Part 2: Who did I think I would be?
I'm a firm believer that "I am who I am becoming." I'm a work in progress - always have been and always will be. Okay... so when I was young, I had some preconceived notions about life that colored who I thought I could become. Happens to the best of us, eh? But, I always somehow knew I would never be "finished."
So... as I looked deeper at the question, "Who did I think I would be?" my mind kept drifting to something much more significant. That's when I realized that my biggest influence so far in life was not who I thought I'd be... but, who I was afraid I might become. I can't help but wonder, "Does fear play more of a role in who I am than I do?"
Well... if I'm honest, I've always known the answer to that. The answer is "yes." As a child, and young adult, I operated from a home base of fear. I feared what people would think of me. I was scared of the reactions of my family. I was scared of failing at anything. Later, as a young adult, I was afraid of new people and experiences. I was afraid of my own feelings and emotions.
But, my biggest fear was being paralyzed by fear itself. Yes... I was afraid of fear, and I was downright terrified that my fear-based "normal" would cause me to miss out on the good in life. So, everything became about "powering through." It was exhausting and it took it's toll on my health and my psyche. So... I made a conscious decision to choose my battles wisely, and I stopped trying to overcome fears of the stuff that wasn't going to get me anywhere. Instead, I focused my energy on the things I knew would get me ahead in life.
And THAT is where the "person I thought I would be" kicked in. I always wanted to be that kind of person who was resilient enough to rise above adversity. I wanted to be thrive in the face of challenges. So I took on a "fake it till you make it" mentality... and it worked. I guess if you're going to be resilient, you have to get knocked down.
I didn't always make the right choices, but overall - I knew the value of "healthy fears." That got me a lot further than I ever dreamed. I started a career, got college degrees, bought a house, had relationships and so on. I thought that by overcoming my fears, it would actually eliminate the fears. Unfortunately, it did not. It wasn't until just a few years ago that I learned the cause of all of my fear. Over thirty years of putting my head down and powering through came to a head and I was forced to lift up my head and face my invisible tormentor.
I walked into a counselor's office and heard myself saying, "There hasn't been a day of my life that I have felt safe. I am constantly terrified." I didn't even know where it came from... but the counselor got it. After that door was opened, I was able to explore it fully, which led to having a name for my fear: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Okay... let's stop there for a minute.
|"We See You" - copyright 2010, Craig Purcell
*** insert personal stories here***
Long story short - this "name" for my fear is the first thing in over thirty years that made a true and sustainable difference in how I live my life. I started understanding that fear is a side effect of imprints in my mind. I started learning how to live outside of fear instead of constantly pushing it around like a boulder that blocked my path. I learned to change the imprints in my mind, and my reaction to them. It's still there... but now, I know what to do.
It looks different than I thought it would, but it feels like I always hoped. I have a greater appreciation for all of those visions of my life I held so dear in childhood and throughout my life. The person I truly am - the person I used to have to shove out into the light, squinting and afraid - is now comfortably walking into the sun with less trepidation. And, at least in my own skin, I have risen above the challenges to be a more open, inviting and caring person. I'm not overwhelmed by what could be... I am excited by it.
Hey...look at that. I'm back - full circle - to the person I thought I would be.