We talked into the early hours of the morning, and he explained to me how I am torn between my need to belong and my desire to go my own way. For years I have been frustrated by the world and my place in it, feeling that if only the world were more like me, then I wouldn’t have to struggle in isolation. In my moments of clarity I reprimand myself, saying it’s my problem, not the world’s, and that if I really had the courage of my own convictions I would stride on down my chosen path, without the need for the world to come with me and keep me company.
It is a struggle which has been particularly difficult over the last two years; but I am not the only one. In our conversation, Karaj made it clear that it is a human struggle: wanting to belong, but at the same time wanting to be individual. A simple example is whether to stick with the safety of a steady job, or give it all up for the pursuit of a lifelong dream. Opting for security is an attractive choice because the majority is more likely to countenance the sensible, reasonable alternative; one which maintains the equilibrium and doesn’t raise any questions about their own choices.
As I write, the realisation dawns that this is nothing new for me. This current conflict with myself is the latest in a long line, going back to my teenage years, when the message to me was: you cannot have your dream. That message was bestowed on me by my grandmother, who reinforced it in subsequent years by telling me I should always have something to fall back on. A few years later, believing what I had been told and in the absence of any other stimulation to shape my dreams, I chose a degree course which easily fulfilled my grandmother’s instruction. Looking back at those college days, I can see that I was copying my friends’ behaviour and drifting through life under the assumption that if I do what everyone else is doing, it will make me as happy as them. I didn’t bother to think too much about what I really wanted because, as I had learnt, dreams must remain dreams.
In my late twenties, after ten years of higher education and an unsatisfying career in finance, I remember thinking that the time had come to do what I wanted to do. That was the beginning of a three-year cycle of tentative steps into the unknown, which culminated in the intense personal development work I have done ever since. Then, two years ago, I was faced with a choice which has brought me to the point of writing this post. I had the chance to follow a familiar route and start a family with a wonderful woman who offered me more than I have ever experienced. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. With immense pain in our hearts, we separated and I have been questioning myself ever since. It saddens me deeply, but that only perpetuates the belief that I have a choice.
The pain is still with me and the sadness sometimes takes my breath away. I have searched in vain for a way to make it work; to force myself down the same kind of well-trodden path my grandmother told me I should follow. All of my college friends have chosen that route; I see their happiness and I have tried to convince myself I can experience the same. I recognise now that there has always been a desperation to belong, to be accepted and to be one of the group; a need which has been fortified by the belief that I cannot follow my path. It has been like that for over 30 years, during which time I have discounted myself and my desires, and allowed myself to be swayed by those I thought knew better. There is no more choice for me. Even if it takes another 30 years to remedy, I owe it to myself to go my own way.