How I learned to travel through time (Life Lessons — 3/13)

When I moved out of my parents place to enter my own life, I had the strong urge to deconstruct, maybe even destroy, all of the beliefs ways to look at the world I had been brought up on. I deliberately chose to surround myself with people I knew my parents would disapprove of and do things they would never have done.

I know, this sounds a lot like puberty. But I went through that before. Maybe it was something like a second wind of puberty, but I believe it was something different. Since we moved several times and during that time the only stable constant was my core family, I had the clear and visceral feeling that I needed to break free of these narrow boundaries.

Of course, like any good rebel, I started using drugs. I tried everything I could get my hands on at least once, but I was cautious not to get hooked on anything - with one exception. I really, Really enjoyed smoking weed. Lots of it. I woke up next to my bong and had a hit for breakfast.

During the couple of years I smoked regular cigarettes some people never once saw me without a cigarette, to an extent that someone coined a running joke about me smoking even in the shower. This is the intensity and extent I also smoked weed.

Until one day.

I had felt it creeping in, but had ignored it. Sometimes I had a feeling of paranoia. A feeling that people were looking at me in a strange way. A way as if they knew what a empty shell, pity of a human I was. And yes, although I didn’t admit it to myself, that’s how it felt inside. Empty and useless.

And then that one day on the subway on the way home, a kind of fear kicked in that I had never felt before. I was sure everyone around me was looking at me in disgust.

That day I gathered the bit of sense I could muster and decided to stop. I decided to not leave the house until I felt healed again. After a couple of days I noticed a feeling of shame and guilt with a clear message coming back again and again.

It felt as if I had been on a good path for about fourteen years of my life and then took a turn I should not have taken. I experienced profound and deep sadness because I believed I had missed a great opportunity to lead a wonderful life and wasted a couple of years in the process.

All I wanted to do was to travel back in time and take a different turn.

But of course, that is impossible, I told myself. - For a while - then, somewhere in the back of my mind a very stubborn part of me declared that it didn’t accept this premise and that there must be a way to travel back. Trying to conjure up images of the time I wanted to travel to up in my mind, I saw a pattern: many of the images revolved around books I had been reading at the time. Books can travel through time, I thought. Maybe they can take me with them.

I made a list of all the books I could remember from the life I wanted to revive within myself and went out to get them. Then I locked myself into the house and read - some multiple times - each of the books. It was as if each page cleared a clogged up pathway in my brain, as If I were traveling one inch, one minute closer to where I wanted to go and begin again. It felt like a long, long waking up. In fact, it lasted for three months before I felt I could be among people again and almost two years until I felt fully healed.

The experience gave me back my life and one very important lesson. It taught me that my mind has the amazing capacity to heal itself. It gave me confidence that I can swing back from anything negative that might happen to me. This capacity for self-healing became one of the strongest memes in my becoming myself.

Thomas Schindler