“I have been so violently uprooted and plunged so deeply into a job too big for me, that everything feels unreal. I have dropped everything I ever did, and live only as a thief of opportunity, snatching chances of the moment when and where I see them… It’s a kind of foreign stage on which one plays day and night, in fancy dress, in a strange language, with the price of failure on one’s head if the part is not well filled.” – T.E. Lawrence
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I startle awake in the middle of the night, bolting upright in my bed. I’m sweating heavily. I can’t seem to breathe. Am I okay? It takes me a moment, but my heart begins to slow and I finally get air back in my lungs. I’m terrified, but of what, I’m not even sure. I get up, walking through my house to check the closets, doors, and locks – yes, I open the door to each closet and look inside, my childhood fears of monsters resurrecting – reminding myself that it’s all in my head. After making my way through the entire place and back to my bedroom, I lie back down, trying to relax, and wait to fall back asleep. I need to make it to the morning.
I wake up a few hours later and walk to my kitchen, pouring myself a cold brew before I head into my front room and deposit myself at my desk. I turn and stare up at the giant whiteboard I’ve put up on my wall, covered in the scribbling of projects old and new. It measures almost ten feet across, and half as high, and to the unknowing eye might appear as the markings of a mad man – chicken scratch with no definition, words without order, and acronyms without meaning. But, that is not the case. It is the notes and plans that guide my life, the dreams and goals of my every day to day.
Inside my head is a hurricane, wild winds pushing thoughts like debris, from which I must pluck and pull in order to find a clear path forward. I didn’t sleep well last night, which lately seems to be more of a habit than a rarity. Knowing already that I will be tired by midday, I take a moment to think about tasks that must be handled quickly so I know where my day must start. It’s become a game of inches; the smallest bits of forward movement are valuable.
I wish I had a secret rulebook to life. Something I could open up and go through whenever I feel a sense of panic. I would use it countless times. How to take on a monumental task with little to no resources, and be successful? I wish it had that chapter in it. I think it would be my favorite.
I look to history and someone like TE Lawrence and find an understanding in his multiple meanings, his quiet recollections, and his avoidances of full clarification. How can you explain something so layered? How can you describe moments to someone who really is not paying attention to the parts that matter? I have been asked so often about things, and then as I respond I realize the truthful answers, the ones that are often opaque and really difficult, are not the answers that they have decided they want. Before finishing, I realize they want 140 characters or less. They want bullet points, they want Twitter, they want nice and easy.
Big, huge, overwhelming issues are not the ones that people want to discuss. Issues that remind us how human we are do not score well. When we are reminded how complex the world is, and how painful history is, and how evil mankind can be, we pull back. We want to find a boogie-man, we want to find a scapegoat. We don’t want to carry any responsibility, because then we may actually have to carry some blame as well. In theory that doesn’t seem so difficult, but in practice, I’ve rarely seen it done. People don’t want to pick up the torch on a 20-year policy battle. That is too much commitment. They want a hashtag and a march, and tomorrow, they want to go back to simple things like how much they love shopping at Target. And, I can totally understand why that is appealing, but appealing as it may be, it is not for me.
I’m looking for Goliath.
I don’t want to fight the small things, pretending they’re the big ones. I want more than that. I want to pick the issues that keep me up through the night and don’t let me sleep. The battles that seem impossible to almost everyone, the ones that seem unwinnable. I don’t want to quiet the hurricane; I want to celebrate it. I want to walk into the eye of the storm screaming loudly, with fire in my eyes, and a bat in my hand, calling out Goliath and giving him everything I’ve got. I refuse to go lightly. I refuse to be a victim to my own insecurities. I will carry on. No. Matter. What.