A few years ago I read Oprah Winfrey’s book “What I know for sure”. Actually, I listened to it. I got her audio book for my car rides to and from the office. It was exactly what I needed at that time. The soothing sound of her voice and her confidence in those things she knew for sure sent me into a place of gratitude, of comfort and of peace. I thought to myself on those many car rides…. “Man, that Oprah has the world figured out! If only I could ‘know things for sure’ like she does.”
This year, which is my 40th year (yes, I am admitting my age😬), I have had the chance over the last months to reflect a lot on what it means for me to turn 40. We Americans call this birthday Over the Hill, which can either mean “It's all downhill from here” or if you are more positive, “Take in the beautiful view. You have made it to the top and it only gets easier downhill!” The 2nd version is a good way to reframe..
A few years ago when I listened to Oprah on those car rides, I wished and hoped that after some more years of experience and hard work, I would also know more things for sure. Many of us are motivated by the thought that one day, as a result of all our efforts and the ups and downs of life, we will also have the wise answers and the guidebook to certainty.
For me, however, it has been quite the opposite. Until just a few years ago, I grew up viewing the world through a simple lens of black or white. There was right or wrong. There were good and bad people. There were smart decisions and dumb decisions. There was success or the lack of it.
I spent many of my years chasing after what I felt was the “right” life. The one defined by many as successful, honorable, or even one filled with great purpose. Any views that contradicted with what I believed was right, valuable, or moral, were dismissed and many times judged accordingly. I judged actions, I judged opinions, I judged people. I had my box of “truth” and if you didn’t fit in it, it usually didn’t work out very well. I had high expectations of myself, and others as a result. In many cases I ended up disappointed and disillusioned with how the world worked.
Today, as I strive to shed the layers of protection and the layers of judgement (brought onto me by others, and therefore reflected back into the world), I start to see the world more clearly. I have realized that my lens of black and white has actually been a filter on reality. A filter on what “is”. This filter may provide many of us with convenience, support, and comfort in what is a very grey world; one which has no simple answers to complicated social, political, and economic issues. A world that instead really relies on people communicating with each other, connecting with each other, respecting each other’s beliefs, and coming together to help find solutions to what are really challenging issues.
So on this 40th birthday, I don’t look at the rest of my journey on this earth as “downhill from here”. I still have a long way to go, a lot to learn, and a lot to give back to the world and it’s beautiful people with all their shades of grey. Today, I am practicing viewing the world as it is... with all its complications, challenges and grayness. Without the lens of judgement, one can now see things more clearly and contribute their greatness accordingly.
I still strive to have some answers and wisdom to provide to others like the inspiring Oprah has done with me. Maybe someday that will happen.
But right now, I DON’T know much for sure, and I am finally OK with just that.