121. Messages in a Bottle

Today is my 43rd birthday, and who would’ve thought I’d make it this far? Sure, I live in one of the safest, richest places in the world but the enemies haven’t come from without as much as within.

In 1999-2006 I was depressed on and off, culminating in rampant anxiety, obsessive thoughts and hospitalization in 2005.

But I got better. Mostly through a combination of social support from friends and family and almost exclusively as a result of deciding to work seriously in changing my basic attitude towards the world, the way I was thinking, to a more positive one.

I know that sounds kind of superficial, and it is for sure too complicated to go into here, but let the results speak for themselves:

I was a psychiatric condition, medicated, unemployed and my relationship was tethering on the brink of collapse.

Now, 11 years after, my girlfriend is still here, we are going to be parents and I am self-employed in my webdesign-company and, above all, and despite the normal peak or valley, very much in balance and in control of my thoughts and emotions. Go figure.

So for that part of the journey I am grateful. I was going through hell and I kept going, as Churchill once advised. And I came out on the other side.

So what is the view from now, from this moment on the timeline?

Looking back I can see lots of missed opportunities, mostly with regard to career and earning more money, lots of choices that didn’t really serve me – like volunteering for a long time for various organizations that didn’t really have the money to employ me later on.

‘Cynical’ perhaps, but when you grow up one of the things you accept is that you have to pay the rent. I’m not talking about the ‘need’ for two cars and a big house. But rent. And food. And maybe that too for your kids. That’s the scope of my personal economy as it has been for many years. And still is.

I’ve rarely earned over 4K dollars in a month and mostly below 3, which is not an awful lot in a country with 50 per cent taxes for income and colas that cost 3-4 dollars a bottle. Much of the time I have been in and out of the public-private insurance system for the unemployed. So there.

Creating stable, multiple, mostly passive streams of income is going to be a key priority from now on and the next 10 years at least. Both to support myself and my family but also to insure myself.

There really is no other priority: nothing spiritual, nothing about travel, nothing about art, nothing about health, nothing about anything else but go out there and create something valuable enough to break the code of abundance, at least according to my definition.

Other problems will come: Somebody will get run over, somebody will die, my son may have allergy to something serious, but all of that will come anyway and will be more bearable when you are not constantly stressing about income. That’s how it’s always been.

So I gotta grow up. And learn to earn. That’s the single most important goal here, at 43, although it feels almost shameful to admit that it’s like that. I should’ve been a star by now, right?

Well, welcome to the Normal Path. A path taken by Most People.

And earning is necessary. I don’t have a pension and I have very little unemployment insurance left. So there is no other way than to create these sources myself. Which is kind of as it should be, although time is growing shorter for each passing year.

But who can tell how short?

Although I still often fall for the narrative that we live a certain number of years, going through certain phases of life where both good and bad things are expected – from being at a certain point in a certain career, to owning a certain amount of stuff, to having a certain number of kids, to having a certain relationship, to experiencing certain health problems … none of that may come true.

It would of course be stupid not to expect and foresee and guard against health problems as I get older, but the point is that aside from the effect the years have on my body, inevitably, nothing much is certain or mandated. It is all one big fiction. And I have apparently made an effort to be as impolite as possible when it comes to following the narrative of how life ‘is supposed to be’ in my part of the North-Western world:

  • I took 10 years to get an education
  • I have never owned a house or a car
  • I have never had a steady job, in which I used my education (communications and social science)
  • I have not had a child – until now – at 43
  • I have been mentally ill and hospitalized for it at a point in my life when, according to the narrative, I was supposed to have been very settled
  • And so on

Of course, the narrative – most of it from table-talk at family gatherings and old media – that life proceeds in a certain way is bogus.

That’s why, I believe, we are also perversely attracted to the stories about ‘my fate’ as can often be gleaned from front-pages of glossy magazines:

One woman lost her child at birth, another was raped as a child …

Someone had it all and lost it. Another succumbed to addiction …

And then there was a stray car …

‘Good thing it didn’t happen to me’ we think, read in awe and disgust and hurry on to the next point in our careers or go home and watch The X-factor franchise and dream of being worthy of feeling popular and success one day, courtesy of voting numbers and discerning judges long past the peak of their careers in┬ámusic.

‘If you can’t create, you teach and if you can’t teach you become a critic’, or so the saying goes.

And I have fallen for that, too, despite everything. Despite having survived mental illness and hazardous travels in Bolivia and feeling very ‘mature’ in so many cases compared to others – so worldly and knowledgeable about life, the universe and everything.

I have been sitting right there, watching, drinking soda or whiskey and judging the judges first and then later the stars on the stage, and the back to the judges. Feeling as if my special opinion about the lives of others made a real crucial difference.

Well, it did.

