If there is one thing that my slice of heaven in Berlin has taught me is that the greatest change can take place without having to move a centimetre. It is all about embracing the perspective from within and accepting who you are meant to be. Stand in the same place day in and day out and you can either let it fester away and kill you bit by bit inside, or face each day with a brand new prayer and hope.
My life for the past 18 months has been a silent nightmare. Combine COVID-related isolation with everything else that landed or stormed through my place, and I had every reason to lose my mind and sense of purpose again. But I promised myself that the time for letting others manipulate me into a corner was over. I’ve had plenty of time to think, re-assess my goals and reconfigure my dreams. What did I learn? Well, some dreams are flexible enough to carry over from one phase of your life to another until you have the courage to turn them into a reality. Others are meant to be left behind, because they were never meant for you to hang on to.
Frustration with life and people around me drove me to the brink, and when I moved to Berlin in 2017 I burned a lot bridges, cutting off ties with more people than I probably should have, which was painful. But this also made me reassess something that always hovers at the back of my mind – some people are not meant to remain in your life forever. Everyone has a purpose in your life, be it for a reason, a season, or lifetime. Thus far, the people who did the greatest harm and caused the most damage were in my life for a reason, to reach me a lesson and shed light on both my character, resilience and nature in general. The people I miss the most are those who were only in my life for a season, be it to help ride out the storm, enjoy the sunshine, or make life at that moment more bearable. This of course is written with tears of regret that flow with the benefit of hindsight. I never understood the purpose of any of this while going through the motions, and I doubt anyone ever does. it is only after we cross a certain threshold of pain and age that we are seasoned (mature?) enough to look back at our lives with experienced eyes and battered souls.
It works the same way with dreams. Many of our childhood dreams have no place in our present if we are middle-aged or in our senior years for two reasons: 1. childhood dreams should have been fulfilled long ago, and 2. we grow up, grow old, and our expectations and needs in life change, so it follows that our dreams change as well. Many mistake this for ambition, but it is not the same. Ambition fulfils a materialistic desire, whereas dreams are the wings of the soul, the portals to contentment. Then there is a plausible third cause of false or misplaced dreams: those imposed on us by our parents. I’m sure many can relate to this one, especially if your chose careers were forced upon you. You are doing yourself the greatest harm if you are only living your parents’ dreams, and not out there carving out your own. So what if you were groomed to take over the family business and forced to grow it? What are you yearning to do and desperate to achieve once you break out of that mould or cage? What are you waiting for then? Chase it, grab it, and fulfils it. To hell with tradition and obligation.
Ask yourself: are your present dreams overdue in fulfilment and have you been clinging to them for far too long that their expiration date is probably over 10 or 20 years old? This is a question none of us want to face, let alone answer, because it means letting go of something that anchors you to a person, place or thing in your past, or a role in the present. Funny thing about the past – it keeps haunting us and often prevents us from moving forward in a healthy manner. Sometimes we don’t know how to respond to or read all the signs we are being sent by the universe, and summarily up ignoring them. The challenge: is it time to let go once and for all? Is it time to make room for new dreams and open yourself up for new adventures?
In March of 2021 I was determined to walk away from corporate life and return unequivocally to development work, knowing that it would be easier said than done. Damn it, it has been seven months of humiliating and discouraging rejection letters, some of which came in so quickly that I could swear I got a whiplash. The time has come to finally lay that dream to rest. Thinking that I was meant to come full circle and return to the world where I began my entire professional career was a huge mistake. The enthusiasm that cloaked me while I applied for projects in Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe and all across Asia, has long disputed. Reality check: wow, I’ve been away from the game far too long and it’s definitely time to move on. I will continue my advocacy work as I have done the past six years, though my writing and photography, but no longer attempt to rejoin the development workforce at the grassroots. The universe wanted me to realise that I am in my mid-50s now, not my mid 20s. Ouch. My destiny apparently lies elsewhere.
You may have noticed the seven photographs shared in this entry are almost identical, except they are not. Same window, same balcony, same area and crane in the background. The collection has been shot over a period of four years. My point is that dreams look different each day and so do our needs. One day I want to focus on the sun, others on the tree, and more often than not I want to include the water. But the one constant is the ever-changing clouds. Even if I don’t move, the world around me does, and it is a matter of knowing precisely that – life goes on.