Have you ever said to yourself, “You know what? I’ve just got to get out of here, get away from all this, and do something different. I need to move!”?
In preparing for my summer travels, I said exactly that. Although I wasn’t planning a permanent move, only a vacation, I still felt that need to get away from the normalcy of my life and do something different. I just needed some kind of change. Little did I know what that change would really mean.
For me and my life, the month of May was full of more stress, drama, and issues than the previous four had been. I can’t even explain away any of it or say I was overreacting — those who know what happened, know how bananas it was. So, when I booked my tickets for Boston and Chicago one Saturday afternoon as I lay in my bed, I started laughing (or perhaps giggling, but that doesn’t sound as manly) with excitement. My escape was coming!
And then it came. I hopped on a plane, Boston bound, to see my dad for two weeks, and left all my cares in Atlanta. Yeah, right. I was definitely still mentally in Atlanta. There were money issues that had to be solved before my trip to Chicago, and money to be raised for my July trip to Haiti. My mind wasn’t on vacation even though my body was.
In my spare time, I began reading a book called Maximized Manhood by Edwin Louis Cole (an incredible book I absolutely recommend every man read). While there wasn’t one specific point that hit home for me (there were more like ten), I’ll never forget sitting at Au Bon Pain in Harvard Square, when I had this revelation:
Sometimes the very thing we try to get away from by moving geographically is something within ourselves.
Maybe you’ve moved to a new city (or maybe a new location within the same city) in hopes of breaking out of an old cycle, only to find that it “followed” you there. The problem is that it didn’t really follow you — you packed it up yourself and brought it with you.
(If you currently find yourself preparing to make a geographical move, perhaps this is a caution of sorts, and a cause for you to check your motives.)
In examining my life, I thought I could eliminate certain issues from my life just by leaving the city where the issue existed, when the reality was that the issues weren’t found in Atlanta, or in a particular relationship with someone, they were found in me. I had to work on myself first, before I tried to fix the other situations. Sure, some of the things (a lot of the things) that happened in May (and in the rest of my life) were not directly my fault or responsibility. But the way I responded to them and who I blamed for them was.
If we have a string of bad relationships or bad jobs or bad… anything, we have to consider the common denominator — ourselves. We are the only consistent thing in all those situations. But we don’t want to own up to that — we never do. It’s so much easier to blame external forces (men, women, the city, your parents, siblings, etc) but never look internally, where it’s likely that the real problem lies.
“Men have the ultimate responsibility for their decisions. The essence of maturity is the acceptance of that responsibility. And maturity is the essence of manhood… Accepting responsibility for our failures is the substance on which success rests. No one can be responsible for success unless he is willing to accept responsibility for failure.”
That hit me hard. It’s easy to shift the blame for something onto someone else. But it was imperative that I understand what role I played in all of this, accept responsibility for it, learn from the mistakes (and especially the failures), and move on to become a better man.
In essence, my vacation, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, was a way of me just running away from my problems. Deep down I knew they’d be there when I got back, but I could concern myself with enough to forget about that for a few weeks. Or I could deal with myself first, and when time came to deal with the issues at hand, I’d be better prepared.
Don’t read this and think that I’ve got it all squared away, packed neatly into a bin and stored in the proper location. Every day I’m growing and understanding the role that I play in issues in my own life — and then taking responsibility for them. Because if I don’t deal with my issues, who will? No one. And they’ll continue to grow, fester, hurt and devour most everything they come in contact with. I can’t afford that. Can you?