On Personal Growth and Lifelong Learnings

Another restless night of waking up intermittently in my sleep. I think I had an accumulated 5 hours of tossing, turning, waking up to pee and adjusting the heater in the hotel room.

I really was hoping to sleep-in because I know my mind and body are hungry for a deep slumber…DSC_2843b

There’s been a lot on my mind recently: My son and his mental health, my own mental health and well being, my job, my book and what I’d like to do next with it and last but definitely not least, there’s Anne.

I’d like to think that with each passing day, I’m learning something new. Sometimes it’s not a conscious awareness, but I know with each success and failure, I’ll reap the rewards in personal growth and development.

Anne and I had a deep discussion the other night about the stages we go through in adulthood. We both reached the conclusion that people go through stages typically marked by circumstances and milestones in our life:

Stage 1: External Exploration. This is a time in our lives where we develop a sense of independence by moving out, beginning our careers or getting married. We express ourselves outwardly and discover life, so to speak. For Anne, she partied a lot and had a high intensity career in the corporate world. She met a lot of new people and made new friends and found her rhythm in a lifestyle that she would almost describe as eclectic. Likewise for myself. Although partying wasn’t my scene, I made new friends and found my tribe who I still remain close to even to this day. I started my career almost immediately after graduation and income was rolling in. I enjoyed the notion of freedom from the vice grip of my parents and expressed that verbally, in my attitude and also in my behaviors. Money was spent like there’s no tomorrow and days and nights were endless. I felt invincible.

Stage 2: Inner Exploration. If I had to put an age range to this, it’s typically for people in their late 30’s to early 50’s when they realize that their external exploration has been quenched. This is when we take a deep dive into ourselves and ask questions like: what’s our purpose? Is this the career I really want? I’m not sure I want to be married anymore. I want to travel. I want a relationship that understands me. Am I really living my best life? Can I be vulnerable? This stage is often sparked on by a life transition such as a breakup, losing a family member, changes at the office, struggles at home or simply feeling lonely when the rest of your friends have created their own lives, separate from you. We begin questioning why things are the way they are and perhaps seek the aid of a therapist. We read more about self-help and begin to bravely dive into the deep end to learn more about what makes ourselves tick.

Stage 3: Anne believes it’s a stage of Understanding. I agreed and added to that. I like to use the word Spirituality. Not necessarily in the belief of a higher being, but being able to see the “bigger picture.” We reach a peaceful understanding of things such as: why you’re living with depression, why your parents abused or neglected you, why your friends no longer contact you or why you’re always so angry in life. This is a stage of understanding why the many setbacks weigh heavy on us. We feel at peace and accept it and learn to live with life’s challenges, rather than fight it. And we soon learn to re-shift the belief and see that our setbacks are actually gifts.

self growth

The other night my teenage son was hungry in the middle of the night and decided to cook himself a meal, something he’s learning to do for himself of late. I heard him from my bedroom clanging away in the kitchen, opening and closing cupboard doors and stir frying something. I was tired and needed to get up early the next morning, but instead of waking up and giving him a hard time for making so much noise, I chose to let it go and just be happy that he’s learning to take care of himself. I got up the next morning only to find the pots and pans and dirty dishes left in the sink. In my previous life, I would have freaked out and got pissed off at him. I probably would have woken him up to lecture him before telling him to clean up his shit. However, something inside of me over the years has shifted. My attitude and self-awareness is lighter, and no longer as short-fused.

When he woke up, I felt natural in asking him, “Oh! So what concoction did you whip up last night?” He then proudly told me that he tried to make his own stir fry ramen recipe by adding different spices and oils. I asked him how it turned out and was interested to learn about his recipe. He explained to me that it was a bit too spicy for him, but was edible none the less. I felt so proud in hearing him talk about his own cooking. I felt proud that he was able to look after himself when he got hungry, and I felt naturally intrigued by his recipe. In the end, it turned out to be a great two way dialogue, which can be rare with a teenager sometimes. I closed off by gently mentioning, “oh, by the way, you forgot to clean up the stuff in the sink still.”

I’m far from perfect. Heaven knows that I’ve made mistakes in life and will continue to do so. My message to my son and even to Anne is that I’m not perfect and will not pretend to be. I’m going to say things that are hurtful sometimes. I’m going to act in ways that are inappropriate – I know this for a fact. But as long as I can learn from my poor choices, I know there’s hope in building a stronger relationship with them down the road. I learn a lot from my son, such as how to better manage my emotions and not be so reactive. And recently, I’m learning a lot from Anne about being an honest, vulnerable and open individual and not conform to societal expectations.

There’s many people in my life who inspire me to live my most honest self. One who is vulnerable, open, self-aware to emotions and less afraid of failing.

In the words of Robert Smith and The Cure in the song Doing the Unstuck:

“It’s a perfect day for letting go

For setting fire to bridges, boats and other dreary worlds you know

Let’s get happy!”

Have a great weekend everyone…


Jason Lee, Author of Living with the Dragon. Photo by Kristi MacFarlane Photography

Published by Jason Lee, Author

There’s something greater to be learned in our journey otherwise life would just be too predictable and I’m not quite willing to accept that!

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