I’ve listened to literally hundreds of motivational speakers in my life. Whether it’s been me in a crowd in person seeing them on stage, hearing them speak their truth to me on an audio book or watched their talks on videos. They’ve all had amazing stories. They’ve all overcome what to them or to the world were insurmountable odds. They’ve found themselves on the other side of these challenges, remade…reborn… forged anew in the fires of their struggles. I’ve seen people be undoubtedly motivated by their stories and come to their own personal epiphanies about their lives and pushed by passion to act on their own story. But I sit there. While impressed at what they may have gone through or the ways in which they expressed their hardships and drive, it leaves me empty. No earthshattering realizations. No undeniable push for me to make my own life better or different as a result of hearing their narrative. I just observe, am thankful for their ascension and I go on with my own decidedly unremarkable life.
I wonder if I’m immune to an epiphany of my own.
I’ve had at least one in my lifetime. The time I asked God for direction in my own, then, very new life on how to deal with the discomfort of what was happening to me in my own home at the hands of my uncle. Despite his constant reminder that it was to be between us and I wasn’t to tell anyone about our own little secret, it felt wrong. It felt bad. I didn’t like it. And needed to tell someone. But how did I, then at 8, disobey what was being told for me to do by an elder. An authority figure? I asked a higher power. And God responded. The first time in life I TRULY heard God’s voice. I could tell myself that it was my own reasoning in my mind finally getting loud enough to tell me the right thing to do. But there’s something in my soul that recognizes that it was not 100% me. And upon the direction, I took immediate action. It was real. It was true. This was the right thing to do and I was going to do it. And I did. It didn’t seem to change much in my life. There wasn’t a great rallying around me like I thought there would be at my finally uncovering this bad thing and championed for doing what was “right”. There was silence. For a long time. Even disappointment that I’d reveal something that could potentially “tear the family apart”. And while it didn’t FEEL like “drive” to me then (or maybe it did and I’m so far removed from that feeling) it didn’t deter me from knowing that I got that right direction from the one entity that I could trust beyond measure. I was told that and I believed wholeheartedly.
The next time I felt motivated to do something passionately was when I was introduced to Amway. The plan I was shown was going to liberate me financially. Me and my loved ones if I just focused hard and did what I was tasked to do by the authorities in place who had seemingly done these things and achieved these lengths, then I too would be successful. Never did it enter my mind that they would be lying to me. Deceiving me. Telling me what I needed to hear to keep their own pockets full. It was my misfortune to come across dishonest people in this business. Had I had altruistic sponsors – maybe I would have stayed the course. But in this again – God showed me what I was doing was not grounded in truth. Not in favor. Not in peace or honesty. But in greed and manipulation. Despite the jeers and the name calling (“quitter”, “deserter”, “not having a real dream”) I exited the business and lost a lot of who I then perceived to be friends.
And it left a hole in me.
This skepticism always has me looking at these “too good to be true” opportunities through a jaded lens. I can’t believe anything outright anymore. I always feel that there’s a scam behind it all and I’m going to “get got” if I don’t keep my eyes wide open and look for the pitfalls. And I always find them. I look hard enough until I see the bad thing. The thing that’s going to “get me” or trick me. Then I put a nice distance between myself and that thing. Whether it’s a business opportunity or an opportunity to look at my life differently through someone else’s eyes who came through an unimaginable struggle. “I can’t possibly do all of that. I can’t stay focused that long. I know me. I won’t be able to stick to it the way I should.” And I’ve packed my life with countless experiences that back that up.
I’m not sure I can even say that pursuing the dream of having my daughter was something that was a “drive”. I wanted her in this life. I always dreamed about her. The same doctor that told me the reasons why I wasn’t successful in having her up to that point gave me a plan to follow to make it a possibility and I didn’t question it. This was science. If I followed the steps and put my body through these rigors, I’d have her. And I followed suit. When that first IVF failed, my belief stumbled. But luckily, it wasn’t left to falter for long because 2 months after the IVF failed, I naturally conceived my baby girl. I then followed all the inconveniences of keeping her alive. Perinatal visits weekly. Many medications despite having a personal philosophy that didn’t believe in them. Changing my diet. Quitting smoking. Quitting drinking. And voila. A beautifully formed perfect little girl that still brings exponentially increasing and indescribable joy to my life.
Maybe that’s what drive feels like in this version of my life now.
Growing up, I was taught that there was nothing in this world I couldn’t achieve if I put my mind to it and worked hard enough. And I truly believed it. For a long time. I remember thinking and believing that there was no way I could fail – I was putting the work in. This absolutely was going to come to fruition. Till the world started to teach me that it may not be 100% true all the time. It doesn’t stop me from trying. But the wants… the desires have tapered. I’ve come to want less. I strive less intensely. I settle. A lot.
Still, I yearn for a revelation. There’s so much I want to change. There are so many things I am not satisfied with that I wish I had the fire to burn through it. I watched the show Underground during one of my many show binging sessions and there was an episode that featured a monologue from Harriet Tubman. And she talked about a desire like a wildfire.
That freedom fire
That ain’t something that can be stoked in someone else.
And embers ain’t enough
I seen a wildfire once when I was younger
I stood right at the edge of it with my daddy
I stared at it for a long time,
and still I barely got the words to describe it.
The heat, the hum of activity,
the relentless power of them flames
consuming everything in its path.
That’s how you got to burn for freedom
wild-like, ready to scorch any doubt in your path
‘Cause that’s what it’s gonna take.
I got chills all over my body when I heard her say it. I know that fire. I’ve felt it before. Maybe it was when I was pledging. Maybe it was when I was learning to code on my own. That conviction to have Athena may have been a calmed, determined version of that fire.
But I haven’t felt it in so long and I wonder if I ever will again. I desperately need to. There are things that need to change, but they won’t until I feel that fire again.
What can I do to stoke it myself if my own situations won’t spur me to action? I’ve become docile. I need that to change. As soon as it’s possible.
I have to change my prayer.