I cried as I signed my employment contract for my first job out of college. I had brought it home for my parents to see during Thanksgiving Break, hoping that they would change their mind.
Four months prior to that day, my parents and I had extensively discussed my post-graduation employment options. I longed to live and work in Downtown Chicago and finally, create the best of both worlds for myself – a state of independence with close proximity to luxuries such as home-cooked food and strong emotional support. My parents saw things a little differently; they demanded that I live at home if I sought employment in Chicago.
“How would we respond if someone asked why our daughter is living in the same city, just 20 minutes away, by herself? This would cause us to lose our family’s hard-earned reputation. What would the community think of us?”
Frustrated with their thinking, I asked, “What if I got a job outside of Chicago?”
“Well then, you have no choice. You have to live on your own.”
“So you would rather have me far away than have me nearby and watch me become a responsible adult?” I tried everything to get them to reconsider their decision. Logic and emotion both failed.
On Thanksgiving Day, we briefly discussed the opportunity in Connecticut. Despite the 2008 financial crisis and my decision to graduate a year early, I thought it was an incredible achievement to have a job offer from a consulting firm. My parents thought otherwise; they insisted that working for someone else would be a waste of my time. They proposed that I work with them – they matched the offer and even threw in free rent, gas, parking, utilities, and two meals a day to emphasize that I would save 75% of my earnings!
This was undoubtedly the best offer. After living away for three years, I longed for the comforts of home and the support of my parents; I knew that they would never let me fail if I chose to work with them. This was the way towards guaranteed success.
But there was so much going on inside of me that I could hardly put words to it all. And using the rage, anger, resentment, and disbelief built up inside of me, I chose the path less traveled, towards uncertainty.
Why did I choose to move out to Connecticut, a place where I didn’t know a single soul? What was it that made me step out into the darkness? How did I push past the fear of loneliness? Was it really me? Or was it someone else?
Applying systems thinking to the situation illuminates the intricacies within my inner world. On the spectrum of being, consciousness is the vehicle to travel upwards from body to soul. Having done a good amount of soul-work during my last year at Babson, it’s not surprising that my soul was calling out to me. Simultaneously, the inner me was feeling suffocated at home, and therefore moving away was an instinctual response towards survival.
The map below is the result of all four spectrums: thinking, feeling, doing and being. As I examine the thinking spectrum, I am able to recognize that my thinking is subjective whereas my parents’ thinking is conventional and even conformist. For me, the “right answer” is the one that best fits the needs of the individual in the situation. Conversely, the “right answer” for my parents is strictly defined by the code of conduct set forth by our social community.
Lastly, by overlaying the doing spectrum, I could see that I wanted to leave behind my childhood and reach for adulthood with a real sense of autonomy. To me, that guaranteed the survival of my worldview and the independence of my soul.
The entire situation contributed towards a strong ambition, a desire to break free, to push towards ultimate reality. I can’t say that I never doubted the decision to move to Connecticut. On many empty evenings, I would ask myself, ”What are you trying to prove? To whom? And is it worth it?” And the questions continued until I came across these words from Fourteen Lessons in Yogi Philosophy and Oriental Occultism:
“When man learns of the existence of his Spiritual mind and begins to recognize its promptings and leadings, he strengthens his bond of communication with it, and consequently receives light of a greater brilliancy. When we learn to trust the Spirit, it responds by sending us more frequent flashes of illumination and enlightenment. As one unfolds in Spiritual Consciousness he relies more upon this Inner Voice, and is able more readily to distinguish it from impulses from the lower planes of the mind. He learns to follow the Spirit’s leadings and to allow it to lend him a guiding hand. Many of us have learned to know the reality of being “led by the Spirit.” To those who have experienced this leading we need not say more, for they will recognize just what we mean. Those who have not as yet experienced it must wait until the time comes for them, for we cannot describe it, as there are no words to speak of these things which are beyond words.”
Through this, I learned to listen and trust my inner voice, however mentally and emotionally taxing it may be. It required me to go against my parents, the two people who were entrusted with my life at the time of my physical birth. It was painful living hundreds of miles away from them while thinking that I had accepted intentional suffering for no good reason. Retrospectively, I was being prepared for my journey forward when I had to live thousands of miles away from them. Now my parents and I acknowledge that it was not a result of us not being able to understand each other; it’s just that there is always a third independent force that is charged with the task of guiding me to my destiny. Alhamdulillah.