It is a challenge to find our place in life.
There are those select few who know exactly what they want to be from the moment they are born. An architect, an author, a doctor, a lawyer or a successful businessman. They’ll plan each action and every step with extreme precision knowing that one day their journey will lead them to the conclusion of their predetermined path. And it does.
That isn’t the case for many of us… hell, most of us.
You may think I’m being rather presumptuous, but I’m not. You know why? Because I hear it in the voices of nearly everyone I’ve ever spoken with. I feel it, I sense it, I can tell that the slightest sense of uncertainty exists within them; there are choices they’ve made that teeter on the brink of regret. That somewhere in their past lay a crossroads in which they chose a path by listening to others, not themselves.
I understand this better than most because I am aware of the same uncertainty that exists within me.
I blindly chose courses in high school based on what people told me I was good at. I began college as an Architectural Engineering major because I was rewarded for being good with numbers. I took positions at companies because they were secure “real jobs” that paid for stuff I never really wanted.
I was living a life chosen by others.
But then something happened. It wasn’t a sudden, abrupt change that occurred overnight. It was a slow metamorphosis that took time to evolve.
There is, and always has been a glowing spark inside of me. There’s one inside all of us. I like to think of it as my true character, my essence, or my soul. There were times when it flickered very dimly, on the verge of being extinguished. But then something would always happen; something would change.
I changed majors.
I got out from behind the desk where I would spend countless hours calculating numbers and solving thermodynamic questions. Sure, I could tell you at what rate a house insulated with R30 fiberglass insulation would lose heat given the temperature difference between the interior and exterior, but did I honestly give a shit?
I shifted from finite answers to a world of unknowns when I first stepped into the school of Architecture and Planning. I began taking classes like Philosophy, Persuasive Writing, and Environment & Behavior. There were far less equations in which x had to equal 6 for the calculation to work. There was less black & white and a lot more gray.
I was now spending my time building models late into the night, taking photos, making site visits and learning how to draw. For the first time in years I felt as if I was free to flourish, free to grow. But it only lasted for a short while, something was still missing…
I changed jobs.
The architecture firm I had interned with for the last two years of college offered me a full time position upon graduation. Two months in I quit. To most it may sound fun getting paid to sit behind a desk listening to music and surfing the web for 8 hours with an occasional job assignment thrown your way, but I felt like I was slowly dying inside.
I contacted a friend who was kind enough to give me a job working room service at a hotel. Contrary to my previous occupation, most would consider this a shit job for a college graduate. To some extent it was. But I was working with people who appreciated me and I have stories that could keep you entertained for hours. Unfortunately those stories were no help to me in telling my own tale…
I changed cities.
Friends were leaving, girls had finished crushing my heart and I was going nowhere fast. College graduation came all too soon and the real world hit me square in the face with a big ass 2×4. It fucking hurt. So I left Boulder, CO.
I knew one person in all of San Diego… good enough for me. I packed my 97’ two-door Honda Accord to the brim and was on my way. It was difficult at first, being the new guy in town, but it gave me a fresh start. I had a clean slate to make friends that would see me for who I am now, not who I was. I had the ability to work for a construction company that knew nothing about me other than what they read from my resume. I had the chance to meet women who could fall in love with the new Steve.
I couldn’t be more thankful today for working with a more solid group of men, finding a remarkable woman who snuck her way deep into my heart, and falling into one of the most incredible groups of friends known to man. It was incredible, yet something was still lingering in my mind, like the incessant ticking of a clock as you try to fall asleep. It was letting me know something was still amiss…
I changed continents.
Things at work had changed, friends were once again moving forward, and self doubt crept into brain. I was in a car accident in which my truck was totaled; I took it as a sign to move on once again. I’ll remember the day that car swerved into my lane until I die. That’s when I made one of the biggest sacrifices of my life: I gave it ALL up. Maybe it was crazy to sell nearly everything I owned, leave a secure job, great friends, and a gorgeous girlfriend, but I couldn’t live the rest of my life wondering what if? Europe was my new destination.
I hopped on the plane with a one-way ticket to London; I wasn’t coming back until something had changed. I spent long days gazing at the passing landscape through the windows of a train. I lost hours sitting on park benches reading a book or watching people pass by. I met fellow travelers and created friendships that spanned international borders. I had an experience – one that will forever be engrained into my memory – that for a brief moment, in spite of every doubt I ever had, I was in the exact location at the exact moment I needed to be. Whatever it was I had been searching for in those 3 months, I found it; but only a piece of it…
The next two years would challenge my character.
The world didn’t wait for me to return.
Friends had gotten married, love interests had found new suitors, and businesses were not looking to hire a transient HoboDrifter. Everything seemed to be moving at light speed. I felt like Brooks Hatlen from The Shawshank Redemption once he’s finally released after 42 years in prison.
“Dear fellas, I can’t believe how fast things move on the outside. I saw an automobile once when I was a kid, but now they’re everywhere. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.”
