Two Wrong Turns

photo of pathway surrounded by fir trees

“I have always felt like I was two wrong turns away from complete destruction. We all are, and we’re fooling ourselves if we think we’re not.” – Jami Attenberg

This piece of raw honesty from Jami Attenberg speaks volumes about our shared human condition. The quote comes from her memoir, “I Came All This Way To Meet You: Writing My Way Home,” when discussing her transience as a struggling author before her first bestseller success with her fourth book. 

After reading this line, I was compelled to write a humble reflection on the profound relevance of this quote. I wanted to explore the ideas encapsulated in this quote more closely: the universality of vulnerability, the deceptive illusion of our security, and the ever-present specter of self-destruction.

We all know the feeling of teetering on the edge of disaster, where a couple of missteps could plunge us into the abyss. Let’s dive into this relatable sensation, while seeking out the rays of resilience that shine through our shared vulnerabilities.

The Universality of Vulnerability

The quiet sensation of vulnerability is one the most relatable, and at times, frightening aspects of human existence. We’ve all experienced standing on the precipice of self-destruction at one point or another. Whenever I’ve been faced with such situations, I try to find a silver lining of hope, looking back now on such incidents as lessons in resilience.

Every soul that walks this earth is a creature of vulnerability, as it’s a natural aspect of human nature. Every dream unfulfilled, every opportunity lost, every “no,” and every “yes” reveals our inherent vulnerability. These common experiences of vulnerable moments unite us as imperfect, yet also remind us of our potential for growth and eventual success. 

These pangs of disappointment can be as simple as wishing you’d said ‘yes’ to a seemingly insignificant opportunity in your youth. They can be as hard as the first time you fell in love and soon experienced the subsequent heartbreak. 

Think back to the time when you were at the crossroads of a life-altering decision, or when you were faced with an adversity that seemed insurmountable. Those moments of uncertainty are moments that reveal our vulnerability. While the spectrum of the power of these experiences varies immensely, they are as universal as our very existence.

Our struggles, our mistakes, and our ‘almost’ moments all expose the cracks in our armor. We all grapple with life’s unpredictability and face common hurdles, making our vulnerabilities strikingly relatable. These sorts of struggles make for the basis for great stories, the ones we tell one another and those we experience as kindred spirits.

The Illusion of Security

Despite the intimate universality of our vulnerability, we still often clothe ourselves in a deceptive false armor of security. We sometimes go as far to convince ourselves that we are invincible, that we alone stand as the exception to life’s cruel jokes. We believe we can make ourselves immune to the destructive paths which have entangled others. But, this sense of security is often an illusion, a mirage in the desert of reality.

I’ve seen many of my peers reach high points in their careers, putting themselves up on high pedestals. But, when the economy plummeted during the 2008 recession, most fell from great heights along with it. 

The security blanket many of us wrapped around ourselves turned out to be a veil of illusion. I lucked out and my position in marketing was considered essential. But, most of my friends were unemployed and struggled to find new work for months at a time.

Seeing this happen to so many people close to me, I recognized the illusion of security really is a mirage. Most of us are two paychecks, if not just one, away from watching our lives implode entirely. I’ve somehow always managed to keep my head above water, and it’s because I always have a backup plan, however tenuous. Even in Jami’s darkest times, she always found a way to keep going, just as I have, perhaps the most relatable part of her memoir for me.

Acknowledging Our Inherent Capacity for Self-Destruction

Darkness lurks in all of us. Whether we admit it or not, there’s a grim side to human nature, an inherent potential for self-destruction. We best know this particular flaw as foolish pride. Even the most seemingly humble among us, myself included, have had moments where we’ve made choices that pulled us all to close to the edge of our own undoing.

I remember, in my darkest days, when loneliness and despair threatened to consume me, I sought relief in all the wrong places. I’ve danced too often with the ever-present specter of self-destruction. To deny this aspect of our nature is to ignore the elephant in the room. Some people think this is a hidden side of our nature, but for me, I’ve seen it become much too obvious in my worst moments of isolation and despair.

I can’t possibly underline enough the importance of acknowledging this hidden side of our nature. To ignore this is to turn a blind eye to an inherent part of our being. While we each need a healthy dose of self-confidence and belief, I watch blind faith and vanity lead to literal life-ending scenarios. I read all about how Jami almost had a few of these herself, and thankfully, she learned better just in time.

Forging The Path to Resilience

While our capacity for self-destruction can be terrifying, we must develop our self-awareness and an acceptance of our vulnerability to forge a path to resilience. Acknowledging the times we have strayed towards destruction helps us navigate away from future peril. Other stepping stones that have helped me veer away from destructive paths include reaching out for help, practicing mindfulness, and developing a healthy self-concept. I’m still working immensely on that last item.

We each must experience more than our fair share of adversity. But, there are silver linings hidden within even the darkest clouds. If we learn effectively from our mistakes and face our realities head on, we can each one day become the best versions of ourselves.

~ Amelia Desertsong

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.
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