Much of that in recent weeks was personal: my grandmother passed away in October, and I was (and am) there with family, as can be understood. Before that, though, I was (and still am) working a lot, both at my jobs and my writing. I had an author event at the start of November in Etobicoke, the last of the year, selling many more copies of my novel “Convergence”. Now that we’re into the Christmas shopping season, my weekends largely find me at my bookstore while the weekdays continue to see me following a steady routine of day work at the office, then gym, then more writing before heading home in the early dark for a very early rest.
I am affected by the darkness of this time of year, and after all that I do, my energy levels usually bottom out about 9:30 or 10:00pm. I’m too tired to go hang out much of the time, especially since the bulk of my friends are an hour away, but even if that wasn’t the case, I’m finding myself looking forward to my alone time at the end of the day. It will likely be January before I find myself with a free weekend again. I’m not sure what that will look like.
I’m also not sure what’s happened and what is still happening to me in 2013. This year has been a challenging one, but I find myself toughening up and growing, just not in the ways I predicted for myself. I’m gaining traction on one or two of the bigger goals that I set for myself and I now have the confidence to get them done: you wouldn’t have seen me do book events in 2012 the way that I’ve done this year: the only reason I haven’t scheduled more is mostly due to timing, available money, and energy levels. I’ve been able to accomplish much of this by sacrificing the bulk of my social life as well as other ambitions that weren’t in alignment with these goals, like moving out or dating.
More than that, for the longest time, I’ve felt this urge to advance in my life beyond the places I’ve known, to new possibilities. Unfortunately, moving beyond the places I’ve known has tended to include not seeing the people who reside in those places. I can see how this can be unfair to them, given their loyalty and friendship with me, but I find there’s….well, I’m not sure how to describe it in one or two easily-consumable sentences. Saying that “we’re just not in the same place” or that “I’m just doing me” doesn’t completely cover it, though those two are true.
The closest I can find to describe what it is I’m trying to do comes from a Bob Proctor motivational session I saw on YouTube before it was removed on copyright grounds. In it, Bob was talking about the people that you have in your life – friends and family alike – who you attract and keep in your life based on whatever groove or vibe you’re in at the time. Everything’s fine and dandy as long as you do as they do, stay on their wavelength, show up the way they expect you to.
The trouble starts when you decide that you want to do something more, evolve beyond what you are. Maybe you decide to become a writer, or travel to Peru, or go back to school, invent some new device, perform comedy, whatever. That’s when they try to stop you. They may not completely realize they’re doing it, though the few jabs and criticisms here and there hint at an underlying motive to keep you in your place. On the other hand, they may flat out tell you that you’re crazy, that your goal is dumb, and you should just accept things “the way they are” and keep showing up to the same bar every Friday, or have the same conversation about the same dysfunctional stuff every day, or otherwise just give up on whatever glimpse you’ve had of a better life beyond the routine.
If you try to deviate from that, the people you call friends and family, if they are not as sold on your greater vision as you are, will project their own limitations on you to keep you in place, even if they don’t realize it, but especially if they do. And for people like me who have a tendency to overvalue what other people think of us, the littlest critique from someone I care about can throw me off for days.
I’ve written about this before, and Bob Proctor says it best. “If you hook these people up to a lie detector and really wring the truth out of them, they’ll say that they want you to win, but they don’t want you to leave. Why? Because they’ll have to adapt to your absence. They don’t want to do that. They want you to win, but they don’t want you to leave, and you can’t win if you don’t leave.”
I think this applies more to my Phidelt friends than most of the others, simply because they’re among the close friends who’ve known me the longest. How do you explain to people who are your “brothers for life” that you want to get some psychological distance from that whole older chapter of your life towards something new? More to the point, how do you tell people that “it’s not you, it’s me” without making them think it’s really them (and pissing them off in the process)? I guess I’ll have to give it a shot. I owe them at least that much.
