Half-Man, Half-Birthday

I got the notification that today was my half birthday. That means that I have just about exactly 6 months until I’m 30. 6 months left as a 20-something.

For around the last 8 to 10 years, I’ve been searching for the spark that is going to ignite a response in me. Looking for the magical catalyst that is going to pull everything together for me that I’ve learned and experienced and that will be the guiding force that brings me to a successful life. A lot of this has been trying to find the path laid by someone else. To try to find some external force that I can latch onto and ride into the future. To find someone else’s answer as to why I was successful before and why success has eluded me in recent years. I think I spent most of this time trying to find this force from without; thinking that the truth was "out there". This truth that would spark aflame the kindling of wisdom and knowledge and experience I had gathered together.

But what I have learned and been too afraid to say is that the truth lies really far deep within me. And that is a great fear of mine. An irrational fear that the truth is and has always been inside of me... Or rather that it should be inside of me and it isn’t, or is buried and I can’t find it. It is a stagnating, self-defeating fear of success. A subconscious barrier that prevents me from diving into the depths of myself for fear that I will not find the answers I’m seeking in there. And when I dive deep and don’t find the standard of treasure I’m looking for, I will drown down there, smothered in the dark. Alone, and with only my insignificant and unsustaining self as both the lure, the fool for wanting, and the embodiment of my own mental prison in the deep. Looking deeply and honestly, this is the way that my subconscious twists my heart’s desire into my deepest fear to leave me paralyzed in the status quo, Unwilling to seek out the success I clearly don’t truly feel deserving of (on some level). Unwilling to risk what moderate comfort I have for the prospect of gold mined from within. Unbelieving.

It’s the 10m Diving challenge…

Back in Water Haze (Water Survival Course, in Academy terms), one of the final Demonstration Scenarios for course completion was the “10m Scenario”. It was broken down into 6 simple steps:

  • Ascend a 10m Diving platform in Battle Dress Uniform — sans boots. Stand towering above the Olympic-sized pool (at the eye level with the Nosebleed, stadium seating) and come to terms with the fact that you need to…
  • Jump off of said 3 story platform,
  • Swim a number of meters while still submerged (big jump, little swim, and vice versa),
  • Pass under a semi-submerged bulkhead/walkway/platform/Davey Jones’ locker
  • Clear the water at the surface on the other side of aforementiomed underwater nightmare chamber before taking your first breath since… when?
  • Inflate your shirt and float to the end of the pool, allowing your heart rate and adrenaline to subside.

From the moment after completing this task, I felt that a person had to be completely insane or take leave of their senses to attempt such a thing. You literally had to be crazy (if only for a second) to jump off of something that high, nuts to think, “oh, let’s go for a nice little swim, now,” and plain institutional to immediately and intentionally orient yourself underneath a submerged block of material for any amount of time without stopping anywhere along the way to take a breath. For that moment in time before you began this ordeal, you needed to turn your brain off and do what was right in front of you. Do what you needed to do. Cut away the fears, Silence the dissenting thoughts, Focus simply on the individual tasks at hand, and in so doing ‘Take Care of Business (TCB).”

That’s what it took for me to get off that platform: Go completely, batshit crazy. Crazy to ignore the completely rational fear of falling for a long enough time to reconsider your decision to jump. Crazy to take the step you know scares you to the bone in ways you can’t even rationally explain, because you know it is the only pathway to success. Crazy to do what you’ve never before dreamed of in your worst nightmares to move closer to something you’ve never had before. Crazy to measure your last breath before you plunge to unknown depths. To be completely alone in that journey down into the scary, life-threatening abyss. That most alone feeling in the world. To kick and fight and struggle as that thing you wore to camouflage and protect you from your enemies turns against you to constrict your movement and conspires to drown out your efforts. To wrestle through this while clinging and scraping for hope of life on the other side. Only to submit yourself to passing underneath an ominous, rectangular obstruction, conspicuously shaped like the coffin they would put you in if you didn’t pop out on the other side. Crazy.

But, as with most things, there was a method to the madness. The steps to completion are simple… Not “Easy,” just simple. Climb, Jump, Swim, Traverse, Clear, Inflate, Float. Broken down, piece by piece, a huge and frightening task can be overcome. It can be as simple as you allow yourself to make it. Or it can be paralyzing and impossible in it’s complexity if you allow it. There were people that did it without a thought, people who took multiple trips to the edge before mustering the courage, and those who took the disappointing walk back down the stairs. Everyone was tested, and if nothing else, was given a revelation about who they were to themselves and what they were capable of. Not only physically, but mentally. I, for one, was surprised by what I learned about myself that day.

But I also held a respect for the devious minds that drew up such a scenario. There was purpose to the exercise. Conquering fears. Rising above. Taking decisive action. Following the course through to completion. Strengthening the force of will. Trusting in yourself and the strength of self-preservation. Being able to focus on the immediate task at hand, drowning out the noise. Growing in an intimate knowledge of self and your own potential and capabilities. Looking in the face of the unknown and saying, “Let’s Roll.”

Such is this moment at which I find myself. The first, simple step of this Scenario is nearly set and finished behind me… I’m climbing the last few stairs of my 20s up to the platform of my 30s. All the preparation of that climb is now approaching fruition as I prepare to take a leap deep down into my future; deep down into myself.

The plain truth and reality is that there is no walking back down off of this platform. But, maybe I can linger here for a while… a few years? Pretending at 32 that I’m still 27? Or pretending that I’m not on this platform at all… “you’re as old as you feel,” and “age is nothing but a number.”

But, No. This is real life. This is maturity in life; recognizing and facing the challenge and savoring it. It is taking a look back on where you’ve come from, realizing that you will not get anything from going back to where you came, and you didn’t come this far just to stand around on this platform while everyone takes the plunge around you. It is about accepting who you are, being comfortable with the person you’ve brought to the platform, and having faith that the you that you are is enough to pull you through the next steps of whatever scenario you might face next. It’s about recognizing the fears that keep you stuck, paralyzed, and stagnant. It is about stopping those fears in their tracks and imposing your will on your situation. It is about that moment of Crazy, where you lay it all aside and choose the path forward. It is about turning off your mind that holds you back. It is about steeling yourself… and taking the plunge.