The Curtain Always Rises a Second (or Tenth) Time

Published on March 6th, 2011

I was at our local grocery store buying a lottery ticket (because that NY 'Dollar and a Dream' meme always give me hope of serendipity) when I saw a very neat chinese character tattoo on the arm of the older woman handing me the ticket. Now most tattoos have some cool story or meaning and I always like to chat it up with strangers to try and brighten up their day. But when I mentioned how I liked it, I was shocked at the story behind this one.

In 1 year at the local, small town colorado high school, over 7 different students committed suicide. I was stunned. In my entire K-12 years (graduating classes of 100) I only knew of a single student that took their own life at my school. And here a much smaller school had an epidemic on their hands. It just stunned me.

The lady went on to tell me how at least one of them was (allegedly, because I know nothing of the real facts) due to a bad breakup with a boyfriend. Having gone through my own inner demons growing up, I could relate and my heart did go out to the deceased because we all know what the feeling of complete despair can be like. But being slightly older and wiser now, it's a terrible shame to see such potential from our perspective that they simply could not see while caught up in life's dramas.

The lady then went on to tell me that the tattoo (and I hope I get this correct) stood for 'respect life.' The idea being that we are all given such a gift and we should make the best of it even in the face of what we perceive to be a life destroying circumstance. She went on to tell me that it helps motivate her every day to remember and reach out and teach those in need.

To me it was a powerful lesson, so my $1 spent on the powerball already gave me a priceless gift.

Totem Pole Paradigm

In my opinion, the success game that we are taught as children is a complete lie. From an early day in school we're told that you gotta do well in school so you can get into a good college. And that you gotta do great in college so you can land that perfect job. And then you gotta make sure you are the best in your company so that you get promoted. And then you gotta save just right so you can retire. And then...  you get the idea.

Try to deviate from the path ever so slightly and the world crashes in to try and keep you on the path of (alleged) success and happiness. Don't even think about taking a year off before college, or switching colleges midway, or pursuing a passion that doesn't have a 101 number attached to the class name. Take a step away and you can close down that path, permanently and forever.

I'm obviously exaggerating for effect but it's not that far off the truth! I have a PhD to my name now and I can't tell you how many people are just befuddled that I've chosen not to use it and pursue something else.

And in the case of the students that committed suicide, I'm honestly not surprised despite being really saddened to hear about it. If you're a 'C' student and you've been basically told their is no hope for you all the way through retirement... or if you think you found your 1 and only soul mate only to have them leave you... I'm pretty sure feeling like there is nothing else left to live crosses your mind at least one time — even though it's completely untrue! 

The curtain always rises a second time

I still remember reading about an interview with George Foreman about how he struggled to make something of himself after he left pro boxing (twice). To leave such a high without hope of returning can probably be very debilitating for a lot of people (just look at rockstars that turn heavily towards drugs to replace the high of being on the big stage). But he reinvented himself and found a new avenue that really made a big impact. I love my George Foreman machine. And I'm willing to be he's made more money and impacted more people with a $30 device that grills burgers than he did tenderizing the bodies of his opponents!

It's important to be able to reinvent yourself. We're living in an economic downturn that is forcing many people off the totem pole paradigm and into an area that looks big and scary. Yes it's easy to pine about the 'good ole days' and mourn their passing. Or you see another and potentially greater opportunity sitting right in front of you. Napoleon Hill (author of Think and Grow Rich) told us time and time again that the universe does not take anything from you without leaving the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit. We just spend our time looking at the loss rather than the space created for something better to show up in our life.

And even after the curtain rises a second time and that ends, there will be another chance to take the next step in life. And after that it will happen again and again. I'm sure the lady that just broke the 60m sprint world record for her age group (95) was not prepping for this race her entire life. But when the opportunity presented itself (because other opportunities were no longer in the way), she did something amazing.

No matter how dark the night...

I'll leave with one of my all time favorite quotes (from a video game no less).

No matter how dark the night, morning always comes... and we begin our journey anew - Lulu FFVIII




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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: CXO of Atomic Form. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.