“The golden opportunity you are seeking is in yourself.
It is not in your environment, it is not in luck or chance,
or the help of others;
it is in yourself alone.”
– Orison Swett Marden
I think it’s fair to say we are all prone to waiting for our big opportunity.
Waiting for chances, waiting for the right day, waiting for our a-ha moment, or a time when things are slower and we can wrap our lazy fear-riddled heads around our ambitions.
So much waiting.
We spend (waste?) a lot of time telling ourselves that now isn’t quite the right time.
I’ll be stronger next week, when ______________ is over.
If I try right now, I’ll fail because ________________.
If it wasn’t for _______________, I wouldn’t _______________.
Fill in the blanks however you like, but for me, there was always a long list of justifications waiting to fill up those blank spaces. My life has been so much heavier because I’ve carried around my trusty arsenal of excuses for so long, collecting new ones along the way.
And, every time I’d cash one in it was as though I’d get bumped to the back of an ever-growing line.
Forever in queue.
I could always see what I was in line for – sobriety, eating healthier, going to the gym, going for a walk, writing a novel, cleaning the garage, simply being stronger and more confident – but whenever I’d get close, I’d forfeit my turn with one of a million excuses and pardon myself to the back of the line.
You know what’s weird and interesting about lineups?
They’re made up exclusively of people doing the exact same thing.
Checking out. Checking in. Waiting for the same ticket, the same concert, the same clerk to check out our groceries. Waiting in line for an autograph, a drink, a chance at something, or waiting to exchange what we thought we wanted for something we think we’ll like better.
The next time you’re in a lineup, spare a moment to take it all in: That in a world with 7.6 billion people, all of you managed to arrive at the same place and the same time, spending your time doing the exact same thing.
The idea of spending time is interesting. The phrase itself tells us that time by it’s very nature is a currency. Yet we
spend waste it freely and without thought, as though it’s limitless.
Until we go bankrupt.
spend waste so much time thinking about our ambitions and justifying why this time right now isn’t the right time, cashing in our currency at a horrible exchange rate.
This is how I feel I
spent wasted my time leading up to becoming alcohol free: Waiting for the perfect opportunity, the right time, and a cure outside of myself.
In a never-ending queue, mistakenly waiting for someone to just hand me a ticket to Soberville, I settled into the crowd with everyone else, all of us waiting for the exact same thing: the ‘right’ opportunity.
Waiting for some mystical cure to fall from the sky and take away the pain and discomfort of actually, finally, buckling down and doing it.
For freedom, without the rocky road of escape.
The thing with waiting without action, is that it’s like quicksand.
The longer you stand there, the further you sink.
I was given pieces to the puzzle though, that came in the form of success stories or brilliant, inspirational prose pulled from my stacks of self-help books. I collected them like a packrat; hoarding shiny bits of insight and glittering ideas on how to get where I wanted to go, stored far away from where I stole them.
And they piled up, collecting dust, never truly being pieced together.
It took me a long time to realize how far the quicksand had swallowed me while I stood there, sinking in line for so long. It’s usually when it’s up to your neck and you’re running out of time and breath that you realize that freedom and escape is your own responsibility.
I got myself in here, it’s time to get myself out.
It was only in that rare, brave moment of taking responsibility and owning the truth that I was in the condition I was in (a raging, sinking alcoholic) and so deep in the quicksand because I chose to stay in the lineup, that I was finally able to start pulling myself out.
It was in the moment when I let go of blaming everything outside of myself (my Dad was an alcoholic, I drink because it’s in the house, work stressed me out so I need this, etc.) that I was able to begin standing on that nest of prose and inspiration I had squirrelled away.
I was creating my own opportunity to finally be free.
I got myself in here, it’s time to get myself out.
Until I became clear on what I was truly waiting for in that lineup, I was forever stuck in queue.
And clerks have no time for customers who don’t know even know what they’re in line for.
Everyone you meet always asks if you have a career, are married or own a house as if life was some kind of grocery list. But no one ever asks if you are happy.
– Heath Ledger
And there it is.
If you take the time to drill down every aspiration, every hope, every dream, craving, desire, wish and ambition you have, they will all come down to the end-goal that we just want to be happy.
Why is this something we are waiting in line for? Why are we so ashamed of wanting happiness that we’ll poison ourselves to numb that desire, or keep ourselves in an eternal loop of going without because we feel we don’t deserve it?
The moment you realize that happiness isn’t something that can be handed to you over a counter is the very moment you’ll pull yourself from the quicksand and out of the line.
That’s how it happened for me, anyhow.
years decades of standing in line, forever in queue, ended the day I woke up and realized I was tired of sinking. It ended the day I owned the fact, without shame, that I deserved every bit of happiness possible.
And in owning something, it becomes yours.
This is a photo I did 6 years ago, called Live Your Life.
It’s about as close as I can get to showing you what crawling out of the quicksand and getting out of the lineup feels like. When I created this photo, it was just a fantasy; an aspiration to maybe, hopefully, one day feel as free as I look in the picture.
To finally experience what exhilarating and fantastic, absolute Freedom feels like.
It took time for me to
learn admit that it wasn’t waiting for me at the end of a lineup or the bottom of a bottle.
Where it was actually waiting for me, was just on the other side of one raw, brave, terrifying moment of honesty and action, followed by another, and another.
I discovered that the fantastic, absolute feeling of Freedom also feels a heck of a lot like Happiness.
And isn’t that what we’re all waiting in line for?