The Death of Becoming Something

becoming

Like 99% of the world, you probably think you need to become someone.

Well, you don’t. The only thing you need to become is who you are. Because if you’re like most people, you’re probably not who you really are all the time. You might be yourself when the situation is comfortable. You might be yourself when the risk of defending your ego is minimal.

But you’re probably not who you really are all the time.

It’s weird how when we’re little kids, our parents tell us “You can be anything you want when you grow up.” As if we should be anything other than ourselves, right?

Well they have good intentions, anyway. Maybe they should have said “You can do anything you want when you grow up.” I think that would have been a little more appropriate.

But then something happens when you get a little older. Into junior high and high school, your parents and teachers start telling you “You need to make something out of yourself.”

Now, wait a minute. What happened to “I can be anything I want”? Now I have to make something out of myself? I guess it’s easy to tell innocent kids that their potential is limitless. But when you get older, it’s time to “get real,” right? It’s time to “grow up” we’re told, and “become an adult.”

I really think that this is where it all starts. Our dissatisfaction complex takes root at an early age, and somewhere around our teen years it blooms.

Then we start looking for something outside of ourselves. We search for an identity in our possessions. Once we get that car, that apartment, and all that stuff, then we’ll be a “real person.” Or so we think.

Because it doesn’t stop there…

Now we need the image.

We need the clothes, the friends, and the trappings that make us feel legitimate. I used to feel this way when I was doing graphic design. I thought that in order to be a real artist, I needed cool books, a certain attitude and style, and other artsy friends. I needed to go to artsy places and do artistic things. I needed to make it clear to others that I am, in fact, a definite “serious” artist.

But as soon as I have all those things, I’m still not satisfied. There’s always something else I need to do, some thing or status I need to achieve to really, finally, be the person I want to become.

Newsflash: If you think this way, you will NEVER become who you want to be. You will NEVER be satisfied, because you don’t NEED to BECOME ANYTHING.

(end big dramatic type.)

So here’s a different way to be

Become who you are. Walk through the fire.

Instead of trying to become something, and then find fulfillment, find fulfillment through being who you are. That is the only way you will ever find contentment.

Now, you can still add or subtract whatever you want in your life:

  • You can add people to your life that are more in alignment with you are, but subtract doing it to validate yourself.
  • You can add ideas and principles that align with the core of who you are and what you believe in.
  • You can subtract doing all the things that don’t make you come alive.
  • You can subtract the job that doesn’t make you excited to wake up, and add a career that does.
  • You can subtract materialism and replace chasing things with cultivating freedom.
  • You can add authentic experiences instead of hiding behind facades.

You can even seek new ways to improve your life, but your identity doesn’t depend on it. You won’t feel bad or worse if you become a super fast typist or an Olympic gymnast. Even though you might take great pleasure in seeking new heights of self-cultivation (like I do), not achieving your goals doesn’t ruin your day.

You need to realize that even if you reach a new level, there will always be another level to aspire to. There will always be something next. And you should care less. Because even though it might be fun for you to play the game, you need to realize that it’s just a game.

Even though you might seek something “better” or more desirable, you are not attached to it. Because you realize that contentment is more valuable than gold. Your peace cannot be traded for the attainment of any credentials. Fitting in can’t replace being authentic.

You know this is the secret to sustainable contentment. And because you know it, you never have to compare yourself to others, or seek anything to be okay with who you are.

You become who you are first.

You leave becoming anything else to those who think the game is real.

So are you willing to sell your cleverness, and purchase bewilderment? Are you willing to set fire to the facade? Are you willing to be naked? Are you ready to walk unafraid?

The fire is there, waiting for you. Walk through it.

Burn the cloak. Burn the mask.

Come out unclothed, just as you came into this world… and reclaim your freedom.

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Dayne | TheHappySelf.com July 21, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Wow, I love this! I love the simple idea of adding and subtracting things in our lives that are important, and those that aren’t.

It’s amazing what happens when we drop the image in our minds of what we “should be” and simply just…be.

Thanks for the great post!

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DF July 21, 2009 at 3:44 pm

Old way (the normal): have. do. be.

Real way (the enlightened): be. do. have.

