Life Chart

I calibrated the vertical axis in terms of different levels of emotional well-being. At the highest height I wrote “Being Who You Were Born to Be.” At the lowest low I wrote “Running Scared.” In the middle, I wrote “Conforming.”

On the horizontal axis I created a timeline. It begins a few months before my birth. How many months? Not sure. I suppose it would start on the date that my spark, my spirit, my soul entered my body. It ends at the time of my publishing of this post. Moving from left to right along the horizontal axis, I reviewed my past, added nuanced levels of emotional well-being, and marked off historic moments.

I wanted to trace out my Arc of Agency, take stock, and pass judgment.

May 8, 1971 is when I arrived. I start off being exactly who I’m supposed to be. How long does this last? Don’t know. My childhood memories are fragmented. They are composed of broken images and incomplete narratives. However, I don’t believe it lasts long. The dominant emotional state I recall is “Running Scared.” I was different. I was weird. And, I existed in a world in which physical violence played an important role. I had the tools to fight back. I had fists, feet, and fingernails. But, I lacked the will (well, except for one time). So, I got bullied and pushed around. And, with each ass-kicking, I was taken further and further away from whom I was born to be. That thirteen year epoch would leave a lasting mark.

Starting in 1984, I got tired of being scared. I no longer wanted to be the one who was being hunted. So, I went quiet. I hid my idiosyncrasies. And, I packed away and hid what I considered to be the best parts of me. I also observed, watched, and listened to the dominant players in my space. I started to mimic them. I started to conform. I would come to fit in, excel even. I learned my lesson well. And, from 1984-2007, I would choose to conform, obey, and adhere to other’s expectations again and again. Not doing so was too costly.

Over those 23 years, my commitment to conformity would be punctured by bouts of “Confusion” and “Insecurity” (too many to graph by hand). However, there were also times when I was shaken from my slumber. In 1991, Kyra strutted into my life. Somehow, she saw past my gold chain, snake-skin boots and muscle shirt. She saw something worth excavating. She jumped in my truck. We started driving through life together. And, from 1991 – 1993, I enjoyed two years of questioning everything and anything.

I would end up giving away my newly found freedom. I was still addicted to what others thought of me. So, I decided to pursue a PhD. And, from 1994-2002, I would work harder than I ever had at being someone that I thought others would be proud of. I would get my first job in 2002 and promptly go back to conforming through most of 2005. There was a brief moment of clarity on a surfboard in 2004. Dillon arrived 2005. And, even before he could speak, he asked me “Who are you?” I had no good answer. But, cracks began to form in my armor. And, I started saying hello to my old heart for the first time in years. We moved to Virginia in August of 2005. I started a new job and got back to conforming. But, in 2007, my students and I traveled to Honduras. While there, I began to weigh the worth of my life. It didn’t add up to much. So, I decided to make a few changes. I started off by telling conformity to *#$% off. And, then on January 8, 2013, I declared my independence. And, ever since, I have been fighting for my freedom.

Life Chart - Blog

So, that is a brief history of my life. It is not pretty. But, I learned three things:

  1. I need to apologize to the kid I used to be. Up until two weeks ago, whenever I thought of him, I would think “What a pussy!” I know. I am sorry about the language. But, that is what I was called. And, that is what I was taught to think of myself. So, I did. I thought he deserved it. He did hide behind his older sister’s skirt. He embarrassed me. I was ashamed of him. I never wanted anyone to know about him. But, I had it all wrong. That little kid was strong. He took his beatings. He took his insults. He took it all. And, he found a way to survive. He gathered up the best parts of me. He protected them. He waited in darkness and silence for me to grow strong enough to reclaim them. And, when I think about the setbacks that are likely to lie ahead for me, I draw strength from that kid. If he could do it, I can do it.
  2. I don’t want to go back.
  3. I miss those boots.

Now, it’s your turn.

What will your life chart look like? What will you learn?

Life Chart - Your Turn

Some people say you cannot re-write history. I disagree. People in positions of political power do it all the time. We can too. So, go reconsider, reinterpret, and rewrite your history.


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Thanks. – shawn


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