Being lost is for losers. Isn’t it?
I certainly thought so.
Being lost is for people who are on the couch eating Cheetos. For people in the unemployment line. For anyone who is addicted to drugs. For the mediocre, mindless masses.
I never thought of myself as a loser, but I certainly am lost.
Almost a year ago I wrote Stop Bullshitting Yourself If You Want To Wake Up (From The True Matrix) and revealed that despite “having it all,” I was terribly unhappy. Despite having a high paying job and a wonderful family, something important was missing.
My life had gone off the rails, and I had no idea what to do about it.
I wrote about all the “tricks” I tried such as changing jobs, eating better, and getting exercise.
None of it worked.
All the distractions and futile attempts to improve my life just added up to more misery, sadness, and loneliness.
In that original post, I wrote, “I think waking up requires one main ingredient that I don’t see anyone talking about… personal accountability.” In the past few months, I have come to realize how nuanced and complicated the notion of personal accountability is and how difficult it is to describe without confusing it with issues such as commitments, projects, personal relationships, and ego.
Personal accountability is one of those things which is so easy to say — it just rolls off the tongue. It’s like promising yourself you’ll only watch one more episode of Breaking Bad, or that this weekend you won’t drink. Then you wake up at 3am on Sunday, with 16 empty cans of beer and hazy memories of Walter White.
It happens, I know.
When I take a moment and bother to think about my own personal accountability, I can’t help but wonder if it is selfish to put myself first, or whether putting myself first is the only way to find the right path towards being a better person for myself and others. Life had rapidly become a game of “this or that,” a series of choices that felt increasing selfish, or the opposite: being a martyr. I want to live a life of abundance, of saying “and” not “or.”
Since I wrote that post, I’ve slowly realized that I was not going to find important answers from outside myself. But at the same time, I didn’t know how to find them from within. Most of the time my mind would race and I’d defer to sitting in front of the TV or reading a book. Just one more handful of chips. You know what I mean?
I started to wonder about being lost.
I asked myself: “Once you are lost, can you get more lost?”
That may seem like a ridiculous question, but for me it was a real problem. The harder I tried to find myself, the more lost I became.
Shortly after I wrote my original post, I started to meditate on a regular basis. I started with several guided podcasts I had downloaded and committed to giving it a try. It was awkward at first. And weird. I felt so stupid sitting there by myself in the dark. After a few weeks (or was it months?) I started to notice a small voice inside my head. It was whispering to me. And when I finally decided to try to listen, I didn’t much want to hear what it was saying.
“No one is coming to save you,” the whispers said.
I didn’t understand at first. Why would I be thinking I needed saving? But in talking with my coach, and after deep introspection, I noticed was desperately hoping that someone or something would come along and save me. Despite a strong outer appearance, my inner-voice had turned out to be some sort of damsel in distress.
My father got sick when I was about ten, and it’s only becoming clear now, three decades years later, how deeply that impacted me. I now realize that at some subconscious level, I have been waiting for him to come get me, hold me, tell me everything will be okay. Even writing that last sentence gives me a deep seated, soul-touching feeling. And it feels real and true.
My resistance to this realization was extremely strong at first. It’s still there. I can hear it resisting even as I type this sentence. I told myself that this was total bullshit. I tried to convince myself it wasn’t true. That I am not a meek person. That I’m someone who is aggressive and focused and makes things happen. The harder I fought, the more insistent the whispers became.
But sometimes the truth is just the truth. And that tiny voice was right. I needed to listen this time.
The truth is out there. Actually, it’s right here dummy, in front of your face.
I can remember the exact moment I accepted the voice as truth. I was on a walk with my dog thinking about life and I got really angry and got very honest with myself. I lashed out (not at the dog, he’s fine) but at some grass. And I threw a rock as hard as I could into the woods. I screamed out loud. And then as I calmed down, the voice in my head became clear. And insistent. And strong. And at that moment, I finally saw the truth. No one was coming to save me.
Until that very moment I had spent my entire life waiting to be saved. That was hard to accept. I am still fighting it deep down.
The answer to my question about being accountable starts with realizing that the only one who can save me, is me. And getting clear on what it’s going to take has been consuming me. It’s terrifying.
I pushed myself to start to try to understand what decisions I’ve made in my life because of this need to be saved. I realized that many of those decisions have been subconsciously driven by the idea that one day, Superman will come along and save me. It makes me feel like a child thinking about it now, like a scared little boy. The idea that I needed someone, or something to come and take away my pain was emasculating and hard to accept.
It’s a bitter, nasty pill. And even worse, I started to fully realize that this idea of being saved was running and ruining my life. It had major implications in my decision making. Even as I sit here writing this post I think that there is a part of me that still believes some outside force will take away my pain and give me what I seek. But it isn’t true. It was never true. It’s a fake reality, The Matrix. It’s the reality that people who are asleep assume is true and all there is. People who are awake, are not fooled by this dream, they know that being conscious, making clear decisions and being present is the only way to truly live. They know that no one is coming to save them.
I know this because for the past few months I’ve been slowly waking to this truth. I blew up my career in a series of increasingly rash but right decisions. I left a high-paying consulting gig and joined a small agency for half my salary.
It was a disaster.
From there, I joined an even smaller startup, which 3 months later ran out of money. I recently landed a job at an amazing, stable company working from home. So far so good. But that’s not the point.
The point is, I’ve taken steps to wake up and to be accountable to myself and to the life I want. I wake up at 5:30 every morning and meditate, write, and exercise – all before 8 am. I think. I give myself space. These adjustments have given me perspective, and time to breathe. I took the long route to get to here. But now, the challenge is to relax and to live. To create more than I consume. To drink in each moment and each day.
At this point in my journey I’m just trying to live each day to it’s fullest. I’m facing my fears head on, and trying to be honest with myself. I’m not perfect, not even close. I fuck up. I slip back into old patterns. I get lost in thoughts. I get scared I’m doing the things wrong all the time.
But something radical has shifted inside me. My internal voice is less critical, somehow more encouraging. I am able to forgive myself almost immediately for not being present or doing something stupid and to move on. Being able to accept my faults and embrace my humanity is allowing me to start to become my true self.
I sort of like that guy. I’m rooting for him to save himself. I think he’s on his way and is walking in the right general direction.