What do I say… how do I start this… well, life can throw you some curve balls sometimes. It’s an interesting process when you put your whole life into something, and then it’s gone. It can be anything. It can be a career, a relationship, a loved one dies, a hobby, some other life goal, and just about anything that you can put your everything into and focus on for more parts of a day than not. Something that you start to identify with. When someone asks you “Who are you?”, you’ll respond with this thing that you’ve put everything into. Then if you take this thing away from your life, from your everyday process, from basically part of your identity… it’s scary. It’s a major life change whether you know it or not.
Some people don’t even know how it will impact them when something so important to their lives and identities is gone. Some people play ignorant to how important that thing was in their lives. Running on autopilot day after day after day, just doing what you’re supposed to do and not even stopping to be mindful of the aspects of your life, identity, and personality that are so vital to who you are and how you function. You might just chose to be ignorant of some aspects, “No, I’m not that close to her. We’re just friends.” or “I don’t spend that much time in my job. I can switch off and change jobs anytime I want. I’m cool like that.” … whatever it is, the main point here is something in your life that you identify with and is a major part of your life, whether you know it or not. Hopefully you do because when it’s no longer there, it’ll really be a massive slap in the face to you, because at least the other people can prepare for such a massive change… if they are that lucky depending on the situation.
Change is scary right? Of course we hear all these thought leaders, spiritualists, guru’s (funny right because I call myself the greekguruguy), religious leaders, educators, and many others who like to say that they have gotten above the fear of change. That they have meditated so long and educated themselves so much in so many areas, that they have transcended this type of fear… and then they want to tell you how they can teach you how you can also transcend this fear yourself, for a low low cost of $99 a session, or $19 a month membership fees, or buy my awesome book on this topic and more, or blah blah blah because that’s what this all basically is.
I am not selling you a thing right now. I got nothing to sell you, but I will give you what I think and believe in. Take it or leave it folks, I’m still giving it. Anyone who says they are above fear or above the fear of change… is a bullshitter!! Some of us are better at it than others, sure, but give me some time with these cats and I will find you something that i can change or take away from their lives, and they will completely freak the f*@k out! So it’s not than no one can help teach you how to get better at facing your fears and dealing with change, but don’t listen to that marketing bullshit about them transcending it. No one on earth is that f*@king awesomely cool… at least in my mind.
Ok ok ok, so that was a bit of a sidetrack rant. Back to our regularly scheduled program ladies and gents. Change. Life change. Typically sucks. At least a little bit even for the best of us. Will get better… hopefully sooner rather than later, but it takes time. Family and friends help. Alone time really helps. Meditation thus helps too. When something as large as what I am talking about here gets removed from our lives, it’s not just a change to our daily routine, it’s a change to who we are, to what we do with ourselves, and to what our values are now. It changes us. Thus, if change is scary, and change changes us, then we can scare ourselves. In other words, we can freak ourselves out. That’s where depression, anxiety, alcohol/drug use, gambling, and other forms of this non-positive type of coping comes from. You don’t understand yourself anymore, thus yourself scares you. So you freak the f*@k out basically on yourself, and cope in hopefully the best ways possible.
Like I said before, some people handle this better than others. Some will take a retreat, meditate, reevaluate their lives, their values, and come up with new life values and goals and purpose that will allow them to transition easier. Others will watch a bunch of TV, have tons of casual unprotected sex, do a bunch of drugs, become suicidal, develop an anxiety disorder like PTSD or OCD, or just you yourself insert here ___________ the multitude of other examples I can put here, or better yet, insert here ______________ your own example from your own life… and don’t tell me you don’t have an example because if you haven’t had to deal with a major life change yet, then you’re either a toddler, or the biggest f*@king liar I have ever met.
