The One Who Walks Alone
One thing that a person learns as he or she matures is that life is change and some of those changes are challenges. Life is also choice. Change comes whether we want it or not, and we have to decide our choices toward those changes. What if, however, the change that comes into life is deliberate?
I was raised with traditions, beliefs, and expectations as to what my role in life involved. I always felt a deep fear to step away from these beliefs and traditions, but I also did not like what I saw was to be my future and felt trapped. I knew, on the whole, I was not accepted where I was. However, I was surrounded by the presence of what I believed to be like-minded others, and it gave some sense of belonging and safety. I understood pulling away and changing the traditions I was taught meant walking, I thought, autonomously into the unknown. I realized I would lose everything and everybody I was accustomed to having in my life. This was part of the price I would have to pay to walk in what I considered the new. It was new to me. I learned later I was not alone. I was isolated from anything not accepted in my minuscule world. I was hungry. There had to be more.
I had a choice to continue the path I was on and reap the result, or make a change and accept what was not known in my world at the time and reap its results. This decision not to change meant the status quo and do nothing more with my life than those that came before me. If I chose to walk a different path, I was aware that the change I brought into my life would affect those of my world of the time and would not be accepted. It would mean to sever ties from all that I knew and not be accepted by my support system. It meant walking into something I knew nothing about, and that was a gamble. What I found were others just as hungry for change as I was. They were asking the same questions and seeking the same answers. They were more understanding and tolerant of my desire to break free from the limitations of my small world.
I felt the heat of indignation that my lot in life was ordained for me by those who felt the safety in numbers. In order to be part of that crowd, I would have to accept narrow views and conventions. I would have to play the role assigned me along with all its limitations. For those who prefer this life style, I have no issue. However, I wanted something different, and I wanted my children to have a choice. My desire to bring about difference in my life was only fueled hotter. Remaining in the same surroundings and following the same beliefs and expectations would mean receiving and enduring the same consequences as those who came before me. This was an unbearable thought. There was an inner desire to break away and explore what else I could be and what else I was destined to be. This would encompass change which is something with which most humans struggle.
It was scary, but I made my choice. I decided to step from the familiar crowd into the unfamiliar and unidentified going a different direction. I had decided that my children would not experience the chains and be bound the way I was. I faced my fears.
Am I saying that choosing to go a different direction a was all bad? By all means, I state a resounding no. Am I saying that it was challenging and full of mistake-riddled steps along the way? I say a resounding yes. Did I make choices I wished I hadn’t made? I am going to answer that question with a question. Who hasn’t no matter who they are or where they are? Being limited and not being allowed to grow to be the real me was unthinkable. What I did not realize was just how the choices I made in my youth would affect the futures of the generations to follow.
In warring against the traditions of my raising, I was not aware of the consequences of my choices. I was not prepared for family rejection and betrayal, the intense fear I felt, the amount of my ignorance and the lack of knowledge I possessed, and what I would have to learn and force myself to experience. I felt like a baby learning to walk and learning my surroundings. I was not aware of the pitfalls that lay ahead, but I learned.
One of the things I was not aware would be a constant companion was change. Stepping away from the known to face the learning experiences, growth, hurt, and challenges forced me to test my fortitude, to face my erroneous and/or narrow worldview and perceptions, and opened myself to new experiences and meet new people. It built my self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-efficacy. It forced me to see some of my beliefs needed to be challenged and changed or expanded.
I gained an expanded understanding of the event in the Bible where Jesus showed his disciples a new perspective which exposed his disciples’ fears. Jesus dared to walk on the water. He dared to go against what was the accepted, and he defied physics. He dared to walk alone and not with the crowd. He did not allow anyone to tell him he could not do it. One of his disciples, Peter, called out to him to follow him on the water (Matthew 14:28). Jesus had twelve disciples, and only one chose to step away from the crowd and walk on the water. The crowd stayed in the boat which is what they knew and where they felt safe.
Did Peter experience fear? Of course, he did. It would not be any stretch of the imagination to assume that Peter was asking himself, ‘Man, what are you thinking’? However, he was determined to follow the one who walks alone and not with the crowd. He stumbled, and he had to be helped, but, in the end, he learned lessons. He enjoyed the exhilaration of experiencing walking on the water. If he had stayed in the boat with the crowd, he would have lost that experience.
Leaving the crowd and walking alone, forced others from my former crowd to see me in a different light because I was different with a new-found confidence. I began to like me and felt a sense of purpose and worth which shone to the others around me.
Many years later, my sister came to stay briefly with me in the house I was told I would never own. She was on her own quest for self-discovery and change. She worked at nights at a battered women’s shelter, and I worked days at another facility. Our paths seldom crossed. One of the things at which she worked diligently was finding motivational sayings for the women of the shelter.
One day, I came home from work and as usual, she was gone to work. On the kitchen table was a sheet of paper with something printed on it. It was an adage she had found in her search which said the following:
“The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.” ― Albert Einstein
I read it repeatedly. It spoke to me. I went immediately to the computer for I wanted to know if Albert Einstein really said such a profound statement. If he had, I had a new appreciation for him. Research resulted in the saying was attributed to Albert Einstein, but it is really of unknown origin. Sorry, Albert.
However, this did not make the saying itself any less true or less profound or less appreciated. In fact, I have changed one word in the statement and added one word. The words “the woman” I have changed to “anyone”, and I have added to the word herself the word "himself". So, it reads the following:
“Anyone who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. Anyone who walks alone is likely to find herself or himself in places no one has ever been before.”
When I talked with my sister later about the saying, she stated that she was looking for motivational sayings for the women of the shelter and came across it. She stated,
“When I saw it, I immediately thought of you.”
She had no idea what she executed in me at that moment. In one adage, my life and my decisions were summed up. Two sentences that I deeply appreciate let me know that I possessed a badge of success and honor. Not only was my decision many years ago a good decision, but that it was noticed, and it had a positive influence. This is my definition of success. The maxim only motivates me more to continue my life’s journey to walk independently, to keep learning, helping others to find the courage to face their fears, and sharing with others what I have learned. Life has a lot to offer that needs to be experienced. All a person needs to do is choose. They can either go the status quo or make the necessary changes or meet the challenges and enjoyments on their personal path of life.
The decision is yours. You only have one life. Where is your path?