My Missing Twin

January 15, 2008

I recently read a book called The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. There is a woman in that book who spends her life feeling that she has been missing something important. She can’t put her finger on it. She has an emptiness, a void in her life that she can’t describe.

I’ve felt that exact same thing throughout my life. Felt that there has been something untapped, something missing, some very critical part of my being that is being ignored and suppressed by years of superficial demands, stress, urgency. Life goals created by others, by my implicitly trying to accommodate what others are expecting of me.

I had a turbulent teen era, and finally settled into being a software engineer, which I have been for the past 25 years. I’ve gone in and out of “is this the place where I should be spending my life”. Managers in my past have criticized me for not going home at night and reading the technology books to enhance my technical skills. I’ve given up many hours of free time to fixing the next bug and meeting the next deadline. I like the thought process, but I don’t like the book reading, and to be honest, I must not be too enthralled by the details of the technology. Because as much as I buy books thinking I’m going to magically absorb the contents, I end up doing absolutely nothing with them. Nothing. Maybe cracking a cover to find the answer to a problem once in a while, but letting all of the precious knowledge that the author has to offer dissipate in the corner of the bedroom, to gather dust or be a coffee cup holder on the table.

I think I’m beginning to see that I have an “invisible twin”. Something or someone deep down inside of me who has been ignored all of these years.

I’m reading a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. In the first lesson, she asks you to think about 5 people you would be if you had to live your life over again and choose. I found that I had (1) an artist living in a loft (2) a mathematician doing research or something academic (3) a writer (4) a biologist going out into the field and collecting insects/animals/flowers and (5) A musician. Maybe a piano player, or a folk singer singing in coffee shops and composing music.

Another book I’m reading, the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey talks about something called a “paradigm shift”. That is, a shift in a basic assumption that you’ve made. For example, he talks about a man who goes into a subway with a couple of children. The children run around wildly and annoy all of the other passengers. Stephen eventually turns to him and asks him to try to control his kids. He looks up at Stephen and says “oh, I’m sorry. We just came from the hospital where their mother just died, and I guess they don’t know how to deal with it”. At that moment Stephen experienced a paradigm shift. He shifted his thoughts away from “why doesn’t this guy control his kids” to “what can I do to help?”

Anyway, the reason I’m talking about this is because I think I’m experiencing a paradigm shift. A complete 180 degree shift in the way I’ve always thought of myself. I’m not an engineer, I never was. I am an artist. There is an artist in me, just waiting, waiting all of these years, to be allowed to come out. A third arm, a missing twin, a void in my life that has yet to be filled.
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