Either way there will be a metaphorical “New Me” after this part of your life is removed. There may be multiple “new you’s” on the process to transitioning. It can be a short process, or a super long f*@king drawn out process. Mine was a bit long and drawn out. Like I said before, even “guru’s” (although I am far from the what you probably think of as a guru hahaha) have issues and problems with change at times. Without some pain even the best of us won’t fully be able to comprehend and understand change and it’s lessons. A life without pain is impossible. I don’t trust the people who say they don’t experience pain anymore because you’re either a liar… or super f*@king delusional. Either way, I am not taking that persons advice. The best teachers have multiple changes in their lives that they got over and taught them things they never thought they’d have such a grasp on before.
The “Who we are” thing can be a major existential f*@k me type of feeling if we no longer know what the answer to that is. For me, it was who I was going to become. Who I was going to become was what I had identified everything with. It was in my early 20’s. But let me start you off with some background into the before this. The before the 20’s and had something to value and identify with.
I was a complete shithead in my teen years. Literally, go talk to my old teachers and deans, and I am sure they won’t have all nice things to say about me. Actually don’t go do that because… super f*@king embarrassing right? I was never a super horrible bad kid, just the kid who for some reason was choosing to throw his life away. I never physically attacked anyone (was actually a big ole teddy bear in fact… thunder buddy anyone?), I never hurt an animal, or destroyed public property, or… basically I am more Chris Farley type screw up rather than Jeffrey Dahmer. In other words, I was a class clown, always looking to be someone’s friend or make someone laugh, got arrested but for mostly stupid stuff, and was just super not taking care of myself, ingesting some illegal substances, and superbly screwing up my education. It’s like Adam Sandler in the movie BIlly Madison. Total screw up just living life, not caring about anything in life, drinking, smoking, and if he didn’t get his shit together (of course he did, it’s a freaking Hollywood movie) then he would get a massive slap in the face from life and lose his dad’s support, inheritance, and wind up on the street probably homeless and with nothing.
Now, thankfully for me (and like Billy Madison had in the movie) I had a supportive family that didn’t leave my side, and also I was only 18. I bet if I was like this at 45… maybe that support would’ve been a tad bit less. Just a guess. But I dropped out of high school because I was “too cool for school” (literally rolling my own eyes at myself as I type this thinking about what a douche and idiot I was thinking that) …. crappy values basically). My dean, who knew me very well, came to me senior year and said “So I will see you next year right?” He was a good guy. I wish I could say that to him one day. Never was able to find him again years later to thank him for at the very least being a nice guy who cared about me. He didn’t have some sort of massive impact that made me have a transcendental realization or anything, but sometimes the little things is what makes a big difference years down the road. The little things act like building blocks to something bigger, and this guy definitely added some bricks to the building of me.
So of course my smart ass response was “No way dude. School is not for me. I’m gonna gomake it big for myself.” … what an idiot! It’s not even like I had a plan to make it big for myself. I didn’t have some sort of plan of going to Hollywood and making it big as an actor or whatever. No, I just for some reason thought I would make it big in some way just because I was that cool and I deserved it. Wrong! Plan for it, and put the hard work in for it you little shit! Sorry… had a moment there of talking to my younger self. Ok, I’m back now.
So, I moved on from high school and got a job at my father’s fast food place. Quickly realized that this was not a cool thing for a cool guy like me, and that I had made a massive mistake thinking I could do all this and just wind up making it big. No offense out there, but working fast food was not for me. It sucked. That was not going to lead me to my dream career and making it big without some sort of plan… which I did not have. So… I decided to get my Good Enough Diploma, or in other words my GED. It was actually faster to do that and get into a community college, than try to finish out my senior year and get my high school diploma. So that was kind of lucky.
Finally, in my early 20’s, I had graduated from college with a Bachelors in Psychology, and started pondering what the heck I wanted to do with my life. I had made one big transition and got my shit together by having a plan of going back to school and getting a college degree. I placed value on this. There was great value on achieving this goal for me, and I did. But now what? One goal and value gone. Box checked. Another one bites the dust. So, I had to come up with an new goal and values. I decided I would value becoming a doctor of clinical psychology. I would become a psychologist. That would be my new goal and I would place my values around this. This is what I was going to value now. I had a purpose again.
