If I could, I would spend 40 hours a week on the Internet. Seriously, I need to find a way to make it pay enough that I can give up The Day Job™ and focus all my time on this amazing universe of information and communication.
If you had shown me this future when I was 20, I would not have believed it. From my 20 year old vantage point, this sort of global connectedness was reserved for the lucky few who lived in large cities like New York, London, and L.A.
Not fat girls from small Southern towns who were a mile away from the nearest neighbor and five miles away from the nearest library, and who didn’t drive.
Growing up, this was my reality.
Take away the paved road. Take away the nearby subdivisions that have sprung up in the almost 30 years since I left. Take away the cable or satellite television. Take away the Internet. Take away the freedom. (Oh, and the swimming pool is new owners’ doing.)
And there you have it—isolation coupled with clinical depression and a fear I would never do or see or be anything in my life.
Perspective is Key
This is not one of those rag on my childhood posts. In many ways, I had a wonderful childhood—great siblings and plenty of cousins, a nice house to grow up in, animals and nature and music and art. A focus on education. A focus on self-improvement.
For most kids, it would have been enough. For most kids, it is enough.
But for such a long time, I felt isolated, ignored, and this dread fear that the world was going on without me.
Looking back on it now, I am amazed at the loveliness I grew up in. I took it for granted then, hated it actually. It’s only through the perspective of three decades gone that I can now see its beauty. As a child, it felt like a prison. Even looking at it now, I get a tiny twinge of it—that fear, that closed-in feeling, that desire to run as far as I can any direction but home.
You see, I always knew the world was an amazing place, so much bigger and more intricate than cane fields and shell roads and church fairs and Homecoming games. I dreamed of living in a city, the bigger the better, and meeting erudite, eclectic people with oddly-spelled names and experiences that should might have seemed ordinary but in fact weren’t ordinary at all.
And the first opportunity I got, I ran.
Looking back on it now, I could have done it better. You see, I never ran to anything in my life. I’ve always run from things—from home, from problems, from fear, from shame. My running has taken me to many places, most amazing and fun and filled to the brim with good memories.
But I’ve always been running from.
I think I’ve been doing it since the day I was born, if not on the outside than always on the inside.
I don’t remember many specifics about growing up. It’s probably because I wasn’t there most of the time. My body may have been in school, on the marching field (sweating and getting sock tans), keeping my head low in social situations where I was more often than not the butt of the jokes. But my mind was elsewhere, always a million miles away.
I had an amazing fantasy life. In my head there was a village, peopled with characters from stories and television who came alive in my imagination. I played with my thoughts like dolls, telling myself stories and living adventures in faraway places, healing my wounds internally while my body grew deader and deader on the outside.
I went through the motions of life, living and loving and interacting with those around me, but never actually there.
In retrospect, I feel guilty. In retrospect, I see the disservice I did myself and the people I loved by never being present in my life. I have memories of interactions—wonderful times with my siblings and cousins, quiet talks with my mom, singing with my dad, and that amazing group of friends I managed to find along the way. But I was never really there, never fully present, never engaged in the process of being alive.
Fast forward thirty years. I live in another state, far from my family, but I have more contact with them than I have had in years (thanks to Facebook and Skype). I’ve been places, done things, met people who were erudite, eclectic and often had oddly-spelled names.
And that village of friends inside my head? They’re still there. But now, instead of watching their lives like some fuzzy 8mm film inside my mind, I can call on them as a sort of Council, my Jungian guides, archetypal expressions of traits and strengths I always had inside of me, but never believed existed. They were my best friends in childhood, my constant companions and champions, the ones who loved me even when it felt the whole world hated me.
Even when I hated myself.
Good news is I don’t hate myself anymore. I haven’t for a while now. And even though I still feel like the butt of the joke sometimes, I’m working on that whole “being present in my life” thing. It’s a good place to be.
And the best thing is? I’m not alone anymore. I’m not isolated anymore. In addition to having Fey, the best wife anyone could ask for, my family, and some of the best friends in the world (you know who you are), suddenly that big world I always have wanted to be a part of has come to me!
The world, if you look at it from the right perspective, is changing and growing and becoming an even more vibrant and amazing place. Look around you—really look. People are opening their eyes. People are waking up. People are communicating, sharing ideas, inspiring passion in each other.
The passion to learn. The passion to change. The passion to discover.
In his book A Life at Work: The Joy of Discovering What You Were Born To Do, Thomas Moore writes about finding your daimon, that creative spirit or force that drives a person to their purpose in life. For years, I had no understanding of my daimon, no touchstone with which to communicate with this spirit so strong in us all.
I wasn’t alone. Most people don’t know “what they want to do when they grow up” either.
But the search for and respect of the personal daimon is possibly one of the most important journeys we can undertake, more important than college, or grad school, or the first job, or the first house…
Without a purpose in life, without that creative powerhouse sending fire through your veins, we are all isolated. We are all ignored. We are all walking around in a fantasy world, cut off from reality and barely connecting with what life really can be, the butt of our own cosmic joke.
I believe, after forty-five years of sleep-walking through life, that I am finally beginning to recognize my daimon. She is like me—quirky, gluttonous for knowledge and experience and communication, brave and silly and reckless at times. And she’s sick of playing second-fiddle to the other voices in my head.
She is coming in strong, and I don’t know how my life will ever be the same.
She is showing me my life, the good and the bad and the locked-away-never-to-be-discussed and the fearful and joyous and downright ludicrous. She is forcing me to face myself, in all my imperfect glory, and she’s not letting me turn away in shame or despair.
We’re going on an adventure together, my daimon and me, far more thrilling and dangerous than any I ever concocted in my little stories.
I’d like to invite you along for the ride.
Better yet, why not find your own daimon? Find that fire inside of you, that passion for whatever truly inspires you, and give it a voice. Let it sing or shout or laugh hysterically. Then bring it over to meet mine, and we’ll have a grand old time.
Oh, and my daimon filled me in on a little secret. You saw that picture earlier, of where I grew up? Here’s a picture she showed me, of where I live now.
Pretty good hunk of real estate, huh? And the best neighbors you could ask for!
Peace to you all, my fellow travelers.