Boxes. Cardboard, plastic, wood & metal. We use them to ship things, store things and organize things. We live in boxes, work in boxes and commute back and forth in boxes. They come in many shapes and sizes and do make our lives better in many ways, but boxes take on a whole new meaning when we eliminate the tangible shapes that can be seen with our eyes and touched by our hands. Yet, those boxes still exist and are as real as the physical boxes that surround us. These are boxes too.
Whenever you see something that doesn’t fit, a handicap, an illness or perhaps just an oddity, you place it in a box in your mind. Parents place their children in boxes, expecting them to accomplish goals and dreams they themselves never realized. Family and friends put one another in boxes, expecting everyone around them to live a certain way or to work toward similar goals. We’re all guilty. But what happens when the box doesn’t fit the person or the person the box? When a father expects his son to love sports, but the son excels in music; when a friend chooses a trade school over joining you at college.
“Why can’t they be like me?” is the question we ask ourselves when those around us don’t fit inside the imaginary boxes we create; the boxes society creates. The answer is as simple as it is complex. Why can’t the eagle be like the lion; the fish like the lizard; the dog like the cat? Because we were each created to be unique, to become what only we can become. And yet this battle rages on, day after day, year after year, damaging friendships and challenging even the strongest of bonds between family members. No one is immune; we are all guilty. Even those who complain about being put in a box are guilty of doing it themselves.
In case you’re wondering why I’ve taken the time to write such nonsense, the answer to your question is ‘Yes’. Recently, I found myself being placed in a box. Can I help it that I think differently than others? Can I help it that I have different goals and aspirations than most? Should I have to change who I am just to make those around me feel better about how I choose to live my life?
This particular box is about my career, or lack thereof. Instead of taking the normal path that many do, I’ve chosen the harder road, the one less traveled. It’s the one marked ‘Beware’, the skeletons of failure scattered as far as the eye can see. For I’ve chosen to forge my own trail; to make my own way. It is the more difficult path, this I’ve lived and know well. It’s the path that means struggle and challenge with little to no empathy from those all around me. It’s the path full of famine and very few feasts, the path that takes much more than it gives.
But this path that I’ve chosen does have it’s reward for the few who survive it, for those who can find their way through the treacherous terrain. For where there is great risk, there is great reward. So do I blame those who try to convince me their box is best? Do I blame them for their concern, for their caring, for their desire to help lift me out of the challenges of the path I’m on? The answer is a simple ‘no’ as I’d do the same in their shoes. And yet it eats at me from time to time that these boxes still exist, with people so determined to force others into boxes not right or meant for them.
I’m an entrepreneur and a writer. While I will always do what I must for my family, my wife and children, I can never deny the fact that I will always have the fire burning inside to do and achieve something bigger than myself. It’s who I am, a gift from God, though at times it feels more like a curse. There are times that I wish I could fit in the box that society has branded as ‘normal’, but the plain and harsh truth is that I’m not normal, a freak of sorts perhaps, and therefore won’t ever fit inside that box. I’ve tried in the past and it worked for a time, but today I know better. Today I know that while my box may be scuffed, even damaged in spots, my box is mine and I’ll figure it out like I always have, though I may need a helping hand now and then along the way.
So for anyone reading this, my request is a simple one: if you have to shove me in a box, please at least wait until I’m dead and ready to be buried!