It was the night of another election. No, not for the president of the United States.
It was time, once again, to elect whether or not I will sleep with the night light on.
I was a 16 year old high school football player, and still convinced that all the criminals from the news would come out of the darkness and kill me. Flawed logic I know, but in my reality, it was true.
As the nights passed, what I elected to do didn’t matter. The night light was not enough. I saw shadows cast by my dim night light on the wall and thought it was a sign of the doom to come. I started to convince myself that any sound I heard was a criminal breaking in.
The brain is a powerful enemy, when you feed it fear.
Of course I could think rationally, but everything on the TV was so real that I couldn’t ignore the risk that lurked in the darkness. My emotions and fears ruled me to the point where I couldn’t sleep unless I covered myself with blankets. In my mind, I was playing a game of hide and seek with death.
During the long nights that I couldn’t force myself to sleep, I would ask my parents if I could sleep on the floor in their room. At least we would be together if something happened. Sometimes I couldn’t even muster up the courage to leave my room because I had to brave the obstacle course of my fears (which became a 20 foot long hallway during the day).
After I realized that I was the one who was torturing myself, I stopped feeding my mind entertainment and interpretation and replaced the fear with truth. My overwhelming fear of the dark slowly dwindled like my previously overused night light.
Now, I treasure the darkness. I look forward to the transformation I can get from embracing the darkness rather than fighting against it. My nightmares are now replaced by dreams that help me question what I believe, and let go of the things I can’t control.
Unfortunately, we have much less control than we’d like to believe. A seemingly infinite amount of variables factor in to something as simple as why you feel angry or sad or happy or elated, and we may only have control over a handful of those factors.
The uncomfortable truth is that we may never know exactly why things are they way they are.
The even more uncomfortable truth is that who or what we cast our vote on may not win, even if it is the best choice. It took me over a decade to get over my fear of the dark, even when I knew sleep was a better choice.
What I learned from my silly little fear of the dark is that quality of life and freedom expands with your ability to embrace the darkness by questioning your own fears and illusions, and becoming more resilient and adaptable to the uncertainties of life.
We cast a vote for the future in every moment with how we choose to act, react, and interact.
You may not get what you want from life, but getting what you want from life won’t matter when you focus on becoming who you’d vote for and creating what you’d vote for.