“A traitor, a coward, an elitist, a fool… the path is lonely, yet it leads to some astounding destinations and wonders that few are fortunate enough to behold. Be kind and gentle to others on their personal development journey, after all, how we treat them is simply a reflection of how we see ourselves.”
I have done and been many things in my short life (what I still consider to be short in some ways and long in others.) Even seven years ago, by the age of 28, I had already been an all-conference student-athlete and team captain at Boise State University; high school valedictorian; firefighter for the great City of Boise; a construction worker in several trade capacities; a buristo; a public speaker; an entrepreneur; a landscaper; a salesman; a business founder and operator; a bounce; a property manager (evictions suck); a real estate investor; a volunteer; a Wish-Granter; and even the owner of my very own lawn care company (my wife’s personal favorite to tease me over.) I am sure I am forgetting a few things and I have added several since my 20’s— most importantly a new husband and a father.
Through this journey of occupations and time, I have had even more hobbies and interests as well as experiences of just about every sort and variety you might imagine. I have seen the tops of peaks (literally and figuratively) and I have stepped into a lot of black holes that I was not sure had a bottom. Often, a big part of me hoped they did not. Many wins and many losses. In my 20’s, I had already been a husband as well as a divorcé; a stepfather to a teenage girl; a mountaineer; a writer; a Spartan; a plaintiff and a defendant; a traveler; a hero and a villain; student and teacher; a visionary; betrayer and the betrayed; feared; hated; used; loved; shattered; suicidal; lost; elated; driven; and a whole lot more.
Through it all, and from an early age, I promised myself that I would keep growing and evolving no matter what life threw my way. I vowed to continue to learn and evolve both away from, as well as further into, that driven, loving, and anguished child raised in his fundamentalist Christian home. My life has been defined more often by who I did NOT want to be, as much as by who I did want to be and that is ok. Sometimes, it takes knowing what we do not want in order to discover, almost accidentally, what we do want.
When you step on the path of change and accept continuous improvement— or at least continuous evolution as a core value—you never fully understand the impact this will have on other people around you. This is especially true of those who would prefer that you stop changing or at least, if you must evolve, that you evolve into their vision of who you should be. This understanding rushes in with great speed and pain. You quickly come to learn that the path of improvement and evolution can be very quiet at times. Quiet… misunderstood and sometimes even feared or hated by others (and by yourself.) You lose friends. You have harsh conversations. You confuse people. You lose lovers; sometimes you lose spouses. You lose associates; sometimes you lose partners.
You also gain much and then discover there are those who will despise you for what you gain. Some will label you as a traitor, a coward, elitist, fool, or maniac, and every other sort of hurtful thing depending on how you make them feel. I have had many of these experiences just this past year with some people close to me who are struggling to understand that I am no longer the same person with the same views that they used to know or that they thought they knew. You take the bad with the good. You discover that your own ability to be patient and understanding with others is interwoven with your perception of your own evolution. You learn to value few and let many go.
These experiences have taught me the precious value of those rare few who accept you for who you are, who you were, and who you may yet become. The people who believe in the best versions of you, not the worst. The people who love you enough to roll through the changes with you. They are few. My experiences have filled me with a respect, a love, and a curiosity for others who have shown a willingness to break free from the bonds of their background, upbringing, political affiliation, or social group to open their hearts and evolve on their own journey. The path can be lonely. Yet it leads to some astounding destinations. Wonders that few are fortunate enough, or perhaps it is courageous enough, to behold. Every so often you will bump into another on the path of improvement—their path intersecting with yours— and share something made even more meaningful by its rarity.
People do change. I never used to believe that this was possible, but my naïveté has since been displayed by my own reflection, if not by my consistent observation. I have to laugh sometimes when people accuse me of having changed. After all, do they assume I have been working this hard just to stay the same?
Cheers to your journey!