be better at being someone who others could rely on. Because I was unreliable.
While looking at my life, I understood I’ve been so closed off to others and to change; it kept me in a holding pattern. I was going nowhere in my career, my relationships, and my life. I was content to go along for the ride. And it left me alone and wondering what life was all about it.
So I allowed myself a little vulnerability. I made the choice to put myself out there for others to see and to judge. I let myself be open to criticism. Because I understand that is one way I learn and grow. It is also one way I find love, belonging, and worthiness. That vulnerability lets me know I’m not alone and I don’t have to have all the answers. It tells me we are all in this life together.
When They Come Back
I also found problems which I have denied for so long. And it’s become a recurring theme which threatens to derail something very important to me.
I’ve struggled with alcohol for a long time. Although I have cut back a lot in the past couple of years, I would still have a few beers from time to time. The problem is I don’t know when to stop. And that’s when things turn out bad.
So I need to quit because alcohol makes me an asshole. I knew it did, but it’s been a crutch for so long, I guess I believed it was fine to be that way. But it’s not, and it needs to change for me to be a better person and partner and continue this transition to a better life.
And the Process Continues
This is what being honest with myself has meant for me. It’s an ongoing, never-ending process. I reexamine myself continually and I face my problems head-on now instead of numbing them with alcohol or denying they exist. I understand I am the root of most of my problems and it’s not everyone else’s fault. That honesty with myself has allowed me to alter my path, and that path is now leading somewhere I want to go.
I had to face some demons to get to this point, but getting real with myself has changed my life.
And if you want to change your life, you will have to do the same.
Jeff Barton is a writer, ultra-runner, lover of books and zombies, a practitioner of positive thinking, and most importantly, a dad. Living and loving life one day at a time. You can find him at jeffthewriter.com and jefftherunner.com.
Image courtesy of Amine M’Siouri.