From time to time, if we are fortunate enough to be able to lift our heads up from the dreary and hypnotic cadence of our fates. If by some fair fortune we find ourselves with an unoccupied moment, a chance few minutes of clarity, or perhaps, in some strange turn of events, we are forced to raise our heads and take account of where we are in life and who we have become. Revelatory moments like these are rare in most cases. We’re creatures of habit, building routines and structure into our lives, like ants, or bees, or beavers. We don’ often ask tough questions of ourselves, such as “Why?”, or “What’s next?”, so enamored are we by our jobs, our studies, our attractions, our predilections, and our problems that we seldom have the lucid moments and untethered curiosity that might lead us to stop living and start wondering.
“Who am I?”
“How did I get here?”
“Where am I going?”
I think that for many of us, these questions are not critical to daily life. They might even be a nuisance. Fleeting and bothersome questions that float in on the edges of our thoughts, like detritus washing up on the beaches of our consciousness and marring the beauty of the view we have created for ourselves of who we are and what life is to us. They might even be disruptive. If we are clinging tenuously to reality, we might not want to entertain fundamental questions that might undermine our fragile concept of identity and self. We might be dwelling in chaos and inviting in one more nagging voice to sit upon our shoulder and place doubts into our heads may not be something we want to experience at this particular time. This is fine. This is okay.
For me, I find myself in recent months, perhaps years, looking at the timeline of my life and wondering at who I am at this point in my journey. I have always been the reflective and curious sort, never too shy about delving into my own thought and ideas and pursuing change. I guess I’ve never been too in love with myself to think that there is probably a better version of me that I could become. Something I could do to make myself better. I have always been creative, curious, and inquisitive. Not always to my benefit, but I could say my life has never been “boring”.
Recently, I have begun to play with the idea that perhaps I am not the sum of all my experiences. My past does consist of violence and fear in my childhood, uncertainty and doubt in my teen years, and addiction, despair, and depression in my twenties, from which I was saved by Faith and what later became some semblance of discipline. Through the years, I have come to view my identity as sort of the result of my experiences. As I reached my forties, and with the passing of my father, I began to notice that some of my past and current behaviors bore reflections of those experiences that shaped me. I felt fortunate to have survived my past, and somewhat driven to outpace it. I experienced some success in my personal and professional life, but I still felt anxious and uncertain.
One day, the thought struck me that my present life in no way resembles the struggles of my past. I began to wonder if there might be more to who I am than only the culmination of my experiences up to this point? Am I the result of nature, or nurture, and does Free Will play a part in who I am? During a recent conversation with a close friend, he mentioned his belief that everything came down to “choices”. Our lives are more the result of our conscious and unconscious choices, rather than our environment. I meditated on this idea for a few weeks, and then I brought the idea up to a councilor that I have the benefit of speaking with on a semi-regular basis, and she agreed that there may indeed by some utility to the idea. It is possible that I am not merely the result of every stimulus and action that I have experienced, but instead, I am the culmination of the choices I have made because of being exposed to those events. In short – Free Will matters.
Intersections. Every choice is a crossroads. Perhaps there is a little good, or a little evil trying to influence every choice we make, for our detriment, or our benefit. There are big choices, and little choices, and some of the ones that we think are going to have a huge impact, are just pebbles in the ocean and some of the seemingly small and insignificant choices change the landscape of our lives forever. Not only can we decide to view our past as the result of our choices and our will, but the idea allows us to put our fate back in our hands. Yes, there are always going to be things that we are not in control of, but even amid those events, we will have choices to make. The only caveat to this idea is we must actually make the decisions and follow through with them. We have this ability, but we must be bold with it.
Choices are power. Free will writ large. Who knows where our lives will take us, but when we consciously make the decisions that determine how we navigate our lives, we become the captains of our fate, accountable only to ourselves and to God. I am happy to shift perceptions from one who life has happened to, to one who happens to life. It is a good thing to hold the belief that our actions are not futile, our feelings are not disposable, and our dreams can be guides that lead us forward to new places and new experiences. A little empowerment is a good thing in a world where it seems all too easy to get caught up in the tides of our shifting reality.
As always, thank you for reading, and for your time.
I know we all have less than we would wish to have, these days.