The past three months had moved so slow for me that it felt like a year. I had grown accustomed to hearing one of 5 different foreign languages spoken as I walked down the street, asked for directions, or entered a grocery store. Coherent conversations came at a premium, something I took for granted before my trip.
Now I was back, with the ability to hear and understand everything that was going on around me. Chicago was a very intimidating city to land in.
I was overwhelmed. I was experiencing culture shock in my own country.
I had found my way around foreign countries with nothing more than a hostel-provided map and the use of poorly placed road signs. Now iPhones were guiding me to dinner only a few blocks away. If only there was an app to guide my life.
Part of me was desperately trying to learn how to be an American all over again; most of me was resisting.
I started to absorb everything.
I began listening to the suggestions of others; listening to everything that I should do given my current situation.
Although a drastic change occurred somewhere inside of me, I had yet to discover exactly where and what had happened.
One important fact I continued to forget was that I was back in Colorado. It was a new scene, one that had been void of my presence for roughly 3 years. It was old friends with old ideas of who I was and a family that didn’t quite grasp what I had just gone through.
While I welcomed their advice, it was intended for an individual who didn’t exist anymore. I didn’t want to get back into construction or architecture or sit behind a desk. I wanted to write, compete in triathlons, and experiment with jobs that required the least possible amount of responsibility.
I wanted to uncover exactly what happened to me during those months abroad.
At first, nothing emerged from the murky waters of my brain as a reason for my transformation. Frustration began to mount and I found myself trying to recreate the past.
I desperately tried to move back out to San Diego; no such luck. I drove 30 hours round trip in 2 days to see about a girl; she wasn’t exactly excited about my surprise visit. I had neglected my relationship with my family for far too long and I was desperately trying to fix it; I didn’t realize it wasn’t going to happen overnight.
I went to multiple therapists in search of answers. I buried my head in self help books and attended seminars looking for a cure. I vented to close friends. I wrote relentlessly in my journal hoping to make sense of my existential ramblings.
I had enough.
I was on the verge of insanity; I felt so alone. It was like living in a bizarro world where I knew who I was – I felt the same and looked the same – but everyone thought I was someone else. Amongst the confusion I started looking back at my life wondering where it all went wrong.
There are times of my life that I’ve felt so much anger, regret, remorse and frustration that I wanted to repeatedly pound my head against the wall while I screamed at the top of my lungs. I’ve wanted to hate everything and everyone that ever caused me pain or suffering. I’ve felt conflicted beyond words known to man at junctures in my life when difficult choices had to be made.
I’ve despised my parents for protecting me too much; even though it was out of love. I’ve wanted to cause harm to friends that betrayed me or women who destroyed my heart; even though I brought it upon myself.
Yet something lay dormant beneath the rage and uncertainty, waiting for the right moment to make its way to the surface.
All that time I spent writing about my thoughts, talking with friends, discussing issues with therapists, and devouring information from self help books and seminars was fueling a fire growing inside of me.
It was within that spark – my essence, my soul – that love, passion, and appreciation began to mature. Love for myself and love for others. Passion for chasing dreams and following my heart. Appreciation for everything and everyone that already existed in my life.
I had spent my entire life up to this point changing everything I could possibly think of; except myself.
I changed values.
My old ones weren’t working, so I needed to upgrade. Comfort, security, frivolous adventure, and fear of commitment lacked the capabilities required to take me to the next level. I left them behind.
About a month ago I began working with an incredible life & business coach, George, who is the catalyst for some major mental rewiring. Human beings operate in a very interesting fashion. Simply put, there is a basic sequence responsible for how we function.
Values/Principles govern our Thoughts which evoke Emotions that drive our Actions which create our Results.
As much as we’d like to think our conscious mind rules over our life with an iron fist, it’s the unconscious mind that works its magic behind the scenes to produce the majority of our results.
I spent way too much time trying to control and adjust my thoughts and emotions. I felt like I was running on a treadmill – values selected by default can step in at anytime and press the override button, halting the revolving belt on command as I fly forward and blast my face against the controls.
I’ve become aware of my values and I’m making a conscious effort to change them over the course of this year. Out of the 12 I’ve chosen in conjunction with my goals, the top of list includes:
It’s time to take the reins.
I’ve been searching for my place in life without a map or compass for far too long. I finally possess a very powerful set of tools that will help guide me during my adventures.
At least for now, I’ve discovered my calling, I’ve found my voice: writing and speaking – sharing stories with the world.
I do it with emotion, with passion, with a sense of purpose. If you don’t like it, then don’t read my work or listen to my stories. It’s a medium in which I can express my thoughts and emotions in a genuine fashion. I can share with people my tales of enjoying the journey, and they can share theirs with me.
Beneath it all, the one thing I cherish most: it’s a journey chosen by me.
It’s never too late for any of us to rework our minds or alter our course in life;
there is always opportunity for change.
Enjoy The Journey