Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Learning from experience

A long time ago, I did something irresponsible that landed me in a whole heap of trouble. The consequences were unavoidable, and I had to decide what course of action to take. It was one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make and I opted for a course of action I still regard as one of my bravest and most unselfish choices. The course of action I chose very nearly finished me off, but I pulled through and, many years later, pretty much everyone who knows the deal agrees that I took the right course of action.

Now someone I love dearly is in the same situation. Exactly the same decision must be made for exactly the same reasons. But this time, the voice of experience can speak.

But of course, the voice of experience is not welcome. "But, Karyn, I saw what it did to you, and there is no way I could go through that!" O-okay. So I point out what the alternatives are and explain why I rejected each of them. I explain why there is no easy solution to this situation. I point out that everyone agrees that what I did was for the best, including the person now in this position. "I know, but it's too hard!" I'm told. I explain why the alternatives are no easier. "I know - you're right, but I just can't do it!"

Does that one image of me at my lowest ebb count for more than everything I have achieved since - most of which, if I'm brutally honest, is largely as a consequence of taking the initial blow, and enduring its backlash over many years? When people who have known me all my life picture me, do they only see the defeated, broken creature I became for a while? Do they not see the steady climb out of the mire, the gradual return of joy, the moments of subsequent triumph? What a sobering thought!

Are we destined only and always to learn from our own tragedies, from our own brushes with darkness? Here I am, hearing again in my head the voice of my grandfather on his 90th birthday, saying, "What's the point of a lifetime's experience if no-one wants to know?"

Now that the rubber has hit the road and we are talking about a deeply significant life experience rather than some theoretical knowledge or skill, I find that I don't want this person I love to have a learner-driven experience. I want to give them as a gift what I gained at great personal cost.

But alas... it doesn't work like that, does it?


Anonymous said...

Experience. I'm still waiting for people to begin listening to me. I remember thinking, when I was young, that I couldn't wait until I reached an age when people would listen to me. While I grew up, the adults were the ones who talked and were heard. So I waited. I earned two degrees, ran my own business and still hadn't learned enough so I waited. A wife, children, house, Master's degree - still I hadn't reached that magic time when people listen to what you say. All of a sudden, we're tripping over ourselves to listen to the youth and the younger generations, we want them to talk to us and tell us what they want. Where am I? Still waiting to reach that age and realizing that I'm living in a time in history when those who should be moving into the places where we listen to them because of their experience and knowledge are being replaced by those who are younger with the "out of the box" thinking. I agree with your grandfather - that's why I listen to my grandmother - her wisdom transcends the technology. My little story may not help but it illustrates that we've reached an time when people, especially youth, believe there is no truth except what they believe and experience. As for your experience, keep telling it. It will help even though some may not appear to be listening. And all you've gained has been worth it - you are an example of those of us who overcome and triumph because we believe - we don't give in to self-pity or self-loathing which seems to be all to common. Be proud of what you've done.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Kelly. After writing this blog post, I wrote a long and heartfelt email to the people closest to the situation. I shall wait to hear what the response is.