Where the journey takes us
Words, it seems, have consequences. Although I haven't finished 365 days of this project, I fear it may not survive that long. Or it will just continue until the end with me prattling on about things that actually mean nothing at all. The simple truth is that very few people can understand why anyone would share so much of their lives in such an open forum. Some believe that by sharing, something awful might happen. At the very least they believe people will refuse to look at them the same way they may have before they knew the whole story.
I've always thought this, but I don't really understand why people expect everyone to act and think the way that THEY do. Social media has really driven this home. People become really bent out of shape when you disagree with them or have an idea that may not follow the popularly accepted norm. Huh! I just realized I have that feeling too because I expect everyone to be as open and accepting of others as I think I am. In that sense I'm expecting everyone else to be like me. I guess the only difference is I don't condemn those who cannot be like me. For example, I have a dear friend who is a self-described conservative nutjob. We have a very VERY different views of how the world should be and how we should behave in it. That's ok. I still love him dearly as a friend. He thinks it's insane that I tell these stories but I believe that vulnerability is large part of the human experience. By sharing it, I seek to make a connection to the rest of the planet's beleaguered souls. We all have problems that we have to work through, every single one of us. Despite our best efforts to put on airs, there is no person without faults or free of pain.
Let me pause here. I don't mean to mislead you. My life right now is pretty good. It’s 90% happiness and 10% hardship. That's a major shift from 25 or 30 years ago when the ratio was more like 60/40. So don't worry too much about me. I am nowhere near the point of wanting to jump off of a bridge. I believe that even the pain and struggle of living is beautiful. So, I would NEVER jump off a bridge anyway, no matter how hard life gets. It's all part of the adventure.
On the first day of class, I tell my students that I am not a robot and that I will most certainly make mistakes. I encourage them to tell me when I've done something wrong so that I can learn from them as much as they are hopefully learning from me. I give that speech with a very strong purpose in mind. We often build an impenetrable wall around ourselves and around figures in our lives like teachers, managers, and bosses. In doing so, we forget about the fact that those people are human too. By allowing students to see my fallibility and my willingness to learn, I'm hoping to ultimately teach the important lesson of allowing ourselves to be ourselves.
Of course, there are limitations, and we should all strive to be better today than we were yesterday. My students are future medical doctors, and they must present to their patients an air of confidence even when they feel vulnerable or weak, otherwise patients cannot trust their guidance. However, by understanding one's own vulnerabilities one can empathize with the hardships of others. This empathy is crucial if students hope to become great physicians. I also think this deeper level of self-understanding is important in order to help all of us figure out our own lives. If I tell you that I'm not perfect that allows you the opportunity to take a deep breath and consider admitting that you're not perfect either. It's not to say that we should be complacent in our current imperfections. It's more about becoming fluid enough to grow and improve rather than be shackled by the pretense of feigned perfection.
As a teacher, I also have to present an air of leadership and instill trust in students. They must know that I will do my best to guide them. I believe part of my job is to help students come to terms with their own humanity and to reflect on how that impacts their ability to eventually care for others. I want them to think about the following questions. What are their vulnerabilities? How can they be managed? How do they fit in to the equation of the future? And how does understanding this help them to be more empathetic?
Maybe it's all just an excuse. Maybe this daily exercise of giving you a story and a photograph is just one great narcissistic wank or some middle-aged crisis disguised as a memoir. Who really knows? On the shallowest surface, this is a mental exercise. In my youth, words used to come to me as easily as breathing. They would sit above my mind like golden fruit hanging from the boughs of a tree. All I had to do was reach out my hand and pull them down. These days, the tree seems a lot taller. I have to build a ladder out of daily practice, otherwise I may lose my ability to reach any of the fruit at all. That would be sad. When the end of self-expression comes and I have lost the ability to create, I think it really would mark the end of my days. Even something as clumsy as this typo pocked, hastily written daily exercise has value to me, and maybe to a few of you as well.
For 205 days I have shared with you the story of my beginning, my struggles, my joys, my worries, my triumphs and random stuff that swirls around my mind. Although I still have many more stories from the days when I was a singer in a pop band and from my experiences of being in Japan, I've come to realize that those stories are not completely mine alone. That realization has censored me. I have gotten a ton of messages from readers who have been inspired. There have only been two who have come forward to offer negative feedback. Today I was informed that some students are reading these as well. I have no idea what they think but I thought it was wonderful because here they can see me as a fellow human being on the journey towards self-improvement, one that we could take together. However, there's always the other side, the dark shadow hiding under the bridge like a troll, unhappy with their own lives or deeply believing that everyone should think and behave the way that they do. They cannot forgive those who exist outside of their sphere of understanding. All these things weigh on my mind as I think about what to do with the remaining 161 days of daily stories and photos.
One thing's for sure, I don't think these posts will make a very good coffee table book although several people have suggested I create one.
Anyway, this is my story for today. Never forget, despite all of these deep musings, I have a wonderful, magnificent, beautiful and adventuresome life. I'm pretty sure that many of you do too and that you have stories of your own to share.
The photo is a picture of a photograph I took. It sits on the wall of the stairwell. I have to see it every day before going to bed. It reminds me of the light that lives within us. The statue is there, ready to carry the light too.