Trusting Hope Over Experience: The Shedding of the Old

Trusting Hope Over Experience: The Shedding of the Old

By Don Hall

“Everything I had built in the past 15 years just went up in smoke. It’s gone. I mean, what the fuck do I do now?”

My friend had gone through one of those tribulations that involved losing status within the community of artists he was a part of, losing his job on top of that and flailing his now beaten down limbs in search of what he was supposed to do, who he was supposed to be, after the dust had settled.

I understood the feeling.

As a kid, I went to a lot of elementary schools. We moved around quite a bit, leaving me with the moniker “The New Kid” on the regular. Each grade became its own lesson in how to start from scratch—new teachers to navigate, new social games to learn, a reinvention from year to year.

By the time I graduated from the University of Arkansas, I had become pretty adept at it. So it was nothing for me to discard most of my college relationships and community and drive randomly to live in Chicago. Starting from scratch again, I didn’t even have enough money to get a hotel room let alone an apartment.

When I left teaching after nearly a decade, I left my community of teachers and colleagues at the classroom door and jumped into the Off Loop theater world. When I was wrongfully accused of forging a theater license a decade or so later and was hired by the local public radio station, I walked away and forged new relationships, created new social status, broke new ground.

I find myself, once again, a freshman in the High School of Life, with a brand new slate, new relationships to create, effectively an entirely new identity.

Where things get complicated is that, unlike when I was a kid or fresh out of college, I’m still in Chicago and plan to stay. Which means that as the upbeat misanthrope there are aspects of who I was that are inescapable.

In some ways shedding the skin of the former is a bit like Groundhog Day in that social media is a constant reminder of those earlier alliances, colleagues, statuses and on and on. It certainly makes it more of a challenge to change things up unless you discard all of it, which involves a complete and total reboot. Given I didn’t go into the Witness Protection Program, I gotta contend with shedding some of the dead skin and managing the parts that won’t shed.

The plus to this is that Live, Die, Repeat movie theme wherein each time you die and come back, you have just a bit more information on how to proceed within the next iteration. Each time I find myself here, reinventing myself, shedding off the husk of the former, I know more than I did last time. So, the skin is all pink and fresh but the soul is more wise. At least that's the idea.

It gets dicey when one goes from the full-time gig and all its perks—health insurance, bills paid on time with almost a casual disregard to the basics, a comfortable structure to one's day, the status of the job—and it disappears, the shock to the system is palpable. All of the things that were negatives to that corporate enslavement—required conformity, working within the politics of the Dog Eat Dog, the inability to control one's schedule and a general lack of time to be creative—slowly seem more bearable. Panic desperately wants to set in. Poor choices are made in pursuit of that benign but secure existence.

 He may have been a racist but the guy could sure nail it when he wanted to...

He may have been a racist but the guy could sure nail it when he wanted to...

“Everything I had built in the past 15 years just went up in smoke. It’s gone. I mean, what the fuck do I do now?”

"Well, first remember all the things you hated about that specific daily grind. 

"Remember the hours of labor you put in for little or no recognition, the late nights and early mornings, the having to deal with people you wouldn't spend five minutes with otherwise, the soul crunching feeling of knowing that you are no more than a cog in that particular machine. Set that aside for a moment.

"Then recall how you got that job and know that all of those reasons—your drive, your talent, your curiosity and creativity—you still have those things. Those things are you, not your title. You still possess all of those qualities unless you give them away.

"You will always be a cog in some sort of machine. The difference is that you have a reset button on that Tetris game you're playing. You have the opportunity to remake your machine and figure out how to scramble for a buck on your terms. If life is a video game, you get a second life. If you're me, you have many more than two.

No one is going to give you a leg up. You may have people in your past version who you keep and who will step up and give you a hand but don't count on it. This is your path to walk and it is entirely up to you to step your shit up, decide who you're going to be, and go for it.

You need to trust hope over your experience. Deny yourself the bitter anger of loss and look forward. Your experience will inform you that the only road is the road laid out for you but that's the indoctrination of a consumerist society that values cogs over mercenaries. Businessman over Pirates. Your road is in the direction that you plant your feet, so follow that and don't worry so much about whether its been paved or not.

You won't have overnight success because you are now rebuilding your place in the world. It will, however, be worth it if you refuse to concede."

Yeah. I understood the feeling.

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