The Older I Get, The Clearer The Path
Finding my way back to myself. It sounds odd, but it isn’t really. I’m assuming that I was myself at the start of my life. Before coming into contact with my family, other people, and the environment around me. So much changes as one experiences life, as one tries and fails to come to grips with the human condition.
My earliest memory was of being abandoned at the school gate on the first day of primary school. This theme appeared again and again in my life. Sometimes in a major and traumatic way, often as a routine occurrence that I just came to expect. I was conditioned to it, and it formed my personality and how I acted around people.
My second memory was on that same first day at school. One of social embarrassment and shame. Again, that affected me until very late in my life. That and a tough be seen and not heard upbringing, followed by being sent off to a boarding school where I was deeply out of my social and cultural depth.
That’s how it was. I grew up an intelligent and reserved child, very much a loner. Being sent away to school exacerbated the loner status. And it followed me to an extent as a young man and into my adult life. Finding my way back to myself didn’t occur to me. This was life; this was how it was supposed to be, right?
Ageing Is An Extraordinary Process
“Ageing is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person you always should have been.” I think this is eloquent and profound. David Bowie spoke it. I was besotted with him as a teenager and fortunate enough to see him live twice in my home town of Preston in 1972 and then again in 1973. Preston, being a progressive town, Bowie and Roxy Music and Led Zeppelin were banned. Bowie for inciting hysteria.
I only discovered the quote recently, and by that time, I was already experiencing my exploration of the real me. Many years of hiding behind an introverted and repressed persona left me thinking that was it for life. You live a grey and increasingly monotone life, and eventually, you die.
Serious mental health issues, in my case severe anxiety and depression, led me to finding my way back to myself. I suppose I’m lucky. Something, somewhere within me, made me look upwards to see if there was a way through this. While some may view me as pessimistic, they don’t know me. I’ve had this odd feeling all my life of a light shining somewhere as if just offstage. It always felt like it was a better life and that one day, I would find that. That sounds like I’m a bit sorry for myself, but it’s not. It has driven me.
Learning Even In Darkness
My darkest days with mental health were just that. Dark, fearful, feeling isolated. In a crowd but alone. I stopped drinking in 2019 once I realised it was an act of self-medication. I began to explore meditation and listen to my mind a lot more. Sinking, but not sinking without resistance. The next three years were hard for the people around me and me. The low point was pitch black.
The breaking point was also a turning point. By now, I was over sixty, and the urban myth is that old dogs cannot change. I have seen people not return from the issues I struggled with. At the start of my seventh decade and still, in good health, the road ahead of me could be a year or twenty years. Finding my way back to myself was something I pursued and still pursue with a passion. I have many weaknesses. I also have some strengths, and one of those is being very determined. If I’m given a task to deliver, then it’s happening. Everything a psychiatrist suggested, I did and still do. The same with cognitive behavioural therapy. EMDR therapy. Writing my journal. Breathwork. Learning about my brain.
Finding My Way Back To Myself
One day recently, I realised I had done just that. I met myself, and I wasn’t as bad as I thought I was. I’m a lighter person, readily smiling. I spontaneously talk to people I don’t know. Several new friends play an important role in my life. I have come to terms with who I am. Complicated and full of contradictions. Some people in my life may have hurt me, and I accept I wasn’t the best person, and I hope they forgive me. I don’t have any issue with people who have hurt me, I harbour no grudges, and I don’t have an always burning resentment and anger in me.
I know where the anger and agitation came from, and I’m at peace with it. Some parts of me remain, the intense and relentless drive. But I have a lightness too. An optimism. I enjoy many aspects of my life and mindfully and slowly enjoy the feelings and experiences. Life feels very good, and I’m excited about the future and a new chapter.
I’ve found my way back to myself. Ageing is indeed a gift. I would never want to have my time again. There is no nostalgia for my childhood or a desire to run my career back or to have chances to make decisions again with the benefit of experience. No regrets.
Why do I write all this? Not to say, “poor me”. Not to smugly say, “look at me now!” To say many of us experience what I experienced. Don’t give up. Don’t assume ageing is a slow road to decline. Rather, it can arm us all with the wisdom and resilience we don’t have earlier. Don’t give up.
1 thought on “Finding My Way Back To Myself”
Thanks Stephen – at 47 I’m feeling I don’t know where I sit, where I belong and if that’s it now!? Reading your words has given me a a small spark and maybe there is light for me too? Thank you Jon