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Shawanda July 21, 2009 at 4:15 pm

“We need the clothes, the friends, and the trappings that make us feel legitimate.”

Trappings…There isn’t a better word to describe conforming to a lifestyle that leaves you unfulfilled.

“You need to realize that even if you reach a new level, there will always be another level to aspire to. There will always be something next. And you should care less.”

There are times in my life when I just want to take a breath and be totally complacent with the way things are. But for many years, I’ve been of the opinion that if I’m not striving towards some great goal, then I’m dying. My perpetual state of dissatisfaction gives me something to live for.

Thanks for the great post.

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Greg at Live Fit July 21, 2009 at 4:50 pm

My wife and I have discussed this a number of times. She’s a stay-at-home Mom and sometimes feels that she should do more with her life. The fact of the matter is though, that she’s happy being a stay-at-home Mom, and its one of the most important jobs in the world. Unfortunately, she falls prey to this same thought process.

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Pace July 21, 2009 at 5:10 pm

Jonathan,

Well said.

Another piece of it is the usual error. We underestimate our own talents because we’re so used to them. We don’t see what’s so special about what we have to offer because we live with it every day.

But the truth is that each of us has something very special and valuable to share with others, even if there are lots of trappings to burn away to reach it.

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Baker July 21, 2009 at 5:11 pm

“You become who you are first.”

What if you aren’t sure who you are?

I loved the post, but am having trouble apply it to my personal life. Maybe I’m afraid of the result?

Anyone have any advice for this?

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Danielle LaPorte July 21, 2009 at 5:39 pm

searingly insightful…as freakin’ usual.

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Laura - The Journal of Cultural Conversation July 21, 2009 at 5:52 pm

Personally, this post comes at a great time. I really appreciated the “add” and “subtract” portion – as a concept, becoming who you are is definitely something many of us strive for, but how to do it – that’s something that takes some thought. Thanks for making *me* think today!

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DianeNemea July 21, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Great article, but what happens when *what you are* is not compatible with the game of money & commerce that we all *must* play, or die? That world by its very nature must kill the *authentic* human being.

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Kent @ The Financial Philosopher July 21, 2009 at 6:24 pm

Great thoughts, Jonathan! I’ve shared these words before, but I love the idea of removing all pretense and disguise, in the form of social conventions, and forgetting about the desire to “become somebody” and replace it with the desire to “become nobody:”

“You spent the first half of your life becoming somebody. Now you can work on becoming nobody, which is really somebody. For when you become nobody there is no tension, no pretense, no one trying to be anyone or anything. The natural state of the mind shines through unobstructed — and the natural state of the mind is pure love.” Ram Dass

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Yann July 21, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Another great post Jonathan.
You are pointing to essential things in a very special way,like a warrior with wisdom.

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Kaushik July 21, 2009 at 6:52 pm

J. Krishnamurti summed it up nicely: “the becoming is not the being.”

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Corinne Rodrigues July 21, 2009 at 8:57 pm

Jonathan – I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks after I read your post on Leo’s blog. Have been meaning to stop by and comment but haven’t. Today I couldn’t stop myself – your post was BRILLIANT. I’m attempting to forward it to all the parents I know and as many friends as I can. Thank you for all your inspiration – you make the world a better place!

Have been reading Ev’Yan’s blog too and love it – so I’ve blogrolled both of you.

I’m re-inspired to write more on my blog and be ME – thank YOU!
Regards
Corinne
India

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Bud Hennekes July 21, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Right on Jonathan. We don’t need to be anybody but ourselves. Funny we both wrote a similar article at the same time.

Being real is a full time job because we are often only real when the situation is comfortable like you said. True enlightenment in my opinion, is having the ability to be real at all times regardless of the situation.

In the New Earth there is a story of a monk who has to give a speech in front of government officials and his hands begins to sweat. He then resigns and goes to study more.

We don’t need anything but ourselves. As the saying goes seek happiness and elude it.

While I’m not perfect, I’m in the process of walking naked. The journey is a great one for sure. It has many obstacles but I’m looking at them with an open mind.

While goals are important we must never forget they will never make us completely happy. Only BEING can do that.

