Where Do You Want to Take Your Life?
A short story on how repetitions and fantasies gave birth to unspeakable, liberating desire
One of the great lines in Alice in Wonderland happens when lost Alice asks the cat on the tree:
- Alice: “Would you tell me which way this road will take me?”
- Cat: “That depends on where you want to get to.”
- Alice: “I don’t much care where…”
- Cat: “Then it doesn’t matter which way this road takes you.”
I recall being in my early thirties when I first asked myself: where is my life taking me?
My then decade-long career at global companies was about to end. I disliked my job, viewed my professional circles as superficial, and felt absolutely no fulfillment with my work.
In true form, I was a perfect example of the disconnect between Self-and-Self (see Part I of this Integrity series).
There was something quite puzzling about how I was living. My actions somehow did not truly resonate with who I was on the inside, and my work just happened to be one of many byproducts of this internal misalignment.
It was pre-verbal, difficult for me to name it, to interpret it. At that point, my vision of where I was headed was rather myopic, although I could see an accumulation of repetitive experiences in my life.
The repetition began to call my attention when I noticed that while my experiences varied in locations and characters involved, the protagonist remained the same: me. The accumulation lasted for years until it crossed a threshold, becoming unbearable.
When I look back at that era, I depict it as if I were following a direction that wasn’t necessarily dictated by me, but by someone else — in my case, my father.
My early career choice, strategy and marketing, made the bulk of my felt discomfort and, not coincidentally, also the central topic in my deliberations with him.
It took me a while to understand that the path I was building mirrored his desire, or as I later was able to articulate, my desire to be accepted by him. The longer this dynamic lasted, the more torn I was inside, until there was nothing left but to implicate myself in my own transition.
This meant that I would have to deal with myself and my context in different ways; otherwise, I would risk spending more years, if not decades, in a delusional expecting of outcomes to (never truly) fulfill me.
Like Alice, I needed to know where I wanted to go, and for that, know who I was.
This process began with a small but fundamental change, in the form of a now reframed question: Where am I taking my life?
What unfolded was a journey into the depths of my mind, (re)signifying stories that, for years, I told myself to explain my discomfort, but not to change it.
As paradoxical it might be, change happened when I began to accept who I already was. In that process, I hit a hardcore reality, or truth, and three main ideas crystallized for me:
Most processes of individual development (including mine) are difficult specifically because they are not about problems-solving, but paradigm-navigating. Paradigms that test our ability to articulate the unspeakable inside of us, to legitimize that which is possible for us (and for others), and to accept that certain things won’t change — and that’s more than ok.
We disguise our state of discomfort innate to our human experience of lack (also known as original suffering) in the form of fantasies. Their purpose is to sustain, throughout our lives, the idea that we will, at some point, be complete if we fulfill them.
Finding the right person, getting the best job, being promoted, buying a house, a car, or traveling the world, or even having kids: the fallacious notion that reaching a goal will render us complete.
And most important of all, our ability to deal with the demands of the world, and mitigate our narcissistic impulses as well as our idealizations, create a foundation that will allow us to bring forth what is perhaps our most fundamental ally in a life of integrity: our desire.
In the next and final piece on this series on Integrity, I’ll better contextualize desire as we glide over the necessary elements in the process of authoring our own lives.
You just got a homeopathic dose. Want more?
Hi, I'm Gui Curi, and I share stories, concepts, and ideas related to a not-glamorous-but-real process of being a human in our world: what it takes to make this a meaningfully pleasurable life.
For more homeopathic doses, get access here.