There’s an old saying in Spanish that goes “Pa’ atrás, ni pa coger impulso” which translates to “Don’t move backwards, not even to gain speed to propel yourself forward”. That never sounded quite accurate to me. Reinvention requires introspection; meaningful insight can only be found when we revisit events from a different perspective. Going backwards to move forward only creates momentum when we let go of the past and accept the lessons we were too immature or naive to internalize. Otherwise, we are setting ourselves up for failure.
Possibility and success can be born out of missed chances.
In my mind, life is like a videogame; there are a couple of save points – decision moments – that can lead one down several alternate parallel paths. Hence, they can be revisited, like getting a second degree, switching industries or, getting remarried to the person you just divorced (here’s looking at you Grandma Delia). The adults in my family never shied away from starting over, and I can’t blame ’em for pursuing second chances: Grandpa Layo went back to college after retirement to become a certified travel agent and operate an agency. My mother reinlisted to be able to afford raising me on her own terms. My uncle quit engineering at 48 years old for not getting the recognition he deserved as plant manager, and later became the plant manager of his daughter’s school grounds just so he wouldn’t miss a moment more of her childhood. (By far my best “I quit” anecdote of all time.)
And then there’s me…
I recently found myself at the end of a loop I wasn’t expecting to complete. The layoff dropped me off right back where I was 15 years ago: jobless, searching online for a place to start a career. It’s a strange feeling. Of course it’s not exactly the same, I do have a dog, savings and a bulletproof marriage, but the uncertainty is still the same. What if I can’t find a company that suits my needs? What if I have to take another pay cut? Was all this for naught?
Armed only with a flashlight, a machete and hope, I trek my way through the jungles of opportunity. Maybe if I cut a path for myself, a unique and creative niche I’ll be able to quell my apprehension and find true excitement for the mysteries that lie ahead. I’ve already gone back to the career I thought was my destiny, twice, with the same result: The machine chewed me up and spit me out in the same spot I boarded. This train is traveling slowly to the same station, and the ticket counter clerk is seriously considering sending me on a different direction against my own wishes, just to show me there’s more out there for me than what I allow myself to desire.
Rainy days, lost and misplaced emotional luggage, that’s the easy part of the voyage. The true challenge is detangling the lights of past achievements to illuminate the steps to reach greatness. To let go of the fear and anxiety of plans that didn’t come to fruition, goals that need to be replaced by even more adventurous and extraordinary endeavors. I need to find the strength to dream big again, to honor the 4 year old kid that wanted to take over the world. I need to use enough ballast to slingshot my way upwards without overshooting the target.
How far back should I go to calculate the perfect pull, well, that’s a whole different story…