I recently watched a news program hosted by Diane Sawyer on prostitution in America. There are many columns I could write on this topic, but the one idea I wanted to focus on here is the fact that many girls manage to get out of that life and then eventually return to it. How can that be? You would think that once you successfully extricate yourself from the unhappiness of that life, you would never return to it.
The answer is that you eventually become your environment. If you have nothing to replace it with—such as another profession, new friends and acquaintances, and other interests—it’s understandable how you would feel lost and decide to return to the familiar life you have known. What you do, the people you’re with, and the things you say all become you. Unless you give yourself enough time and space to have different experiences and build different neural pathways in your brain, you may become trapped in a lifestyle that perhaps you would not have chosen. However, once you become enmeshed, it’s not so easy to get out. You simply lose the skill and the will to do something different, to make different choices. The habits of day after day and year after year need to be replaced with new behaviors and thoughts.
We don’t move through life in an insulated bubble unaffected by the outside world. Every experience we have molds us and becomes part of us. Prostitutes are an extreme example of being a victim of your environment. However, if we are not vigilant, we run the danger of ending up somewhere perhaps we didn’t intend. We may not realize initially the outcome of what may have seemed to be a good thing.
The bright, sunny child who becomes a lawyer was told that very hard work and many hours at the office equals success and happiness. He finds one day down the road that his only acquaintances are his employees, and he has sacrificed his personal and family lives on the altar of success.
Or consider the lovely woman who plays the corporate game at the company she works for—repeatedly condoning and being silent about business behaviors she finds unethical, behaviors that go against her true character until she’s not sure who she is anymore.
Several of the young celebrities in our society have become victims of their own fame and are surrounded by hangers on, dishonest business people, and paparazzi. They appear to have no one with their best interests at heart. Dr. Drew Pinsky, an expert specializing in addiction, says that once someone has become enmeshed in an unhappy lifestyle that it can take one to two years totally away from that lifestyle to have the emotional space to see the big picture and decide to go in another direction that brings more fulfillment. The young celebrities need to be removed from their environment in order to clear their heads and recognize that there are other options available. What we devote our attention to is what we will have in our lives. Even more than that, what we put our attention on will be our lives.
It’s mind expanding when we realize that we do have the power to change and create better lives for ourselves. We need to make the choices that will bring us the most happiness. I once read a quote that I really loved: “Your happiness is your gift to the world.” Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, seconds that thought after taking her own year off to solve the puzzle of her own life. She says on her website. “After three years of despair and depression, I had come to believe that living my life in a state of constant misery was actually a pretty selfish act. Who would be served by a lifetime of my sorrow? How would that enrich the world? Going off for a year and creating a journey to pull myself back together, to rediscover joy, to face down my failings and rebuild my existence, was not only an important thing for my life, but ultimately for the lives of everyone around me. And it’s not just my family and friends who are better off now that I am happy; it’s everyone I encounter. Because the reality is that we human beings are constantly leaking our dispositions upon each other. When I was in such a dark state, everyone I passed on the street had to walk through the shadow of my darkness, whether they knew me or not.”
So it’s good for you and good for all of humanity to live your best life. Let’s look around and take inventory and make sure that we are using our time and attention purposefully to create the lives we most desire.