So, obviously this story has a title of “A New Me” so I obviously did not become a clinical psychologist. I got very close to it actually. I had the talent and abilities. I could’ve done it. Did many of the classes and intern experiences that comes with becoming a clinical psychologist. I never flunked out like in high school, but I started to become disillusioned with this goal I had placed for myself and the values that surrounded it. My values were changing a bit, and I started to realize that my previous plan was not as thought out as I had hoped. Thinking back, it was sort of like I needed something to fill the goal less void in my life after undergrad, so I decided I would jump straight into getting accepted into a doctoral program, which I did. But maybe jumping straight into it to fill a void was not the best idea.
To this day, I recommend most people to get a Masters degree first to make sure that’s what they want, because these fast track programs that focus on the doctorate and kind of give you a sort of Masters along the way, but still mainly focus on the doctorate aren’t for everyone. They are expensive, long, time consuming, life consuming, and for only those very dedicated and talented enough. I was certainly talented, but only so so dedicated. Never told the grad school that of course… but even through being only so so dedicated, it didn’t stop me from completely over identifying with the idea that I would be doctor one day. Puff up your shoulders right now and be like me when I used to think about that. Total boost to my ego, which made me feel great. I had a purpose, a goal, some values I was borrowing for now to make myself feel good, and I was on my way to fanciness. Or so I thought…
Life started punching me in the face. Life was floating like a butterfly and stinging me like a bee (Muhammad Ali reference for those who don’t get it). Needless to say I was starting to take care of myself less and less because I knew inside myself that this career wasn’t exactly for me (still wound up in the same type of field but change of focus), but I kept up with it for so much longer because I was afraid of what I would become without this career goal. I had identified my whole self with it. Gambled it all on this. When someone asked me “Who are you” I would respond with “I’m gonna be a doctor.” My whole identity was based in this goal. It took up so much of my time and life with just the minutia and hard work of trying to get a doctorate, that I had basically given my whole life, self, and identity to this achievement. I said “Here you go doctor goal, you can have all that is me.”
I kept soldiering through, and being good at it too. Totally succeeding at the whole grad school doctor thing. I got awards, became a fancy board chair dude, was dealing with statewide influencers that were way above my pay grade, and from the outside in I was looking like I was killing it at being this super cool and awesome doctoral student. I was going to totally make it, It would be like betting on MJ to win another championship in his prime. Of course MJ would take the Bulls to the promise land! Come on!
But soldiering through wasn’t being kind to me. Ignoring what life is trying to tell you can have seriously deleterious effects. Inside I was not a happy camper. I was depressed, anxious, having medical issues, panic attacks… I was not in a good place, but I was hardly going to fix this problem because it required changing something I had identified my whole life with for years at that point. I was that. And the thought of being not that, was scarier than all the mental health shit I was dealing with. Totally stupid move, but just an example of the impact that change at this level can have on someone, even if you consciously try to ignore and avoid it.
So, I finally got the courage up to say “F*@k this garbage” and make a change. I knew it would suck. I knew it would be hard. But I had tricked myself into thinking that it was going to make everything better. Wait… didn’t I say before that change is a good thing? I spent all this time leading you to the belief that making this change would be what was the impetus for my life getting better. Nope. Wrong! It was a start, that’s true. But that’s all. Just making the change was not enough. I was still starring at an empty void. A black hole of emptiness. No goals or values anymore because I had lost all that when I quit that program. That was me, and now me was no longer me. I was something new, something different, something kinda scary, something unknown… like a UFO. I was an Unidentified F*@kface Object with no goals, values, or purpose anymore. I ripped off the band aid too damn hard and fast that I reopened wounds that never really got closed from before.
