The great philosophy masters have helped me through a lot of dark moments in my life with their wisdom. Throughout the philosophy and theology semesters at university, I often wondered of what use studying Immanuel Kant, St. Augustine, Plato, et al would be, and 30 years later I understand that without them, many of my decisions would have been pointless and would have carried no meaning for my spirit.
Today I reach out to the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard: Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. We are often faced with situations where the decisions have to be made on the spot, take the risk, and thus leaving us to face the consequences later, never really knowing what the results are going to be. Within the workspace this is easily predictable with the aid of research, information tools, and training that help make a valid and plausible prediction or projection. When it comes human nature and relationships, however, your guess is as good as mine. Parenting is the best example of this unpredictability, because more often than not, we fly the seat of our pants, going by instinct and only the results and effect of our decisions much later. If we are lucky, the children turn out alright, with a solid character and good head on their shoulders, and we are grateful for the learning moments and all the tears, fears, and fights along the way.
Love and friendship are the other fields where we never really know what is going to happen in the long run. I don’t have any friends remaining from my elementary days, for example (mostly due to mobility), and only a handful of High School acquaintances. We go into and through our relationships with great expectations, hopes, and dreams, but reality always takes its toll and we part ways with people we thought we cared for. On the other hand, there are certain relationships in life where we simply close our eyes and take the risk, throwing caution to the wind and harboring no expectations whatsoever. I have been fortunate in my lifetime to have been blessed with special friendships that have endured storms and sunny days alike. These are the people who have influenced my life and keep me going, especially my dark days. So yes, overcoming the shyness, setting aside the fears, and following the curiosity and gut instinct are worth the risk.
When tragedy strikes, and it often does lately, we have two choices: let the disastrous moment pull us down and keep us there, or embrace it and allow ourselves to pick ourselves up again and move on. I choose the latter, having learned often enough that self-pity and wallowing in the past takes away the precious moments of the present. Pretty much like writing a book, I like to bring chapters to a close and move forward. Closure to me has always been important, since it is the only way to ease the pain and begin the healing process. Be it death, divorce, loss, accident, illness, unemployment, empty nest, midlife, or relocation, the struggle through the darkness and leap of faith into the unknown are a test of character. The stronger the blow, the deeper I dig to find the will and strength to pick myself up, dust off the frustration and anger, and take the tentative steps in a new direction. It is worth the risk.
A friend’s recent father-daughter sky-diving adventure put things into perspective again for me, reminding me of my own sky-diving with my daughter two years ago. Have a dream, set a goal, take the jump, and enjoy the unbelievable adventure of falling and landing on two feet again. The dream(s)? I have enough of them for several lifetimes. The goals, I have learned to make more realistic, accept my limitations but at the same time ignoring the hindrances. The move to Berlin was my way of jumping out of the comfort zone, and now I’m somewhere between falling and sailing with the parachute. It is worth the risk.