Powerful post Jonathan as always. BTW I mentioned you in length in my latest post if you want to check it out. :)

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Which Main? What Cross? July 21, 2009 at 11:13 pm

Thank you for this!

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Peta Love July 22, 2009 at 1:05 am

Beautiful, I love this, thank you Jonathan. Sometimes when i lose myself in something, I realise later that i was more present than ever. xx

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Steve Errey - The Confidence Guy July 22, 2009 at 1:27 am

Spot on Jonathan, love it.

I talk a lot about playing games, but not in the negative context that’s often used. A game is any pursuit (big or small), an activity, the place you direct your focus and attention. I always banging on about getting in a game and playing your best, for the simple reason that the game MATTERS to you.

You’re right, too many people are playing the wrong games, games they think they OUGHT to be playing rather than the games that truly mean something.

Playing to win can be part of the agenda – winning feels pretty great after all – but it’s not the whole point. You play simply because you want to and because the game has a resonance with who you are.

You play because you’ve got to be yourself.

PS: Baker, get in touch and I’ll send you my values exercise. It’s the only place to start in knowing who you are.

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Lyne July 22, 2009 at 5:10 am

Jonathan,
This post was great timing, I needed the reminder … to Keep it Real ;-)

As my favorite Joseph Campbell quote says
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”

Thanks Jonathan
Lyne ;-)

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Phil July 22, 2009 at 6:30 am

Great Stuff!!!! Love it Love it Love it! One of your best yet.

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Cat July 22, 2009 at 7:57 am

Excellent post – I’ve gradually come to exactly the same realisation myself this year. I always used to be very goal-oriented, always living for the future and feeling like life would really begin when I’d achieved this or that thing/state (and my list of ‘necessary’ achievements was very long!). Needless to say I wasn’t very happy & I procrastinated a lot too, which I now see was a way of trying to tell myself that I didn’t really need to do all that stuff.

Whereas now I feel whole, authentic & happy just as I am – it’s a fantastic change! I still have my dreams and desires, but now I see them as just fun things to be/do/have, kind of like icing on the already satisfactory cake, rather than things I must accomplish before I can feel good about myself. It’s so nice to have nothing to prove, either to others or myself. Glad I’m not the only one feeling this way!

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rob July 22, 2009 at 8:00 am

Damn! Just when I thought I got you figured you come out with a post like this. It’s so good it hurts.

Rgds Rob.

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taney July 22, 2009 at 9:46 am

Great read! I think you make great arguments. Also, identity/who you are/what you are is different throughout different people.

I don’t completely agree with becoming who you are first because there’s always room for improvement. We can always better ourselves in some way. To think like that could place limitations on great possibilities. Some might have flaws in their character and simple remind themselves that this is how I am and this is how it’s going to be. However, I do believe everyone should find and understand themselves in this world. Be the person that makes them happy and one that they’re proud to be.

It was an interesting read with great insight! Keep up the good work! (=

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Jodi @ Joy Discovered July 22, 2009 at 10:14 am

Great post. I love what you wrote about what we can add and subtract into and out of our lives. I love the image that we are already there, that we just need to embrace our true self. Afterall, “where you go, there you are.” Thanks for this. Reading it was a nice start to my day!

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Christine July 22, 2009 at 12:39 pm

This is a very nice post. You are right about so many things – especially when we hit Jr. High/HS. – the whole conforming bit. Lately I have been trying to be nonconforming and I obtain resistance from all areas – “Oh, that’s not going to work” to “That is normal. We all go thru that!”(in terms of being in an unhappy relationship).

I am starting to feel all these “normal” people live in their unhappiness because they don’t believe in themselves. I for one, want to start taking the other route now. I realize life is short and precious. And it is definitely time to become and live who I am! Thanks for the inspiration!

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phampants July 22, 2009 at 1:34 pm

Brilliant!

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Freddy July 22, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Very inspiring indeed. When I was 13/14, life was amazing; I said “I don’ care” a lot; I trained hard to run (won a couple of trophies for that) and I studied hard (got to become the top ten in the school), but they never gave me stress…I was carefree, happy and peaceful. Thinking about it, I must have been able to not care about the outcome.