So, here I was. A grad school dropout with nothing really to do with myself, no goals, values, or purpose in life anymore. Just trying to figure it out as I go and hope for the best. Sound familiar? So, what did a person like that wind up doing… I got into sales, and to my surprise, I was damn good at it! Who would have thunk it! But it still didn’t fill that void. It was something to do. Ya see, not everyone has to be the best and achieve the top and be like uber super successful and have this nirvana in their lives where they are always successful, no that’s just stupid dream world stuff. But we all need to have something that gives us meaning and purpose. Something that we strive for and set goals for. Something preferably that we like to do. Everything is going to cause us some pain. No career or no anything for that matter will not cause us any pain. Pain is inevitable, sorry folks. Don’t want to burst your bubble but… wait, actually I do mean to burst your bubble. Sorry, but that’s life.
The thing that can makes us happier more times than not, is choosing the type of pain we want to sustain. That way the pain we are sustaining is from our own choosing, and isn’t going to be as bad as other types of pain. You will suffer, but if you can find a way to choose the type of suffering you want to suffer from (and don’t be some sort of smart ass and say that making billions and having the most beautiful and kind woman in the world next to you is suffering… you know what I mean), if you can choose the suffering… you are ahead of the game sir or madam. You are on the path towards being happy more times than not.
For me, and for the type of change I am basing this whole story around, is that we not only have to try and choose the pain we wish to sustain, but we also must fill the void from the change with something new. A new goal. A new something. Achieving success in life is not nearly as important as our definition of success. So, this something new that we choose to sustain some pain from, that is going to fill the loss of the something old, also needs to be something important to us. Something that fits in with our values. Our values might change a little, but many of our core values won’t. So this needs to fit in with values from before, with finding some new good and worthwhile values.
(I stole this upcoming metaphor from Mark Manson, author of the New York Times bestseller “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck”… so Mark please don’t sue me dude, I bought both your books!) If you remove all the horrible, vile, disgusting things Hitler did, on paper he’s one of the most successful self-made people in world history. He went from being a broke, failed artist, to commanding an entire country and one of the most powerful military’s in the world. He inspired millions and was intensely focused on his achieving his goals. He influenced world history like no one ever before…. But all of that went towards psychotic, demented, and catastrophic pursuits that wound up with the deaths of millions of people. Not good values. Maybe he should’ve left that void open and not filled it with anything. But I would argue that he left the void open so long or that it was so impactful to him, that he turned into a raging delusional psychopath that thought killing people was going to somehow help his countrymen. Super weird transition here for me as I am writing this, but I have no other way of doing this now unless I delete that whole last paragraph and ignore the Hitler metaphor… but here it goes.
I was afraid to make the change for the better. I was afraid of filling that void because it required jumping into it and losing who I thought I was before. I had to lose a lot to gain a lot. Like the saying goes,”The night is always darkest before the dawn.” Make the jump. Make the change. Ideally in some of the more helpful, positive, and quicker ways I have sporadically mentioned in this post, but nonetheless make the change. Like I have said before, pain is inevitable. So find the new you, like I am still finding the new me. Oh you thought this had some sort of fairy tale happy ending that I figured it all out and that’s why you’re reading this and learning from me and why I jokingly refer to myself as a guru??? Nope. I figured some stuff out. Others I have not. But I firmly believe that making that change was for the better. Is there still a bit of that void, and do I still not know exactly what I will fill it with? And have I done that yet? Nope. But if you want to read some self help stuff from someone perfect, then go read some fake @$$ self help authors, or better yet go watch a Disney movie. No, I am still a bit messed up. Still figuring it all out, but I know the process… and I absolutely wholeheartedly believe in it and know I am and will come out better for it. There will always be changes, but postponing those changes for fear is only going to hurt yourself further, and those around you. So jump into the darkness, and have a plan on how to swim to the surface.
I leave you with two of my favorite sayings/affirmations of all time:
“FEAR is just an acronym. False Evidence Appearing Real. F E A R.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer (RIP)
“Every day in every way I am getting better, better, and better.” -no clue who said this… my mom told it to me as a kid and I never cared enough to google it, I just appreciate it for what it was and is to me.
Peace out folks. Hope you liked reading this. Comment below if you did, or if you didn’t too I guess…