The only exception

I’ve always taken life seriously, even as a child I used to think up some moral and philosophical ideas such as, “if I help even one blade of grass grow in my lifetime I will have contributed something.” These ideas were always focused on the theme of, who am I and what is my purpose?

As a young adult, given the freedom to live by my own rules for the first time, I put my ideas into action. I would have phases that lasted a few months to a year, and my whole personality and aesthetic would change according to the one tule of life I had identified with at the moment. Some ideas were more fundamental than others and underlay some of the fine-grained ones. For most of this first phase I decided to do everything selflessly. I was raised Buddhist by my grandparents and it was a philosophy I was interested in. My belongings became minimal, I would thrift, I ate simply and minimally, maybe and apple or an egg at one point, I freely gave away my possessions to friends and strangers. Of course there were more social forms of giving up ego, there were times I wanted to take a vow of silence so I can listen more, I freely gave up competing with others and complimented and praised others whenever possible. I also had sex outside of relationships for the first time, going with the attraction of the moment and letting go of that desire for emotional reciprocation.

I think I was preparing myself for the next, more focused phase of giving my life an applied purpose. In those years of giving up ‘self’, more and more I grew aware of a deeper passion I felt when I could help, heal, and inspire others. I got heavily involved in volunteer work. It was extremely challenging work but I was psychologically strong from the preparation I trained myself on. Eventually however, it did take its toll. I was depleted emotionally, mentally, and financially. My lack of boundaries and lack of any personal resources got me into an abusive relationship. This is perhaps the darkest chapter of the story but also, looking back, the most extraordinary. For once my philosophy wasn’t just theoretical or cerebral, I began to incorporate reality and instinct. My self-preservation kicked in and changed my philosophy to one of individualism and power a la Nietzsche.

Ambition, money, business, technology, and the excitement of changing the status quo. I saw power as not a bad thing, but an expression of self, and I picked morals eclectically as I used to choose my sense of art fashion from the thrift store and indie rock magazines. But much like bygone empires, small parts of the previous phase remained. Even as I ruthlessly focused on only the most selfish activities, and shunned everyone around me as ‘incompetent’, I would always pick one lost cause to give to. That could be a friend in need, a student with disability, a coworker on a nervous PR. It may have been part of my eclectic morals, or I may have enjoyed the challenge.

After having all the things I needed, a stable and thriving career, solid programming and leadership skills, a source of passive income so that I didn’t have to worry about money, I had finally addressed all those needs my trauma and instincts were screaming out for. I’m focused on giving back to the community in a job that feels like volunteering but actually pays me, and gives back to me and supports me too. I have time to spare so I read about the environment and donate to rainforest conservation. I mentor everyone I come across with passionate zeal. But much like the previous phase, I remember that I can’t give to everyone on principle. And I have that one person, once in awhile, that I refuse to shine my light on.

I think that’s what a boundary is. It’s one of those things you learn and get wrong the first time, but it’s the first step to being ‘kinda sorta good at something’ like Jake the Dog says.

I wonder where life will take me next now that I’ve started to master this last lesson. All my passion is not just an idea or a reaction, it is a part of me and is under my control, for me to enjoy. So I will do as they say, and let life keep leading to more life.

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