I stood there and I took a look around; I saw my diplomas and my license, my chair and my desk, my walls and my windows: a space which belonged to me and me alone. It was the culmination of years upon years of dedication, beginning in childhood, when I was just a boy daydreaming in elementary school. And it was the symbol of everything I had ever wanted and everything I had ever dreamt of. Alone it was mine, and all alone there I was. The exhilaration of pride and joy reformed into melancholy and dread, as I began to reflect on the trajectory of my life, being more critical of myself than I had ever been. Is this it? I questioned. Will it ever be enough? Will any of it ever make me feel like I’m enough? The pinnacle had been reached, in plain sight at long last, and there I was, me, perched on its peak. I felt proud and alive while enmeshed in achievement’s bliss, and yet, there I was: alone. This was it, I thought; this was my end, or the sense of it at the least.
The most fascinating aspect of my experience is my parallel urge to others, imploring them to diminish the significance of achievement, focusing on communion instead. I would vehemently emphasize the necessity of relationships, and their value to our core beings; and here I was: stuck, alone, and flooded with a sea of contradiction, having spent a major portion of a lifetime obsessed with success. In that moment, in that flood of what can be nothing other than existential dread, I recalled my imminent death, and I envisioned myself on my deathbed, examining my life. For the longest period, I wanted and was continually told of the importance of acquiring a Ph D, for my career and my self-esteem. I was told of the opportunities it would open, and the sense of accomplishment I would feel; but in that existential moment, when I reached my self-imposed pinnacle, I realized how fleeting that bliss, and sense of pride, really is, remembering what I knew when I turned away from the academia’s path, that life was about connection, everything else a mirage.
In our culture, it’s too easy to forget what makes us happy; it’s too easy to forget life’s significance and what makes us feel alive. We walk by one another, but we don’t really see. We hear each other’s sorrow, but we don’t really care. We wish the best for one another but never offer to truly help. In our society, we’re all individuals, and we’re all alone. We’re among one another, but we don’t actually connect. And in our striving and in our achieving, we experience a substitute, the replica bliss which can never supersede the real thing. We choose to live in our self-engendered shadowlands, all while yearning for reality.
One of the most significant recent experiences I’ve had involved another. Outside of the flattery, stood out the acceptance and the yearning to know. This individual, this person, simply wanted to know who I was, seemingly experiencing no fear of digging deep into the depths of my inner soul. What ensued was acceptance and compassion, an experience rarely granted to us. In that moment, I experienced an entire lifetime of a combination of the momentary joys which I felt in that office. In it, I felt what it was like to experience and embrace a perception of temporal immortality, the eternal now as it’s called. Whereas the initial joy was perceived in what seemed like a flash, this moment felt as though it lasted forever. And in that one brief period, I felt myself to be enough; I stepped beyond the shadowlands…
In closing, I offer anyone my entire lifetime of success if I can only have it back.