Every now and again life will bring me face-to-face with myself.
I come to a crossroads where I have to make a choice.
There is nothing new about crossroads, we encounter them all the time. But crossroads that bring you face to face with yourself do not come up so often but when they do they are life life-changing.
How do I know that I have come to a crossroads?
That is a hard question to answer as there is no sure way to tell. These crossroads do not announce themselves. They tend to sneak up on me. I have however noticed that one, some, or all of the following characteristics of the situation tend to be true:
- I am faced with doing something that I swore to myself that I would never do or not doing something that I swore to ourselves that I would
- I find myself asking “What will people think of me” or “What will people say”?
- I find myself feeling that maybe, just maybe I am not as good at something as I thought I was
- Theories, strategies, and coping mechanisms that worked in previous situations appear not to work anymore
- There is a consequence regardless of if I choose to act or not
- Time appears to be running out…fast
- And of course, there is a need to make a decision and choose a direction. A direction that once chosen could change the course of my life forever.
It could be a choice between a career and a cherished relationship, between what the data says and what my gut says, between freedom and success, between harmony and righteousness, between the good and the greater good, between the realization of a lifelong dream and peace of mind, between the proverbial opportunity to rule in hell and the opportunity to serve in heaven, between failure and loneliness, between power and love … it could be any of these choices and more, It could come in many forms.
I can run around and seek help all I like, and ask for advice from friends, mentors, and loved ones but ultimately I realize that I am in a glass box where people can see me, people might have a sense of what I am going through, but none of them can really reach me. The decision is ultimately mine. The advice comes from many but the consequences will be mine alone.
I look for the miracle that will result in the magical “correct choice”, but none appears to be on the horizon. I and I alone have to choose a path.
It could indeed seem like a dark place to be.
Or is it?
Maybe one day I will write about a few of my experiences when I came to these crossroads and how I coped (or tried to cope) but today I choose to share two things I have learned from these times when I have come face to face with myself.
The first thing is that these situations are part of this beautiful life that we have been given the opportunity to live. In fact, I have learned that if I do not come up upon these crossroads, it means that I am not growing, When these crossroads bring me face to face with myself, then I know who I really am. I get to examine and re-examine my values and motivations under a microscope. And even when I ended up making a decision that I regretted, there was still growth in the sense that I found out more about myself than I knew previously provided I approached the situation with sincerity.
Secondly, every time I have faced these situations with sincerity, regardless of the outcome, I have emerged with increased humility, compassion, and charity. Compassion and charity for myself and compassion for those who have or will come to similar crossroads. Because I know that regardless of what option I ended up going with, I seriously considered the alternative and might have taken it under different circumstances. So who am I to judge those who took the alternative path?
I will close with this poem by Robert Frost titled “The Road Not Taken”
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– Robert Frost
What did you learn from the last time you faced yourself?