The Journey

Original Photography by Clemens van Lay @https://unsplash.com/@clemensvanlay

Confession

We cannot tell what may happen to us in the strange 

medley of life. But we can decide what happens in us 

 how we can take it, what we do with it

and that is what counts in the end.” 

– Joseph Fort Newton –

The day: June 20 this year. It was through my anniversary post; I expressed a desire to take a different approach to my writing and to stimulate conversation. Why not, I think it takes conversation to boost emotional intelligence. Not only for my growth, but also for yours. I think it’s time. Raw and Unfiltered were the first words that came to mind. I want to be transparent and honest always. I’m not willing to bend over backwards for fear of judgment or ridicule. Personally, I don’t care what people think of me if I can help someone. The raw material is the content of pure substance. Like shoelaces, it’s emotionally tied and drawn. Extracted from the deepest parts of the surface. Raw consists of our core values, beliefs and the character elements that shape our individuality. Naturally, we are the protagonists in our own life. Unfiltered; implies an unwillingness to limit truth. So again: I won’t bend or suppress anything if it helps. I can’t stress this enough. It’s one thing I hold fast to; if I give 150%, please return 100%; I will not ask for more. I will not give less. Growing up: No one bought music at Walmart unless they wanted to hide the raw materials. Think about it. Now: Let’s talk about it

A Simple Conversation

“Conversation isn’t about proving a point; true conversation is about 

going on a journey with the people you are speaking with”

-Ricky Maye-

It started with a question, a text message from my mother. “Hey lil boy, are you ready to come home?”  

Disclaimer: It’s fascinating, how even at 32; Mom still considers me this little boy

The answer: “I guess Lol.” She replied: “Why, I guess?” she insisted. The thoughts that came to mind were immovable cars, sprints at the Indianapolis 500 or the Monaco Grand Prix. Think of it as a cleansing of suppressed emotions, a purification, a dispersion of worries; for everything that followed was unforeseen, and yet it flowed like a raging stream. Without warning, I frantically tapped on my iPhone screen. 

I have been working for 15 months without a break. A lot longer than expected. Like a deployment, with no combat. A lot has happened since I left. Before I arrived here, I had not finished my previous chapter. I mean, I prefer not to sit around, a pessimist, but the details are complicated. A lot has been going through my mind in recent weeks. Covid-19, I need to start the divorce process, car issues. Then, another cross-country excursion; to my new duty station. Things are different from when I left. It’s the unknown and not knowing what is ahead. 

My stress level is non-stop, it goes from back to front. I have a lot to do and, to be honest, my anxiety level is high. I don’t want or have any desire to do anything. Now, nobody has a clue what I’m dealing with internally because I haven’t talked about it. Yes, I am ready to visit you and Danielle. I’m excited to be away from work for a while but what I need is a break from the reality of life. I leave one stressor for the other. I pray this can be handled better than this latest effort. That’s all I can do. That’s all we can hope for.

I still have people asking me about things I’m not interested in. Although I don’t mind helping others, I’m completely burnt out. There are people who think I want to hang out before I leave, give me awards and have dinner. These are all pleasant gestures and I appreciate the thought, so I feel guilty saying no. But that’s not me, it never was. I don’t like snapshots and memorabilia that show I did an awesome job.

That’s especially true of my job, that’s not what I’m here for. I am happy when I see the results of people. I become overjoyed watching others succeed. Still, I can’t understand why my leadership doesn’t understand this. I don’t need trinkets; if everyone close to me is doing well, I’m fine. Nevertheless, knowing what I need. I just need a break. 

A break for me to relax. I don’t need to be bombarded or triggered, especially after the last 15 months. It’s like I’ve grown up a lot; enough to realize all this in myself. I am aware that this experience has matured me, but this time has taken a toll, and I am extremely volatile and emotionally unstable.” 

It was with a genuine sincerity that my mother explained how she understood. That she sensed all that I was enduring. The truth is in the past, it would be hard to believe. But in my current state, I believe her, because compassion is often a burden of pain. That pain I now leave on this page. We all have situations that place us on the edge of existence. Where it appears only a strand secures our fall. This was a rant if I’d ever had one. Still, I felt better afterwards. By the end of my tirade, I remember my why. Why I do this and I assure you. I will not fall under any circumstances. I give my word. 

