Against the Grain

It seems to be a common occurrence that when we find ourselves in difficult situations, the learning curve is dramatically increased. When things are going well, we don’t have much reason to contemplate life. I can think of times when I’ve found myself in situations that are emotionally or physically painful or that may have brought on a higher sense of fear. After my experience, I feel I have emerged a better person. By my terms, ‘better’ simply means that I’ve learned a valuable lesson that will now allow me deal with life more gracefully.

I remember my first backpacking experience. I had amateur gear, hadn’t read topo maps before, wasn’t familiar with the Arizona temperature swings from day to night, and certainly had no idea how much water to carry. I did have a good amount of determination and a twelve string guitar bungee corded to my pack so I figured I was good to go. After I cooked a sad meal in an aluminum cooking pot and after my fingers could no longer strum the guitar because they were so cold, I went to bed. My tent collapsed twice during a wind storm and I finally buried my head in my sleeping bag with a tent on top of me and decided I wasn’t coming out until I saw light. I had dreams of a storm coming through and people running by telling me to get out while I still could. I spent most of the night listening to the wind blow through the canyon and let’s just say I wasn’t too warm. At first light, I decided to head out but I had run out of water and at least 5 miles to hike in the AZ sun. Although I had a bit of a traumatic first experience, I felt empowered and the adrenaline I got from the entire experience left me with a desire for more.

I have had many experiences where I felt out of my element and in the end, I always come out with a lesson learned. Once again, maybe we can look to nature for answers. Things that happen in nature are perfect and happen for a reason. There is a specific situation that occurs where a parasite or shell gets accidentally lodged in an oyster. In an attempt to protect itself from the foreign object the oyster secretes nacre, a smooth, hard crystalline substance. From this natural ‘irritation’ or uncomfortable situation eventually emerges a lustrous gem called a pearl. It’s easy for us to look at the story of the pearl and realize that amazing things come out of difficult situations. It’s more difficult to be aware of what’s happening while we are experiencing discomfort in life.

I can’t speak for everyone but I find myself judging situations, people, and myself quite often. Although answers aren’t always immediate and could possibly take years to present themselves, I know they are coming so having acceptance is key. I could learn from the pearl and realize that an uncomfortable situation could have a beautiful ending. I’m sure we can all relate to being ‘irritated’ and maybe we could see ourselves as well, maybe not parasites, but as simply being (be-in) in a situation. Instead of judging it as a negative one, we could look at our situation as a perfect one, accept it, and know that there’s a reason and a lesson in it all. We can move through life’s issues (big or small) knowing that all situations are transformative and maybe that idea itself is enough to change our thoughts from worry to acceptance. Ultimately, this seems a healthier way to approach life.

About Carlos Bill

Carlos is a dynamic public school teacher and Principal with professional development experience in 2nd language acquisition, educational technology, and classroom management. He also is Co-Founder of Travel to Learn, an organization dedicated to teaching people how to live a truly regenerative lifestyle with respect to health, relationships, and the natural environment. TTL does this through public speaking engagements, workshops, and travel programs.
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4 Responses to Against the Grain

  1. Carmen says:

    AMEN Carlos! I always say what doesn’t kill me always makes me stronger. I’ve earned my stripes (gray hair and wrinkles) and welcome the growing pains. You are so blessed to continue to learn and experience via your travels (and oh so generous to share via your profound posts). Muchisimas gracias!

    • Carlos Bill says:

      And you have had some amazing experiences for sure! Puts me to shame. I’m so glad to hear that things are starting to really get rolling for you. Thanks to you for always sharing your knowledge as well.

  2. dad says:

    Relating a personal experience and then extracting a lesson learned from that experience which readers everywhere can incorporate into their lives… that is the format which has put writers like Melody Beattie on the New York Times best-seller list. ( I read a selection from The Language Of Letting Go every day). In this blog, you have nailed that genre. To qualify, your experiences have to be honest and believable… and the lessons you learned have to be positive, redemptive, and within everyone’s reach. What’s the ultimate payoff? Nothing less than your own sanity. My advice? Consider this genre of writing as one form of therapy. Practice it often… if nothing else, it will help you stay on task. You’ve already done the hard work. You’ve found your voice… you’ve got your own style. Hang onto it and keep on truckin… you’re just getting started.

  3. Randy Brand says:

    I really loved your story, Carlos. Especidally the analogy of “the pearl.” It described perfectly the journey I am on in the “discomfort” zone. Thank you for giving me hope today.

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