It led me away from the responsibility and the scary part of trying to have success myself, of building something, of getting to have an impact, of earning more money.

All of the things that have eluded me so far, except perhaps in my relations to friends and family.

I believe I have an impact on them which is also very valuable. A good friend once told me as much, when we walked the hospital grounds, and it is true.

But it is also true that I want more.

If I don’t succeed, so be it.

Despite all the illness and setbacks I am 100 percent clear that I am responsible for not earning more money or having created more or having had more of an ‘impact’, for example with regard to helping people all over the world, than I’ve had so far.

It’s not just false modesty or banal cliche.

For example, I gave up writing a novel 5 times or so, when I could have pressed on and finished.

I gave up on numerous websites and blogs that could’ve grown, created value and earned money – from coaching websites to book fan sites.

I chose to work as a helper for disabled persons for 6 years because I was angry at and tired of chasing the academic job market and I thought I wanted to be a Bukowski-like writer with a tough but ultimately paying day (night) job. I deleted 6 years of networking efforts there, which could have made me more income, given me more opportunities.

There may have been perfectly valid reasons for making those choices, and some of them I might not have been able to make any differently.

But it doesn’t change that fact that I made them.

I am responsible. Nobody else could have made them.

And at numerous junctions I could have chosen differently.

Perhaps that is the lesson that is clearest to me now, at 43, for what it’s worth: What an awesome responsibility I have, for my life turning out the way it does.

Not society. Not the job market.

Not my girlfriend or my upcoming son.

Not my health even, at least to a large degree.


Because there are always other options and I would be lying if I said I had exhausted them all, with regard to career, earning money, becoming creatively fulfilled, having an impact and all that … which is still somewhat fuzzy – what do I want … but also becoming clearer by the day.

I want to get out of the bondage of having to earn money by selling my time, no matter what I sell it for.

I want to have an impact on other people’s lives all over the world for Good.

And so I have to create something which is valuable enough for that to happen. Because if I do then the money will follow. Obviously.

It’s bullshit that if you just ‘follow your passion, money will follow’. You have to follow your purpose, look at where you can affect other people the most, in the most positive ways.

This Blog might, down the line, be part of that – I think it will be, as the years roll by. I don’t think it can necessarily become a very big income stream because it’s so un-focused.

But I think some years down the line, I might be able to make some affiliate income from The Blog, like advertising books and courses that I have tried and really dig.

That would be a worthy way of making income from this place, and meaningful. A way of using my blog to enhance the value of products I believe are truly valuable to others and vice versa.

Then we have the writing, as far as it goes. I’ve tried again, yes, and now I do it in small scenes every day, aiming for a novella – or ‘long short story’ of about 20K words instead of that elusive novel I don’t seem to be able to write.

It will also take time to create such a series, but it is more passion than anything and has a bit of purpose and it could sell, in time. I just have to make the choice to keep at it until it works, this time. Not give up. Find another way, if somehow I can’t make it work.

I had originally planned last year to make courses in webdesign, but I honestly don’t feel up to it anymore. I have enough of webdesign in my everyday work and my business. I want to create other assets, or valuables, in the time I have left.

The books are one series of valuables. The Blog is another. Then there are my live-talks. All of that could eventually add up and become, in a way, more or less passive income. Although I have come to realize that it doesn’t matter an awful lot how ‘passive it is’ as long as it is more rewarding work, spiritually and emotionally.

And by spiritually, of course, I mean with regard to doing something purposeful. I don’t think God really cares what I work as as long as I care and find that it is good.

So this is how it is. At 43. I wish I could have written more. I wish I didn’t feel like a sailor setting out to see again, towards unknown horizons, unsure of reaching his goal, unsure of the course …

But one of the things I’ve realized is that although creating money, impact and value has a high importance, it is always possible, if persistent, to create value. That’s what this Blog is about. No matter how many times I fail and no matter what happens that constrains me, such as illness again, I will most likely be able to blog about it and share some valuable lessons from my life with others.

It may not sound like much, but it feels like an awfully big deal when setting out on such uncertain waters once again.

I know that sooner or later my messages in a bottle will reach people and help them. I don’t know how many and in what ways, but nobody is stopping me from creating these messages, except myself.

I have stopped myself many times before, because I believed what I created weren’t able to give me income, fame or even emotional satisfaction.

And so it happens that when we concentrate too much on what we want it all collapses and we lose it. We don’t continue to build something which could have given us what we wanted.

The other extreme is, of course, only focusing on what others want. Working hard, not smart.

But you know all that. I know all that. It’s the eternal balancing point that is important to find.

And this blog is an exploration of that journey, to find a balance. And even if I don’t succeed, and in a way I believe I never truly will, then it will have done what I came here for:

It will have helped you to find your own balance.

A ‘you’ somewhere out there, across the seas.