I grew up thinking life was a ladder. You crawled, then you walked, at 5 you went to kindergarten, at 16 you could drive and at 18 you would graduate And be able to vote. I believed if you did your homework, worked hard then you would get good grades. Good grades, responsibility, volunteering and leadership was the recipe to get you into University. University symbolized a good job, money and a successful future. Convocation represented fruitful career opportunities Landing a full time, permanent job, at 21 in the field I studied and prepared for represented success, committment, hard work and determination invested had paid off. Marriage meant a partner for life, and the opportunity to have children and build a happy family. After my first child I got a Masters Degree and continued to climb my imagined proverbial ladder. After marriage and birthing 2 children I would advanced my career; transitioned from classroom teacher to school Principal. Doing all this by 29 equaled success and prosperity right?I had it all right? I had arrived! I had climbed the ladder; followed my imagined recipe for life! Therefor, by my own definition I should have felt successful, fullfilled, and accomplished. By this standard I was a leader, and a role model. I was achieved the dream! I reached the top. I won the Prime Minister’s Award, Citizen of the Year Awards, and numerous designations in my field. I was more than I had ever dreamed of becoming.
Ironically, I was miserable! I was an emotionless stone. I was rigid, isolated and lonely. Yet, I had no idea. I didn’t know what I didn’t know!
Had I reached the finish line? The top of the ladder? I did life just as I had imagined. I climbed my own metaphorical ladder. Therefor, by my own standard I should have felt happy, successful, accomplished and financially set. So, why didn’t I? Was I ungrateful? Had I made poor decisions? Did I climb the ladder too fast? What happens when you reach the top of the ladder when you are young? Do you just hang out there? Once your ladder ends do you focus on erecting the ladders for your children and setting them up for success? Sadly, if this was the definition of success I was not giving my children a ladder!
By my mid 30’s I fell off the ladder. By my 40’s I recognized that life was not a ladder, but perhaps more representative of Chutes & Ladders or Snakes and Ladders. And, in my 30’s, and 40’s I kept sliding down all the chutes and wrestling all the snakes. I was not prepared for this! I envisioned life as a trajectory of moving upward. Taking steps backwards (imperfections, mishaving children, a deadbeat husband, repetative bad days, no savings) felt like a loss, and a failure. Without a ladder to focus on moving up, I was lost. I had no direction. Standing at the top was boring and unfulfilling. Thus, I slid down a chute, and another chute, and then another. Each time I exited the chute, I was more lost than the previous time. I didn’t know which direction to go, no clue which way was up or even if I wanted to go back up! I didn’t know where I wanted to go, I was completely lost!
While I was lost, I did a lot of stupid things in search of the joy, the high, the satisfaction I used to depend on each time I reached a new rung on the ladder.
I abandoned my “successful” career, relocated my family a 150kms to the city, divorced my husband, sold my house, attempted and quit a Ph.D, lost weight, gained weight, lost weight, gained weight, had weightloss surgery in a foreign country, moved houses 5 more times, crashed cars, went bankrupt, dated copious amounts of men, chose the wrong men, and by 40 I landed myself in the hospital for 6 weeks on suicide watch.
So if life isn’t a ladder to be climbed what is it? Battleship? Guess Who? Boggle? Hunger Games?
Give me the recipe for success. I will follow it. I just want to follow the right path. No chutes. No snakes!
Quizzically, what I have learned is that chutes and snakes are a part of life. The part I hadn’t prepared for. This took me 42 years to figure out! I wish I had known sooner. I wish I packed my bags for the ride I was unprepared for. I dod not have the right tools, or skills for the downward ride. I wish someone had told me; prepared me. Maybe they did…. perhaps I was too busy climbing to listen, to busy to see the signs. Perhaps I was a bull in a china shop?
What I know now, that I didn’t know then is that I NEED to listen! I need to listen to people who love me. I need to listen to my heart, and my body. I have learned to slow down; and enjoy time on the grass looking up at the sky, while my ladder sits beside me. I’m learning to enjoy the view from every elevation! I’m no longer on the proverbial ladder, nor am I skidding down the chutes, and oddly I’m ok. I’m better than ok. I have upgraded from tunnel vision to peripheral vision, and life is brighter. I have shifted from independence to interdependence. I’m not stepping on people in order to climb, I’m learning to walk with them and to lift them up, and journey alongside them. I’m finding joy in supporting others rather than solely hoisting myself.
Reigniting my passion for learning and personal growth is my latest adventure, which is why I’m here. Why I’m writing and why I share this story with you.
If only I had known life was not a ladder to be climbed. If only I had known status and money did not equal success and happiness. At 42, I can now see life is a journey made up of twists and turns. I must redefine what success means and which path will lead me down the road to happiness. I must reframe my thinking about chutes and snakes when they occur. And this is WHY I have chosen to Curate MY Consciousness❤️ At 42, I am healthier than I have ever been; mind, body and soul, but there is still work to.