No one gets to opt out. For most of us, it happens somewhere in our mid-20s. But it can begin earlier, or later. Usually there’s an external trigger, possibly more than one: the death of a family member, a physical illness, a bitter break-up.* But it’s more than the trigger. “It” is the result of your bio-chemical legacy, passed on by your parents and blended in the secret laboratory of DNA.
It’s not all “nature,” there’s some “nurture” thrown in. But it’s as real as a short leg or a curved spine. And if you ignore it, you’ll be far less whole than any merely physically handicapped person.
The new warts-and-all you may have a label: OCD, ADHD, bi-polar, asperger’s, addictive personality disorder. Or it may go unnamed: subtle narcissism, a hair trigger temper, charming pre-sociopathology (a genuine inability to understand those unlike yourself).
It’s the challenge from which all other challenges stem. No, “it” is not all you are. But it shapes and colors every choice you make. Not recognizing it, is like not knowing what country you live in. Learn your pathology and turn it into a toolkit. All pathologies have a silver lining, and all people have a pathology, therefore all people have a silver lining: Michael Phelps channeled his ADHD into becoming the greatest swimmer of all time. Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill learned to temper their bi-polar mood swings into inspired insights…as have thousands of great artists, inventors, and leaders.
The second greatest challenge is to mentor others, to come alongside those whose struggles you recognize. Befriend them, model the journey to wholeness for them. But be patient, and then be still more patient–remember how you were (and are). Show them what they can be by living it out before their eyes. This is the only way you’ll ever complete your own journey.
But most important of all, seek the one “who formed you in your innermost parts, who knitted you together in your mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13). The One who knew before you were born why you were uniquely—and intentionally—made this way.
Talk to the Designer.
* I’m currently writing about my own coming of age crisis in the series My Epic of Anxiety.