When I was an undergrad, I would look at a lot of the older alumni of my chapter who were then in their thirties and forties, many of whom had wives and kids and thriving careers, and get a little annoyed at them for not keeping in touch with the students who were preserving the chapter they once helped to build. I vowed at the time that I wouldn’t be one of those distant guys who would come down from their ivory towers of “adulthood” only once a year to our Founder’s Day anniversary and then never see them until the following year. I’d be in touch, always available, always willing to help or guide or lend my knowledge and advice to the younglings.
The trouble is, though, as I mark a month and two weeks of being 33 years old, I’m starting to understand why these guys were distant, not simply because of wives and kids and thriving careers (of which I barely have one going), but because it makes no sense to resist the passage of time and tide. The older alumni had goals, greater versions of themselves they were working to manifest into their lives, whether or not they thought of it in those terms. Time doesn’t wait for you: you have to move with it, have to move on to the next chapter. I am building and gaining real traction towards manifesting great things in my life, and I have no time to spend lingering in the past. You can’t win if you don’t leave.
Sadly, this means that if you are in that stage of life that I’m leaving behind for whatever reason, we’re not going to see much of each other, not because of who you are, but simply because of where you are relative to where I want to go.
This is, of course, one of the objectives of Phi Delta Theta as an organization: to create self-actualized men who go out into the world and leave it better than how they found it. I browse the famous alumni on our Fraternity’s home page and I notice one thing in common: with few exceptions, if you never heard of Phi Delta Theta, you had heard of these men, which says to me they went on to make achievements outside the organization. They had to leave in order to come back with pride, to take what they had learned from the experience and then grow out from it, even if it meant growing out of it.
Lame? Maybe. True for myself? Definitely. Am I going to change that just to satisfy someone else feeling a bad way about my doing me? Not likely. Do I care if they’re pissed? Well, of course, but I can’t betray myself in the process of pleasing anyone else.
But is our friendship still intact even though I’m gone a lot of the time? Absolutely, unequivocally, yes, for my part, anyway.
I’m still just as connected with the brother who brought me into the Fraternity who’s now a teacher and who I only see once a year at his Canada Day camp-out as I am the day we became friends over pool and politics back in 2000..
I’m still just as connected with the brother who shared a pledge class with me, being my best friend for most of my twenties and early thirties, even though he himself hastened a departure from daily contact with me for almost two years now, carving out a new identity for himself beyond that time of his life much the same way I am doing now for myself.
I am connected to the others who have recently gotten married, gotten their houses, and are living the successful suburban dream. There are more than a few of you, and some of you are even new daddies. I haven’t seen you in a while, either.
And I remain connected to those who are about to or have graduated, having gotten their first “big boy” careers and who are now finding out new things about life, their goals and dreams, and the wonders they will accomplish as they enter this scary time called “adulthood”.
This also applies to my other non-Phidelt friends, the ones who I have worked with at various jobs; played sports with almost three years ago; friends who motivated me starting back in 2012 to make me the best version of myself so far, who showed me what was possible; and my compatriots in the arts and media who are also creating masterful things and unlocking major achievements in their own fields.
Absence doesn’t equal disconnection, even if it feels like it in the short term. Absence, in fact, is sometimes necessary to create the next greatest version of yourself outside of the expectations and unconsciously-imposed limitations of the people with whom you share a history, who may be otherwise used to you showing up in a way that you’ve now outgrown for yourself.
So yeah, I’m doing me for now. I’m not in the same place as many of the people I used to hang out with on the regular. But we are still connected, always connected, and this is my chance to do something amazing during this time of my life. This is work that’s best done alone, so I can focus, so I can strengthen a fragile vision that’s not yet ready to stand up to even casual critique and scrutiny from the outside, and so that I do not become stuck in another one of life’s ruts, as tends to happen to me.
This recluse phase could go on for another few months. Then again, it could end within days. I don’t know, I’ve never done anything like what I’m envisioning right now. This isn’t an experience that’s guided by my reason and planning, but by intuition, gut feeling. A work in progress. Right now, it feels right to stay the course, and for those of you wondering why I’ve been so absent, this is my answer to you.
I hope you’re all doing well, and know that even if we’re not seeing each other or talking in person over a pint or two, I am rooting for each of you, for all of you, to be, do, and have the best of life in your lives. That never stopped.
Anyway, back to work…