“You can even seek new ways to improve your life, but your identity doesn’t depend on it….. not achieving your goals doesn’t ruin your day.”

That has got to ring the bell the most for me. Thanks Jonathan!!

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Ken July 22, 2009 at 4:10 pm

I love this, but my take on it is slightly different. The place where I’m at is being happy with the process of becoming. I’m not delaying happiness until I reach a destination. I’m enjoying the getting there. In some way, I’m always becoming. That’s my way of being. I think it’s really the same thing you’re saying, just spun another way.

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Gerald July 22, 2009 at 4:51 pm

I’m struggling right now. This is a piece of the puzzle. Thank you.

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G Angela July 23, 2009 at 12:17 am

Hi Friend,

This was a great post,what you say is very true,I think its an unconscious act, we have taken all the scripts that’s been given to us, to be wanting to become something, somebody in our lives, thinking we shall find fulfilment, I think it takes a lot of courage to be willing and wanting to look at ourselves just the we way we are and accept the reality of who we are at any given point of time, in order to find fulfillment in life.

I am happy to read this, as over a period of time, I have begun to realise how much secure and comfortable you feel, when you are just being yourself -there is no stress,no pressure, no compulsion, expectations to live upto. how true and how important to reclaim ourselves at some point of time in one’s life. Thanks again, I enjoyed reading this post. G Angela

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Andrew - Success Questions July 23, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Great! Let’s all run around naked in our authentic selves.

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Rebecca July 23, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Wow. This was so exactly what I needed to hear right this very moment that it’s almost a little spooky.

Great writing as always.

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Cesar July 23, 2009 at 10:18 pm

Great article, kudos! Thanks for sharing bits of knowledge and motivation.

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Jarrod - Warrior Development July 25, 2009 at 3:01 am

It can be so easy to forget your own awesomeness in a world that wants you to demand things of yourself.

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Wouter Meyers July 25, 2009 at 5:40 am

Well said Jonathan. I stumbled upon this realization a few weeks ago. Your goals are just goals, not your identity. And it indeed all a game, so better have some fun with it! :)

A great way to live. It also helps me to get over fear of failure, because I invest less of my ego in the outcome. It also allows me to give more of myself due to the same reasons. I’m willing to put more effort, because failing will not show that I’m a failure myself. Afterall it’s just a game, just a goal, just fun.

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Lenox Ave July 25, 2009 at 7:58 am

What you’re speaking about has been my purpose for the last 6 years. It’s hard work, but what is best for me and for us all. Thanks so much for this post.

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D July 25, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Jonathan,

You forgot one most important aspect. Don’t we have to have a role model? Every NBA player had a role model like Michael Jordan or Charles Barkley. It’s not always authnicity that gets you that happiness in life.

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Herbert July 25, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Good post, good post — there’s not much I can say that hasn’t already been posted; genuinely, I’d like to thank you because this post served as a great minder. Authenticity used to be a key ingredient in my life, and I do want to get it back.

Keep up the good work.

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Michelle July 26, 2009 at 7:32 am

That was incredible. We are brought up with all these mixed signals. I have friends who feel that they must project the image also, and for a while I felt stuck in this seperate space, but now I get it.

Thank you for this.

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midge July 28, 2009 at 11:32 pm

Early this month I had a similar realization. I had been built in thinking I should be something at 25 (successful in a particular career), but a personal event led me to realize that there was no such thing…we need not be successful in this world’s norms. I need not have the car, the house or the job title. I only needed, at the end of the day, be happy. Pursue what mattered to me and not what was expected of me.

So, here here to this post.

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Susie July 29, 2009 at 3:32 am

Beautiful post, filled with many important points. “Contentment is more valuable than gold.” LOVE that.

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Jai Kai - Sharing Success August 4, 2009 at 7:07 am

Very inspirational. I love the simplicity and truth in your words. Your post is a good reminder of our unlimited potentials, could you imagine what the world be like if we all followed our dreams and intuitions. Again thanks for the post.

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Michaelf August 8, 2009 at 8:29 am

I am a firm believer that the natural state of man is happiness. All the stress and unhappiness arises when reject what we know to be true. This is a useful checklist to strip out the foreign bodies infecting our lives.

