Letting Go of Who You Were, To Become Who You Are

Some of us have a harder time growing up than others.

Some of us barely even know what “growing up” means.

The teenage years are the optimal time to develop our identities.

But when I was a teenager, all I did was run away from myself.

I did not realize that my traumas and feelings were parts of me that could be accepted and processed.

I first ran away with food. Then, video games and computers.

As I aged, I kept overeating and playing video games, but added in unbalanced relationships, kinky sex, and excessive drugs.

Those were my methods for “finding myself.”

Which is to say, I did not know the real me at all.

And I did not have the skills, mental schemas, attitudes, knowledge, or motivation in place for success on any level.

I have failed more times than Pythagoras could count.

The weight of the past

How does it impact a person to look back on ten years, and see more than double that many short-lived jobs and broken relationships?

Are they likely to have hope that the future can be better than the past?

Or do they feel eternally stuck in the rut of their own limitations?

Maybe you have a criminal record. You might have done genuinely stupid things.

But what a potential employer may not realize while reviewing your background check is that you are not defined by your past mistakes.

Existence can be a confusing, disorienting, perplexing experience, especially when you have needs, wants, and impulses that you do not know how to manage or reconcile with.

So, you erred (you are human, after all).

Any time you have made a mess of your life, you either did not have a proper set of tools for living, did not know how to use them, or did not yet see the value in using them.

The good news is, those tools can be obtained and mastered. Their value will be self-evident through continued application.

You can change the way you do everything.

The bad news is, yeah, some people are going to judge and stereotype you for how you used to roll.

But if you let that deter you from growing into what you have the potential to be, you’ll be proving them right.

Unfortunately, some of our patterns of belligerence may dominate our memories. Nostalgic traps. Uncomfortable comfort zones.

“This is it. I have to change. Not tomorrow. Right now. Or I am going to implode, and every second of my life will be a clock ticking toward the culmination of a tragedy that damages and traumatizes everything it touches.

Living vs. listening

Someone once told me, “Some people can listen and learn. Others have to live and learn.”

I spent 75%+ of my life being the living and learning type. I am lucky to have survived it.

If you can listen and learn, do it. Please?

I mean, do not just gobble up every little thing that people tell you.

But observe attentively. Analyze. See what people do, and notice the consequences. Absorb the wisdom inherent in every triumph and catastrophe.

If you can’t do that, then buckle up. Make sure the airbag is operational. Shit might get wild.

Not everyone survives it.

Some of my favorite people ever, could not physically or mentally endure the gravity of their own patterns.

They ran from themselves until there was nowhere left to run. Their bodies and minds failed. Some died by accident on drugs. Some died on purpose.

I love them, and always will. My heart will hurt forever for them.

They inspire me to live better for myself, and in their honor.

Their legacies ended in pain, trauma, and insatiable longing for unattainable closure on the parts of their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, lovers, collaborators. Even and especially sometimes, their enemies.

So, how about: Don’t do that to people.

And don’t wait for someone to come rushing into your darkness and carry you to redemption.

It might be hard to see, but your choices, beliefs, and attitudes created (or at least co-produced) the majority of your current situation’s features.

You might feel like a victim. Of society. Of the establishment. Of abysmal parenting. Of unrequited love. Unfairness, injustice, and oppression.

And you probably are a victim. Because we all do our best with what we’ve got, but get crushed by the world around us anyway.

If you were physically, sexually, or emotionally abused as a child or at any stage in your life, you were deeply wronged. I am not going to tell you that you’re not a victim.

At some point, our future becomes not about the injustices we have endured, but rather what we do with that going forward.

This is often what separates many who make it, from those who do not.

This is a shift toward accepting responsibility.

Not responsibility for everything that’s traumatized us (though I speak from personal experience only, when saying that some of my trauma is indubitably my own fault).

But responsibility for what to do with our pain, and where to go from here.

Faulty foundations make for faulty futures

If you have struggled to find balance and self-sufficiency, consider the possibility that you’ve been operating all these years from a weak foundation.

A foundation composed of the conclusions you made about yourself and reality when you were young, uninformed, and broken in ways you didn’t even yet realize.