A Noble Man’s Rise

“There’s nothing noble in being superior to your fellow men. True nobility lies in being superior to your former self”

-Ernest Hemingway-

Before my last journey ended, my former adviser Howard introduced me to the four noble truths of Buddhism. Before you ask no; I’m not of the Buddhist faith, I grew up in a Christian household and attended a Baptist Church every Sunday at one point. Although I will not say I practice my faith, I hold it to my heart because it gives me something to hold on to; when everything else seems lost. Still, Howard was a Buddhist; he is also the one who provided an explanation of what it means to be emotionally intelligent, and how the absence of this quality reduces our ability to remain resilient. While I am not Buddhist, these teachings are some to which I could certainly resonate. 

PAUSE: Before I continue, I would encourage you to correct me if I am wrong about any of the teachings. I don’t intend to offend anyone.

NOTE: As I understand it, “The Four Noble Truths” are not necessarily precepts, but guidelines. Unlike commandments, these are not laws of the land; but a road map that helps shape a life not hindered by suffering. But not all of us are aware of our own suffering; the truths include the following:
  • The Truth of Suffering – This is how we suffer the pain inflicted, all of which is inevitable. It is a way of life that everyone must face.
  • The Truth of the Origins of Suffering – Much of this stems from our own longings and desires e.g “cravings”
  •  Truth of the Cessation (or) End of Suffering – This happens when we can identify and release everything that binds us in place. Draping no longer lacing those metaphorical shoestrings in place. Simply stated we free ourselves of anguish as pain passes away
  • The Nobel Truth of the Path to the end of Suffering – We must all look to this: a path to enlightenment. To gain an open mind, a broader perspective, to become rational and well-informed people.

Now I am sure that this could be explained much better by someone else, but this breakdown was all I needed to begin my transition. There was no fixed target. This repair implies our inoperability due to frailty. However, there’s always room for improvement

Well, Derek; I understand what you’re saying, but how does it correlate? That’s an excellent question, thank you for asking. Now let me explain. I have chosen to be a noble man. Not a nobleman, like the aristocrats. I certainly don’t mean those in a class of wealth and power who hold a status below royalty. No: I want to be noble. Since 2016 I have been traveling alone, constantly searching for the qualities that require me to become the best version of myself. I’ve had setbacks. I will continue to suffer setbacks, but that’s the key. Recognizing what causes suffering and enduring these setbacks; “brace for impact”. This will certainly not be in the spirit of a Buddhist. But only then can we work towards our path to enlightenment. Almost, 15 months have passed since my last meeting with Howard. I made a few promises to my adviser and to myself. To Howard, I promised I would learn who “Derek” is. Get what Derek needs and improve me. Refine my emotional intelligence, not fix it. Let’s remember that we’re not broken. I promised myself that I would be open to all future ventures, less rigid and more flexible. Fifteen months and a fortnight later, how do you think I’m doing?

The Journey Continues

“To travel is to take a journey into yourself.” 

-Danny Kaye-

When the curtain rose last year, I experienced what it meant to suffer, and it shook me: as a root from the earth. 

PAUSE: Forgive those who claim suffering is a state of mind. Our mental and emotional health is as important as our physical well-being. To neglect them is to seek out trouble. Pride and our mentality will allow us to impose everything, but we all have a limit. 

My ignorance was the beginning of my decline. My health was far from a concern at first and the experience humbled me. In the same year, after putting most, if not all, pride aside and having many meetings with Howard, I witnessed several changes from within. They were gradual but effective. Now that I’m putting the finishing touches to this forum. I realize I’ve finally grown. My experiences have paved the way for me to help others in need, through similar and familiar circumstances. Some that may have never been identified. By understanding this subliminal desire to be liked, I could negate this trend by being myself. I would never have had to fit into that box if I had stayed true to myself. An open mind enabled me to meet some unusual and astonishing people. It’s allowed me to build new relationships with people who have demonstrably my best interests at heart. Time allowed me to lead others and identify with myself; a why in all this? To all those I met last year and with whom I became wonderful friends; thank you much; sincerely. To those I will meet in the future, I look forward to crossing when our paths intersect. To Korea: Annyeong. Although brief, Thank You for the experience.

Do you want to know my why? I do it for all of you. 

Fifteen months ago, my journey began. It was a road entirely new. The ups and downs were significant, reminiscent of a rollercoaster, under blackout conditions. It was extremely challenging at the time, but in the end it was worth it. Far from perfect, but I am fortunate and yet: this journey has only just begun. 

Perhaps this isn’t what you expected. Although my work is done through a personal account, our lives are far less different than you might expect. We all have a road ahead of us, have you already started your journey? 

PAUSE: Poetry is my second love. What I love the most is that the received angle isn’t always

what the author intended. Earlier this year, I became familiar with a classic. 

Originally titled Two Roads, it’s called “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. I would like to leave you this excerpt. 

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that's made all the difference”

NEXT UP: Conflict and Disappointment

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