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Yuro August 9, 2009 at 12:56 am

This is awesome. The first phrase of your post really caught my eyes.

“Like 99% of the world, you probably think you need to become someone.”

This is sooo truee….

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Russell Abravanel August 11, 2009 at 10:29 pm

We can never reach beyond the limitations we set for ourselves. We are capable of achieving so much more but never get the chance.

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Slinky August 12, 2009 at 11:02 am

For the person who said they don’t know who they are – Spend time alone. The person I am at 4AM when I’m alone and all the world is sleeping….that’s who I am.

“But you’re probably not who you really are all the time.”

This is my goal. To arrange my life in every way so that I can be who I really am all the time.

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Marcus G August 16, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Wonderful article! Another major reason we feel inadequate is the 3,000 ads per day we are exposed to. Most have a primary message of “you’re not good enough as you are, you NEED this product or service to be more likable, more healthy, more popular, slimmer, more complete, etc.” We hear this message about 1 million times/year. If we don’t exercise daily mental self-defense (like meditation, metaphysical treatment, subconscious re-programming), we fall prey to it. The first major step, as always, is awareness. thanks for adding to that awareness!

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gwen August 19, 2009 at 5:18 pm

basically the gestalt paradoxical theory of change:
“Change occurs when one becomes what [s]he is, not when [s]he tries to become what [s]he is not.”

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Glen Allsopp August 21, 2009 at 6:51 am

I know this is quite an old post but I just wanted to add I think it is fantastic. Nice to be reading blogs and discovering new, fresh, content again :)

- Glen

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kat August 29, 2009 at 9:34 pm

I have been thinking this for years and it’s good to know other people know how to be alive too.

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Rafeal October 25, 2009 at 4:18 am

Great post. Just be its the simple things that make life amazing.

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Toronto Photographer March 4, 2010 at 11:33 pm

Be simple

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Mary Avalon June 21, 2010 at 12:24 am

Being who you are is good. The best. Sometimes its difficult though, especially in a competitive, violent society like ours. This is the truth of our culture. We are not rewarded (recognized) for ‘being ourselves’, here, values are materialistic values based on competition and capital. Period. If one is “poor” without a ‘good’ education and or has no money re: purchasing power, we/they are really nothing.

Ask any homeless person in this country. Or even someone who has the values mentioned in the article, if you have nothing (materially), in this culture, you are nothing. I am not saying I like or endorse this. I struggle to be who I am, in this particular cultural context.

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hermes handbags July 8, 2010 at 1:47 am

Excellent post – I’ve gradually come to exactly the same realisation myself this year. I always used to be very goal-oriented, always living for the future and feeling like life would really begin when I’d achieved this or that thing/state (and my list of ‘necessary’ achievements was very long!). Needless to say I wasn’t very happy & I procrastinated a lot too, which I now see was a way of trying to tell myself that I didn’t really need to do all that stuff.

Whereas now I feel whole, authentic & happy just as I am – it’s a fantastic change! I still have my dreams and desires, but now I see them as just fun things to be/do/have, kind of like icing on the already satisfactory cake, rather than things I must accomplish before I can feel good about myself. It’s so nice to have nothing to prove, either to others or myself. Glad I’m not the only one feeling this way!

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Ultrahighmonarch December 19, 2011 at 2:51 am

People like the author of this story “death of becoming somthing” have been able to change things in their life’s buy following a new set of rules that allows them to a avoid the herd mentality. That’s great!
However this is not true ILLUMINATION. The author of the story has taken it upon himself to adopt the word ILLUMINATION and used it to describe this change in his thinking. ILLUMINATION is an adjective describing a type of dogma that would change a persons life in such a significant way it cannot be explained by any human linguistics. Furthermore true ILLUMINATION cannot be taught to someone. You either have it or you don’t. And when you have it you will know that it would be a waste of time to try and explain it to the REST of humanity. So, sorry to burst everyone’s bubble but that’s the truth. If you don’t like it, GO BACK TO SLEEP!

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Katie October 8, 2013 at 10:37 am

Great post! I feel like the Rocky theme song should be playing in the background! And I don’t mean that in a snarky way, I mean it in a good way. Thanks for writing this!

Cheers!

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