Then you took those conclusions into your adult life.

Made decisions based on those uninformed, broken interpretations and ideals. Built a house of cards out of those decisions. A house of cards in a wind tunnel.

So, completely unbeknownst to myself, I became a love parasite. Prowled about for a sense of stability and wholeness in the affection of women.

I’d find it fleetingly, use it all up, leaving the relationship a brittle husk. Then I’d move on to the next.

Of course, after a while, I knew that my approach to life and love was not working.

But to get to the root of that is slippery. What did I have to do to get better?

Well, I had to get real with myself. Which takes time.

Play _____ games, win _____ prizes

I had to realize that the outcomes of my life were ridiculous because my choices had been ridiculous.

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

It goes the other way too, though. Play righteous games, win righteous prizes.

Effectively playing righteous games is a process that we have to learn and master. Just like before, when we learned and mastered our stupid games, maybe without even realizing it.

Sometimes getting better takes a much longer time than you’d prefer.

It can seem like it’ll never happen, no matter how hard you try.

But the only way it’ll never happen is if you never get started.

Get started, then keep trying until you get to where you need to be.

Easier said than done? YES.

You’re thirsting for something better, and willing to put the mental energy into engaging with ideas about self-development.

That’s awesome. You could be binging on Netflix right now. Maybe you will later. And that’s OK (Maybe I will join you).

But right now you’re working on you.

Work on you just a little bit every day. Some days more than others. Do what you can, when you can.

Don’t take your moments of willingness for granted.

Sometimes your mind might say, “This is stupid,” to something that worked for someone else.

The people, the animals, the trees, the bodies of water. All teachers.

There are lessons in the clouds, anthills, and moss.

Every bit of it provides invaluable education to those who practice a spirit of learning.

It’s up to you to learn, and grow.

I have met a great deal of incompetent teachers with fancy degrees and distinguished careers. I’ve been the client of counselors with issues as unseemly as my own.

I could have used that as an excuse to shut down and throw humility out the window. And trust me, I did exactly that, more than once. To my own peril.

But when I am in a growth mindset, there are no excuses.

Using other people as an excuse to stay in a pathetic state is the most pathetic thing of all.

Eventually, we just have to come around to rising to the occasion. Rising up and leaving our mediocre complacency in the dust.

Some of us have a harder time of this than others.

Many of the people who struggle the most with self-sufficiency, some of the most tortured minds on Earth, are the most brilliant and capable of all.

They look around and see a society full of double standards and contradictions, and they can’t wrap their brains around why everyone just consents to it.

Sometimes their ideas are the ones that could carry the whole world to a brighter future.

What do you want more?

To be non-conformant to the point of eventual insanity and perpetual chaos?

Or to realize that conforming doesn’t mean giving up what makes you special; It just means finding a path to sanity and balance so that your ideas actually have a chance of blossoming out there in the world, thereby making this a better place for us all?

If the ideals and beliefs you’re more passionate about than anything else, are actually poisoning you and everything you touch, it is time to let go.

That’s ultimate, life-transforming humility, right there.

Letting go doesn’t mean abandoning. It just means, loosening your grip on the blade that’s going to slice your fingers off if you hold on any tighter.

No matter your age now, it’s never too late to flip the script.

You can build the foundation for your identity that you may have lacked the resources to construct during your formative years.

You can implement a set of core values and principles that will take you to the frontiers that your old methods just could not reach.

You can do tomorrow what felt impossible yesterday, and you can outgrow the mire that keeps you stuck.

You can gleefully shock everyone in your life, including yourself, in awe and wonder and hope-instilling splendor.

Every choice matters. What’s your next one gonna be?

I don’t even like baseball, but you get the point.

Originally published at https://andrewlhicks.com on July 28, 2020.

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I’m here to empower my fellow late-bloomers to transcend arrested development and make strides toward proper adulting. https://andrewlhicks.com

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Andrew L. Hicks

Andrew L. Hicks

I’m here to empower my fellow late-bloomers to transcend arrested development and make strides toward proper adulting. https://andrewlhicks.com

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