I want to tell a story, one that I've never really told before in its entirety. But first, I want to tell you why. I'm watching a movie, Conversations With God, which tells the story of this guy who ends up homeless and 'down and out', and then God asks him if he's had enough yet…. and he ends up writing a book about his conversations with God.
There, but for the grace of God, go I.
– John Bradford
That's a quote which the movie reminded me of, and which has been a part of my life for so many years.
This story starts when I was born to parents that didn't love each other, and a mother that didn't want me. Being itinerants, they travelled a lot, and set the stage for the pattern of my life. I worked out a couple years ago that I've lived in over 90 locations throughout my life – that's more than 2 places a year.
With parents that never had enough money and weren't able to keep a job for very long, I never learnt the value of saving, or even of working. After leaving high school I was unemployed for the next 15 years. Don't get me wrong, I had the odd job here and there, but I couldn't get a good job, because I didn't have the skills or education, and I wasn't able to hold onto those jobs. Why would I? They weren't very good. Usually commission only, or seasonal work.
My life sucked. I knew that, and I felt that I sucked. I felt hopeless, angry, depressed… I used to tell myself and others that I never got depressed, but I know now that I was just kidding myself, and trying to kid others too.
It was about 4 years after high school, having been unemployed for all of that time, that I was so angry that I wanted to kill some random stranger for breathing strangely while I was sitting next to him at a bus stop. That scared me so much, and when I got home I sat on the edge of the bed and thought about my life. I thought about how hopeless it was, and that there really wasn't any point continuing it. I had no purpose.
It was at that moment that I suddenly felt I had some kind of guardian angel looking over me, and I heard a voice in my head saying, 'You are destined for greatness.'
Now, at this point in my life I didn't believe in God. I was raised an atheist, just like my parents and the rest of the family. And yet the idea of having an angel looking out for me was reassuring, and I wondered what great destiny awaited me.
It was entirely possible that it was just the fevered imagination of a young man in distress, his mind speaking out and telling him what he needed to hear. But there's a difference between a thought and a feeling, and I had the feeling that there was someone looking over me. This gave me a purpose, and my life started changing.
However, the change came slowly. I had a lot of anger in me, and a lot of personal issues to deal with. I spent another 3 years trying to make something of myself, ending up selling vacuum cleaners door to door for 2 years, but not doing very well at all. I had no money, and I spent those two years either living with workmates, or trying to live with others, but rarely being able to pay the rent and thus being evicted.
It was a really bad period of my life, but it was also the most valuable period of my life, where I came closer to God. I experienced the reality of the spiritual world in ways that proved to me there was more to life than just this. It spurred me on, and I became 'spiritual', delving into exploring what it actually meant, and living it.
I kept on searching for meaning in my life, for that greatness I was destined for. I had people come into my life with messages and experiences that helped me move forward. Clairvoyants who came and went and each of them told me something similar, reinforcing what I'd already been told. 'Greatness' was in my future, but it wouldn't be until I was in my 50's, and I would become a spiritual teacher.
My faith was shattered by a particular experience I had, and it resulted in me leaving behind the explorations into spiritual growth, and instead move forward simply trying to grow up. What point is spiritual growth if you don't have emotional growth?
I tried going into business for myself, using newfound skills with computers and the internet, but that didn't really work. I lacked motivation and initiative. I managed to get a job at an ISP but it lasted only a year before I left due to differences of opinion with the owner, who was also a friend by this time. I went back and forth between trying to work for myself – but on the dole (unemployment benefits) as a backup – and working for the ISP. It didn't work though, and I just had to give it up. I found that not only did I lack motivation and initiative, but also responsibility. However, everything was about to change.
It was 2000 by this time, and after 15 years on the dole and unable to really develop a fulfilling lifestyle (how can you when you have no money?), I met a woman who helped me move to New Zealand. It resulted in the scariest and most stressful period of my life, but it was also the most important period of my life.
For the first time since leaving high school, I got a real job, paying real money – but it had to be in another country. It was almost like I had to change everything about my old life and create a completely new life, in a completely new country, in order to move forward.
To an extent, I 'found myself'. I was able to hold a job, and I was good at it. I practiced motivation, initiative and even responsibility. I even 'found myself' with women, able to easily find and develop new relationships, only to have them end after a few months….
It wasn't until I met Deidre that I really started to work out how to actually have a relationship. I attribute this to my parents having hated each other, and never wanted me or their other children, my two brothers. As role models, they showed me that a relationship can't work, and it was a struggle, doomed to failure – either to drift apart, or to stay together in anger and bitterness. I never wanted the latter, so I always drifted apart.
Shortly after our 3 year anniversary Deidre and I also drifted apart. We separated just a couple of weeks ago as I'm writing this. There was too much stress and conflict between us, and no matter how hard we tried, we were not able to resolve our essential differences.
I won't go too far into it, except to say that part of the reason we came together was that emotionally, we had a lot in common, and yet emotionally, we weren't ready for each other.
I found I was passive aggressive, an emotional issue that showed I was unable to process anger appropriately, and kept it to myself to avoid 'punishment'. Again, I never had anyone as a role model to show me how to act in a mature, responsible fashion.
I learnt a lot from my time with Deidre, and I think she learnt a lot from me too. But as is the nature of my life, change has come upon me again.
When Deidre and I returned to Australia last year, for me it was like I had an opportunity to once again start a new life. My skills, once average in New Zealand, were above average in Australia, and I was able to secure an income more than double what I was earning in NZ.
This year, along with some incredible stress resulting in more change in my life (my father dying, no job and no money coming in, as well as relationship stresses), I managed to get myself a career change into an area that I'm really excited about.
I feel like I'm moving up in the world, and growing emotionally at the same time. I don't know if I'm destined for greatness, but I do know I've experienced a lot of growth in my life. I also know that greatness results from an attitude that carries us forward, and anyone can be great if they believe it, and want it enough.
Will that be enough for me to be great? I'd like to think so, but time will tell. I've been poor for most of my life. I've been homeless, evicted, hungry. I know what it's like to starve. I've been 'down and out', and yet 'there, but for the grace of God, go I'… If it wasn't for the friends that I've had throughout my life, it would have been different. If it wasn't for the belief I had in myself and where I wanted to go, I really don't know where I'd be today.
It's been a struggle, and I don't think the struggle's going to be over any time soon. The struggle continues, and so does the learning. I'm still growing, and still dealing with my issues from the past. I'm moving on, and where life takes me is anyone's guess.
It's nice to know some of you are interested enough to join me in this adventure of mine by hanging around and reading what I write. I appreciate it, and I appreciate you. Thank you.
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