Twelve and a half years ago, I sat with someone in a room that was, compared to where I am now, half a world away. It was a room that we’d spent the better part of a summer in together and I was preparing to leave it. Seated together, me on the sofa, they at the desk chair, they looked at me in something like pity. When I asked them what was wrong, they said “I ruined your life.”
Flash forward to the here and now, and the amazing things that I have seen and done since then can’t be counted. Two years after that conversation, I landed the job that eventually brought me to California. Six months after that and a month after our last interaction, I met the man that I have at this point been with for seven years. He’s my best friend, adores me for my brain, loves and encourages me to be exactly who I am and is in all ways my adventuring partner. He buys me more books than I have time to read and we make art together. We go on lots of long drives together. We’ve been engaged for a while, but have had a lot going on over the years, and hope to find time to get married sometime in the next year or so.
The year after that, my son successfully graduated high school and started taking college classes that he’s determined to pay for himself while working. He’s a kind, aware, compassionate, considerate, confident young man who sticks up for other people, gets frustrated at injustice and inequality, is entirely comfortable around people of all sexualities and genders, understands complex concepts like unequal distribution of emotional labor in relationships and is 100% a feminist. I am proud of him and of myself for having a hand in the development of an outstanding human being who is unlikely to ever hurt anyone the way he’s seen people try to hurt me over the years.
Two years ago, I was in the hospital twice for a respiratory infection, the second round coming from the fact that they missed it the first time. I nearly died the second time in, but when I emerged from unconsciousness, I awoke feeling like things that never made sense before then, did. It was a huge perspective shift that only comes from letting go of everything you are. I don’t think I could have done that had I not been in a situation where I had no choice, and I find myself grateful for the experience.
In the last year, I’ve written a book that has a good chance of getting published. It’s part of a seven-part series that I’ve already outlined and started writing the second installment of. In the middle of that, I started a side project that has turned into a novel that I’m less than two weeks away from completing. I other words, I’ve written two full novels in less than a year, and am well into a third. All this while being employed full time.
Six months ago, I purchased a house in one of the hardest places to become a homeowner. Not only did I buy a house, but through a highly ridiculous set of circumstances, I managed to get THE house that I wanted to buy. It’s exactly the house that I needed.
I worked a great job with a really shitty boss for a year before we parted ways. It happened at exactly the right time for me to get my new job with an organization working to build telescopes, detectors and spacecraft that will detect asteroids that could impact the Earth. The sooner they can be detected, the better the odds of deflecting them. When people asked me when I was little what I wanted to be when I grew up, I told them a Superhero. I told them that because I wanted to help save the world and I am now very literally doing that. My boss is amazing and is a she who never graduated college, but has spent most of the last 20 years running non-profit organizations that help people. She values people and shows it in how she treats everyone.
I’m not sharing all as a recap in braggadocio. I am sharing this because I need to tell this person that neither they nor anything they did ruined my life. And nothing that The Spawn’s dad did ruined my life. And nothing that all the people that have wronged me, or harmed me, or tried to hurt me, or used me, or inflicted pain on me, or bullied me, or stole from me, or lied to me, or deceived me, or told me I was less, or treated me as less, have ruined my life.
My life is stronger than anyone’s capacity to ruin it.
And so is yours.
And so is everyone’s.
And while some of the very good things in my life have been fostered by the kindness of others, they have also been fostered by the unkindnesses of others. And while some to the very good things in my life appear to be the product of luck and excellent timing, a lot of that has also trusting my instincts and putting myself in the right place at the right time. And maybe part of it is realizing that those who don’t think there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow maybe didn’t think about having to dig around in the dirt to find it.
And maybe that’s the takeaway from this. That the people that we meet in life are either nuggets of gold keep or clods of dirt to dig through. Isn’t that the basic, most fundamental principle of life? Position or Momentum: something that lets you stop to orient yourself to where you are or something that helps you get to where you need to go.
In another iteration of myself I was a Catalyst: a stimulator of change. Then, an Alchemist, believing that deep down everyone was a nugget of gold, or wanted to be transformed into one. But, I’ve come to realize, slowly, the limitations of that thinking, and that what a person is, even in the context of my life, is not for me to decide. It’s theirs and has usually been made long before they met me, and while they are free to change their nature at any given time, that is the product of their magic, not mine.
I think about all the ideas that I was raised with, and how much of my perspective on the world came from myths and fairy tales. But, I’ve also come to realize that those two things don’t equivocate. Myths were, and are, a way of talking about fundamental truths of existence while fairy tales are a way to conceal them. The fairy tales always said that using one’s magic for their own benefit is wrong, but the truth is that we are the sole beneficiaries of our own magic. Anything that anyone else gets out of it is what they take from it.
And that’s ok.
In the end, I chose not to take destruction and ruination from anyone’s actions, I chose to take lessons, and have done my level best to put those lessons to good use. I won’t know for a what I hope is a long, long time from now if I’ve been successful in that, but what I can say for now is so far, so good.
I have no idea what comes next – I rarely do. Anytime it appeared otherwise was probably just a really good guess, or at least advanced skills in pattern recognition. But whatever it is, what I can say is that I know it’s all ok, because I want it to be ok. How it ends up on the other end is entirely up to them.
Your mileage may vary.