Many of us hate our past. We try to hide it out of fear that we will be judged if we reveal it. Vulnerability is not the norm and saying too much is like airing your dirty g-strings for all your neighbors to see.
Like so many of you, my past is pretty ugly too. You can write all the self-help advice you want and drop words such as inspiring without ever dodging the fact that you’ve probably experienced some crazy stuff in your life.
I’ve found that hidden in the past has been the path to my future
The past is creepy to explore at times — but avoiding it will not serve you. Having the courage to look in the past and attempt to find something valuable and not fall into a trap of shame, is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. It’s the sort of work, I believe, that creates superstars and icons of wisdom.
The past is a good place to start.
Running away from a business
In 2011, I ran away from a business I loved. It hurt like hell and was a necessary evil. The shame I carried for the few years that followed was immense. It wasn’t the business I was ashamed of; it was the fact I didn’t speak to my brother and only sibling any longer because of it.
That business was everything the two of us had and we poured our hearts and souls into. I effectively gave up a large part of my youth to discover what entrepreneurship felt like when I stuck my foot in the deep end.
The business became my identity and when I walked away from it, I lost that identity. This made my friends forget who I was. Without the successful business, they could no longer recognize me. I was The Mask of Zorro without the ‘Z.’
This past haunted me for a long time. I tried a few times to talk about it and it always seemed to work against me — as darkness often does. Right in the middle of the darkness, I attempted to open up to a manager I was working for at the time. I took him aside one lunchtime and told him the story.
He made the mistake of thinking I was trying to impress him with my business knowledge. What I was really trying to do was get it off my chest and have someone tell me it was all okay and everything happened for a reason. I didn’t hear those words until years later.
The collapse due to mental health
The darkness continued after walking away from the business when I found out I was suffering a mental illness. The condition went untreated for years. My mind looked and felt like a prison.
The problem was it was impossible to explain to anybody what it was. How do you describe the feeling of being trapped in your own mind and feeling as though you can’t make any decisions because of it, and life is happening to you? The answer for me was I hid. The darkness surrounded me and all hope was lost for a long time.
A desperate call to a mental health phone number and some professional help changed everything. These two results happened almost by accident. I’m not sure what drove me to do either or how I even knew that one of these two could help.
Like most solutions these days, I suspect it was a few Google Searches and one or two Youtube videos that may have forced my mind to seek help. Whatever it was, I’m glad I got out of the mental maze and found the exit.
Near miss with cancer
2015 was one of those years where everything seemed to be going right. I’d got my start in blogging in 2014 and I was coming out of my shell now that the burden of mental illness had gone.
Each blog post felt better than the one before it. There was the odd email from a fan and an occasional insurgence of likes on Facebook that hinted I might be able to do more than I previously thought.
It was all fine and dandy until the stomach aches started. They didn’t come from nowhere. I’d felt them before, but like my mental illness, I was on a path to exterminate anything in my life that wasn’t serving me. The stomach pains were something I’d had enough of. Innocent and with my mission in hand, I marched down to my local GP and told him.
There was an expectation of a cure. What followed was more questions that I’d had previously. The only partial solution was to take some vitamins. As you can imagine, I was less than impressed and ignored the recommendation. I told my girlfriend at the time that doctors were crap, Western Medicine sucks, we’re all sick and I know better because I’ve read a few books on health that make me smarter than your Average Joe.
For the next few months, I did exactly nothing. My girlfriend refused to stop nagging me and insisted I see her doctor. So, one cold Melbourne afternoon, I went and saw him. He told me that it was probably nothing and that all I needed to do was have a few tests (that cost a lot of money) and we could all go on our merry way to better health. My business brain kicked in and assumed he was trying to monetize my stomach pains.
Still, my girlfriend insisted that I follow his advice. After all, he had saved her dad from colon cancer due to early treatment so he can’t be all that bad, right?
The day in hospital arrived in a flash. Check in was 8 AM and then the needle that makes you sleep was an hour later but not before the panic of what was about to happen set in. The lights went dark quickly although I could hear every word the doctors said while they did whatever it is that doctors do when they poke around with a video camera inside of your body.
When I awoke, I told the doctors I was awake and they laughed. They told me “You’re dreaming mate!” with their strong Australian accents. The recovery room is where all the patients sat after their procedures or tests. I waited there with the image of myself being a grandpa in a nursing home. They brought me a cup of tea and a biscuit to help ease the pain.
As the numbness wore off, the doctor made his way over with the cliche clipboard in hand and white coat.
“We found a lump the size of a golf ball in your guts. It’s been there for about two years and likely to turn cancerous if it stays there too much longer. Here’s a picture, and for your information, we’ve removed it.”
It turns out I wasn’t a doctor after all having read a few books on health. It also turns out I was human and was mortal like the rest of you — despite the habit of waking up at 4 AM that made some people on the internet cringe at me.
From darkness to light
Through all of the darkness in my life, one fact has remained true: What starts out as darkness becomes the bright light of your future.
Running away from a business, fighting mental health and a near miss with cancer all led to what I have today. The transformation that took me from a selfish, arrogant, son of a gun to the person I am today — and my eventual discovery of blogging — all came from these dark situations.
I needed to experience the darkness to thrive off what followed, People think that those of us that may end up doing something remarkable later on were born that way, What I’ve learned from experience is that it’s not the case.
“The people who you think have more than you or a better life than you started off in total darkness beforehand”
The secret of these individuals — and the reason I’ve decided to mimic their habits, beliefs and behaviors in my own life — is that they did something with that darkness. They took the darkness and turned it into light.
All that’s left now is the light you can see in these people; what you can’t see is the darkness that came before.