A friend once asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Since I was at the time a headstrong young woman of 22, I replied, “a fireman!” with all the defensive sarcasm I could muster.  I was more than a little miffed that my companion was underwhelmed by my then-current incarnation.  What was I supposed to do to impress him, stand on my head and recite from Henry V

It wasn’t until years later that I understood the nature of the question.  Rather than a condemnation of what I was doing, it was curiosity to know why I was doing it.   What’s more, I learned that I was just as curious to discover the reason.  What the hell was I doing back then?  Did I have a plan or was I simply on automatic pilot?

Though I thought myself a rebel, upon reflection I realize that I was drifting along currents that I didn’t personally direct.   So was my friend, which was probably why he asked the question.  Did he know where he was going, or was he just reacting like me?  Maybe he recognized a fellow drifter and wanted to know if there was a way to escape the undertow.

Because that’s exactly what it was… a dangerous riptide unseen on the surface, but once in, nearly impossible to counter.

I didn’t know I was in it.  Nobody does.  We drift along thinking ourselves masters of our own lives until that life slowly comes to an end, and with its closure, comes the sudden realization that we’ve been captives instead.

Not so, you might object.  My life is my own.  Yet were crucial decisions made over the course of that life based solely in the moment, or were they driven by fear, need or ambition?  Did your actions follow from pure sense of self, or from dissatisfaction and desire to find that sense of self?

If you thought yourself lost or less than, you are not alone.  Everyone thinks that way when they’re caught in the undercurrent.  It will disorient you faster than anything imaginable.  It will drown your bearings and torpedo your will until there’s nothing left to do but flail and keep your head above water… if you can.  No amount of education, prestige, power or privilege will act as life preserver now.  All of that was amassed in reaction to your condition, not in spite of it.

The harder you struggle against the tide, the stronger it becomes.  Not because it is an overwhelming force, but because you believe that it is.  Your parents, friends, children, colleagues, countrymen or foes have only the power you choose to give them.  If you think yourself at the mercy of external factors, then it is so.  Beliefs, no matter how ridiculous or farfetched, create reality and as long as we believe control resides outside of ourselves, then we will be forever caught in its current.

And so I ask myself today, the first day of 2012, what do I want to be when I grow up?  Just another fish drowning with its school, or take a chance on something of my very own creation?   Hmmmm… I think I’ll roll the dice.


2 Responses to “ROLL THE DICE”

  1. Hit the nail right on the head. This goes below what do I want out of life? This is that rip tide undercurrent you wrote of. The big question behind all that. Glad you said it out loud, Kimmy. Thank you.

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