I am standing at the foot of your deathbed watching you, an older version of me at your final moments in life, and I wonder -- did you reach your life purpose? Are you fulfilled? Are you at peace? Are you bereft of regret? Are there tasks undone: the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas? Did you make the right choices? Or did you live a life dictated, not by you, but by others who thought they knew what was best for you?
Visualizing my deathbed scenario is what I do when I find myself at a standstill in my life path. It is especially significant now. They say I'm in middle age, although I don't know what that means. I don't see retirement in my future; I still have almost three decades to go. And if my forebears who lived long were any indicator, I don't expect lucidity leaving me. After all, we poets and writers ripe with age. The gift of wisdom and maturity at an early age can only get more interesting with time. But life questions are haunting me these days; a part of me is very fearful that the choices I made on how to live my life would make me regretting them in the future.
There are some of us who, because of our cultural backgrounds, are expected to walk certain paths even if we cast nary a shadow there. And we continue walking on these life paths even if we don't see the light. We don't turn the bend because of the uncertainty of where that might lead us. We stick to what we know, this path travelled and already paved, sometimes by generations before us. And when we reach the end of the road, the comfort zone, we stop and believe that this is what is best for us. Besides, even now, our society is full of prescriptions of what is necessary to succeed. Our modern-day gurus are constantly telling us what we need to do. Anything outside of the norm -- albeit it is what we are passionate about -- is simply too risky and potentially punishing. What do you mean you want to write a book full time? Do you know how high the unemployment rate is? You make good money, you have purchasing power, do you know how many people want what you have? What do you mean you are unchallenged? What about passion?
I am in the comfort zone. This is the place where dreams are small and small is big. Everything I need is within distance and I define happiness within the confines of content. Passion is an infrequent guest; sometimes it only appears in dreams. Is this the American dream that my father, a war survivor from the greatest generation, wanted me to attain? I can't blame him or my family for wanting for me a place in the comfort zone. It is after all safe here. And such level of safety and content were a luxury for many who preceded me. So many people are suffering these days. Dreaming big is a privilege. But why is my heart screaming to get out? Am I so ungrateful that I cannot fully appreciate where the sacrifices of others have taken me?
And so I return to you at your deathbed asking once again, what am I to do?
You tell me that the comfort zone is a house of mirrors. If we stare long enough we will believe in what we see. It coats our fears and draws a line between possible and impossible dreams. It makes us choose between being good and being great, but forces us to believe that being in the middle is good enough, because it is the only place where we will never be alone.
You tell me that my heart knows what I need to do and I should allow my mind to follow. We may travel alone for a while in our pursuit of total fulfillment. On the paths outside the comfort zones, we will encounter the darkness of doubt everywhere. Yet, once we are in our life path, one we chose for ourselves considering the great risk, there is no need for others to give us direction and light, because that is what our heart is for.
You tell me, make a turn on the first bend you see. There is no reason to keep walking on the same path. There is too much light there, the future is predictable. At the bends on the road are surprises and possibilities, trials and risks. There, our full potential will be put to a test. We will be questioned many times whether we are the rightful owner of the greatness that we could potentially become.
And then you tell me, Believe. Destiny is made my believers.
Alive and Dreaming,
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