11,000 Sunrises and Counting…
I just wrapped up three decades on this big blue ball hurtling through space. Crazy, I know. Actually comprehending that sentence propelled me on an introspective journey that I’m going to share with you. Here we go.
Looking back to consider where I thought I would be at this point in life, I realize how expectations, dreams, and priorities change over time. I have gone from:
- Having to be right to desiring to be influential.
- Wanting to take over the world with ideas to desiring to change the world with words.
- Being unattached to putting down roots… and loving it.
One day, I’m not sure when, the desire to truly help people instead of trying to change them was birthed in me. I didn’t know that I was being selfish and imposing at the time, but it is easy to see in retrospect. It was at that moment I realized that life wasn’t about me, but those around me. Dreams changed. Priorities changed. Life qualitatively improved–for me, and for those I love.
I’m not going to lie, I still feel the pull of freedom and youth (no responsibilities) for fleeting moments… but that is tempered with gratefulness and enjoyment of each day. I’ve come to learn that structure, which I initially rejected, allows an artist’s creativity to flourish more than total freedom–which can be paralyzing. In the last ten years specifically, I’ve learned to define my boundaries and maximize creation for that space. This is the soul of meaningful work.
There are also times when I’m trapped between who I am, who I want to be, and what the world wants or requires me to be. This familiar tension surfaces subconsciously when I am feeling conformity or inability to change circumstance. I think that all of us who have big dreams or live creatively feels this hard to describe, palpable pressure. It comes in different forms, but has a singular message: Time is short, we need you now, get to work. This urgency can be overwhelming.
But if we are defined by the choices we make, then I want to be authentically me. That is how the world and I will change each other.
In this journey, I have discovered self-imposed limitations (are there any other kind?) that have stifled my growth. Most are hangups from earlier in life that I thought resolved. It turns out these failings like to creep back into life unannounced when I’m under stress or not living consciously.
- The desire for acceptance – I always liked to belong, it feels good. Until it’s made me something I’m not.
- To be liked – On days where I didn’t necessarily like myself, it was easy to determine my self-worth by what others thought of me. This can be addicting, and miserable.
- To prove people wrong – The “I am smarter than you and I’m going to show you in order to feel good” disease.
- To not make waves – I know, contradictory to proving people wrong, but for those I really care about I would put keeping the peace about what I knew was right. Their feelings would be more important to me than delivering hard truth.
At one point, all these have kept me from worthwhile pursuits. I have learned from it all, and being mindful of my purpose and remaining grateful seems to be the solution. However, I would like to avoid becoming an uncompromising, cantankerous old man who holds contempt for everything he doesn’t support. So here is what I’ve concluded.
- Be yourself, and let others see Christ in you through your actions.
- Live for ideals, but do so with love, forgiveness, and grace.
- Be uncompromisingly honest, but deliver it with the sincerest of intentions.
- Be friendly, but you don’t have to be everyones friend.
- Brighten people’s day, but do not let them dictate your happiness, or self-worth.
Maybe lessons from my odyssey can teach you something. If so, please share this post. It’s more likely that I can learn from your journey, and I invite you to leave your story or lessons in the comments. Thank you.
About Cole Bradburn
I'm a writer and doctor in lifelong pursuit of health, happiness, and adventure. I currently live in Raleigh, NC with the love of my life and our amazing little boy.