I guess most of us try. Figure out the ideal path to whatever thing it is you want to achieve with your life. If I study for an X amount of time, then do job Y until funds Z have been secured then I’m certain that ABC occurs. Looking at my own data I’ve come to realise that this exercise is completely futile. So pardon the hyperbole in my title, I guess that due to the lack of a reliable sample size it should read: “I can’t plan my future”.
I have definitely tried but it is my childhood that has made me realise that my grand plan is a Jackson Pollock painting.
When I tell people about my childhood I often get confused or concerning looks. Don’t get me wrong, I come from a very loving family that worked hard to give me all the right ammunition for success in life. I simply managed to fuck things up despite of the privileged surroundings that my life provided for me.
I am born in Holland in 1976, my parents divorced when I was seven years old and it’s pretty obvious to me that this is where my bumpy road started. I was a very vocal kid but also very scared. In Holland we call this “big mouth with a small heart” which roughly translates to someone who hides his insecurity with hubris. This described me pretty well and in some cases it still does.
The divorce made me question the reality of my world view. Up until the day my dad told me I had no idea that my parents were having trouble. Many of my friends’ parents were going through divorces and looking back I remember I was angry with myself for not seeing this coming. Apparently the picture I was receiving from those big humans around me wasn’t always an accurate reflection of the truth.
Aged ten my mother moved in with her new boyfriend (my future stepfather) in an apartment in The Hague where I experienced a real city for the first time in my life. I think I was about ten years old and my big mouth and hubris were about to get me into some real trouble.
At age eleven or twelve I had made friends with kids of a similar nature, aka trouble makers. One of them had stolen some weed from his father (because Holland) and he suggested we’d try it. I agreed, after all, what could possibly go wrong? Fast forward to fourteen years old and I’m taking a gulp of 7up and hear one of my friends say “he swallowed it!”. That was my first Ecstacy pill.
Within two years time I was taking all kinds of drugs on a regular basis. Acid in the morning followed by some amphetamines, a hit of E in the afternoon followed by a couple of lines of coke at night would be a typical ritual.
Naturally I was fucking up my life in epic fashion. I had gone through a ton of different schools and my grades averaged out at about two out of ten. That is, in the rare cases that I bothered to show up at school at all. I created a ton of “free time” and logically I got into all kinds of trouble.
Aged sixteen my mom decided to send me to the consultation bureau for alcohol and drugs which is a Dutch rehab facility. I was one of their youngest “clients” and it was through their skill and my fear of losing my relationship with my mother that I managed to kick my drug habit.
Whilst detoxing I started to take school seriously. My parents paid for an insanely expensive private school where we had five students and six teachers. I finished the lower and medium levels of high school (the Dutch system is somewhat odd) within a year and did so with stellar grades. In other words, my life was back on track. Thanks mom, I am and will forever be in your debt.
My childhood was undeniably tough, it resulted in a lot of pain for a lot of people. It was accidental and not advisable for anyone to follow literally, but as they say, every negative has a positive.
To me, racking up all these life experiences during my early teens, and living to tell the tale, has proven to be very beneficial. It has given me a million different views on life, it pushes me to take chances and live life to the fullest. It has instilled a certain amount of fearlessness and curiosity that drives me every day and it has been an accelerator for the creative side of my personality.
Ever since my detox my life has been a long series of weird and unexpected events and about eight years ago I decided to stop trying to actively plan it. Up until then I had been successful professionally but not as happy as I wanted to be.
So where am I today? Through a completely unpredictable chain of events I am now an executive at a Scandinavian online bank (my mom is so proud). I haven’t touched drugs for about 23 years and I live in a small town in Sweden with a lovely wife and four kids.
Nowadays I have one simple measure, I ask myself: Does this make me happy? If the answer is yes I will likely pursue it, if not, I’ll go some other way. For me this works wonders, it keeps me aligned with my goal in life (happiness) without locking me in to an imaginary plan.