I’ve heard many of my elders say that act one of their lives and act two were not a walk in the park. Lots of struggle, perhaps some trauma, but act three is shaping up to be the best yet. There are only three things they wished they had more of, that being time, health and energy to enjoy it all.
For me, my childhood was joyful, simple but not without a few bumps of childhood bullies along the way. Every experience in your childhood creates a pathway for response triggers, and these triggers creep up very discreetly in adulthood. I think about the generation 80+ who experienced the effects of WWII. Either they lived through the horror of war-torn Europe, concentration camps, deportation to Siberia or other remote parts of Asia. Others were displaced from their parents at a young age, learning to grow up quickly and be self-reliant. Starting life anew without the safety net of a familial home or community, those elders of that generation are perhaps the most resilient.
I suppose every person in their respective generation was born in that period for a reason. And while this has been an intense period of uncertainty with an invisible enemy and a divided society, this moment has also been met with many lessons to learn. But are we ready to learn them? That is yet to be determined. For the generation that disposes of phones and cars every 2 years, change is inevitable. This generation understands the speed at which things change and adaptability is perhaps not as foreign as some might think. But our elders have known wisdom inherent in their age due to their life experience. The elder generation knows that while things change all the time, some things never change. As we make more progress in our society, racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism unearths itself once more. The abused and marginalized, become the abusers and marginalize others. A pathology of hurt and trauma continues through our families, communities and societies until someone stands up and says enough.
For those of us who live in democratic societies we are really living in one of the best times in history. We have made such progress, so much is at our fingertips and so much is accessible. Yet with every advancement and step forward, we must ask ourselves…what’s the end goal in mind? What is our benchmark to know that we’ve made progress and taken 10 steps forward without 12 steps back? The answer will differ for everyone depending on their faith, life experiences, culture and place of residence. But with so much advancement and so many liberties, why do so many of us feel enslaved to our circumstances, our possessions or our situations?
I think at this time we are all seeking comfort. It’s natural of course, our minds are wired to avoid discomfort, pain and uncertainty. This past year has been exactly what we have been avoiding, and there is nowhere to run or turn. So are we slaves? If you were a POW or incarcerated but later let go from prison, are you free? Perhaps your body, but what about your mind? Slave mentality is the hardest to break free from. It shows up like the job that pays fine, but gives you no joy. It’s the phone that keeps buzzing and sending notifications. It’s the feeling of why even try when you can’t predict certainty. It’s every time that inner voice says, “not good enough, smart enough, talented enough.” And just like that we are trapped.
We are so busy cultivating a plan to escape from the discomfort, pain and uncertainty that we don’t spend the time creating a plan for what we want to run towards. If you don’t have a vision for the future, then I suppose this is the worst form of enslavement, because you accept that this is it. The lessons of our elders that are most prominent to me is that while they escaped their circumstances and gained their freedom, “real freedom” was when they were heading towards their future. Where life and passion and grit and determination infused them with energy to deal with what they already knew about life. They knew that you can never escape discomfort, pain and uncertainty. But when you are chasing freedom from your situation, without any direction towards the future, then you are never really free. A vision towards a better tomorrow is how you break free from the shackles holding you back. So what direction are you running to, freedom from? or freedom to? We are all chasing it, which one will you chose?