Over the years — and especially now that I’m approaching the downside of my 60’s — I’ve heard and read so many times that the greatest fear of many people on their deathbeds is that they did not live their dreams; that their own, unique ‘music’ remained in them, yet to be sung.
When I was younger, I was always in a rush to achieve my dreams and reach my goals. This was mainly in the form of career goals or self-help aspirations. I was known for reading so many self-help books that one of my business associates sent me a cartoon of a man hanging himself, stepping off of a stack of self-help books as he dropped from the stack of books with a noose tightly drawn.
When I was a little tyke I wanted to be a firefighter. And when I slaved my way through prep school, my adviser told me: ‘Our graduates go on to Ivy League Universities. They certainly aren’t firefighters or any other blue collar jobs. Admirable, but not from our school.’
My mother who had supported my fireman dream when I was younger finally said:’Jewish boys aren’t firemen.’ OK, I thought. I grew up in Oklahoma and liked weather so I’ll be a meteorologist.’ But then my adviser told me: ‘Your math is so God-awful, you’ll never make it in meteorology. It’s all higher mathematics.’ ‘But you have an ear for languages.’ So I plowed ahead and got a Master’s Degree in Russian from a good school in D.C.
When I graduated, I couldn’t get a job because even though I was fluent, there were plenty of native Russian emigres who needed jobs. I was then told: ‘You are a natural salesman.’ So I studied everything I could about sales and marketing. I decided I would become a ‘captain of industry,’ becoming a vice president at a couple of wine companies over thirty years.
Perhaps you’re thinking: This guy just lets authority figures push him from one thing to the next, thwarting his real dreams.
That is not what happened.
Somewhere along the way, I did become a firefighter, even a fire commissioner. I changed careers, worked as an executive for Disney and created attractions about every passion I had from firefighting to meteorology to Russian and Israeli culture, ending my career with a two-year gig in Paris.
When I retired, I really had achieved most of my boyhood dreams and then some. Maybe not in the way I imagined but, even better the way things worked out. I knew that I wouldn’t be that guy whose song had yet to be sung. Or so I thought.
What I missed was ‘me’ — the man I could be. Not so much what I was doing but who I was. Some people call that the difference between the false and authentic self. I’m no psychologist so I can’t say. We are human beings: not human doings, or even achievers.
So I began a journey to get down to the causes and conditions of the fears that kept me from the love I deserved to try and gain the emotional, intellectual and physical strength to be a loving, giving man. I had bought into the great American success myth.
And that’s just what it is. A myth.
I had to pull out my false beliefs, especially about myself, by the roots. This meant digging into the trauma and wounds of childhood abandonment, building a new foundation based on the brave man I knew I could be. I am just beyond the beginning of that journey. At this point along the way, I can see the hazy horizon with the words truth, humility and God’s love. I’m not sure when I’ll get there but the goal is my own truth. What is that truth? Knowing I have the capacity to give and receive unconditional love, facing whatever comes my way with God always as close as my breath every step of the way. It is the most challenging, important and noble journey of my life.
I remember a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: You must do the thing you fear. And what is that thing we fear? The fear of being who we really are, living and speaking our own truth.
Ask yourself these questions: Am I the person I want to be? Can I humbly admire that person on his best days! Am I doing the things that a person would do? If I have a family would they admire me, what I stand for and what I am doing?
And even if they don’t, do I love that man in the mirror?
If the answer is yes, then I’m on the way, and with God’s grace, I’ll arrive exactly where He wants me to be: in my own truth.