Each decade has yielded new insights that have shaped my life.
First Decade: A love of adventure, and a knowledge of risk.
In my first decade of life, I realized that I loved adventure, and that with adventure, comes risk. I traveled solo by train between cities, with a change of trains en route, at age 6. I hiked 15 miles to my uncle’s farm at age 9. I began to hitchhike.
But on one of my adventures into the countryside, I had my leg ripped open by a dog. On another, I crashed my bicycle and woke up at home three hours later. At age four and seven, while on excursions, I was abducted and sexually molested. Once, I was tortured and left for dead.
I learned early in life to pay attention to risk reduction in my adventures.
Second Decade: I can do anything, and I will stand up.
When I was 11 years old, I walked to the library with my mother. We were poor and had no car. My father had died three years earlier. She told me about how Andrew Carnegie had left money to build libraries in small towns all over North America. She called him a "philanthropist."
I asked her if I could be a philanthropist when I grew up. She put her hands on my shoulders, looked me square in the eyes and said, "You can be anything you want to be." That is when I announced my intention to be a philanthropist. That intention has never gone away.
That year, with the knowledge that I could do anything, I took money that I had saved from my part-time jobs, bought materials and tools, taught myself how to use the tools and I built a boat. I built a trailer for my bicycle so I could get the boat to water. More adventures…
My mother died in a car crash when I was 16, and all of the witnesses, one by one, said they did "not want to get involved." I vowed I would stand up and be counted whenever it was the right thing to do. And I believe I have.
Third Decade: I alone am responsible for my self-care and well-being.
Marriage. Fatherhood. Domestic abuse. Dysfunction. Divorce.
Fourth Decade: "It is in my best interest to do what I am most interested in doing."
This has been the guiding principle ever since. I also learned that decade that if I want to live, I cannot drink.
Fifth Decade: I can live by my wits.
I had always had jobs, the longest stretch as a university teacher. I wanted to know if I could live by my wits. Did I have the ability and emotional makeup to be in business? I have run businesses or been self-employed for the majority of the time since age 40.
Sixth Decade: People heal around me.
All my life, people have come to me for counsel and advice. I had always minimized the fact and importance of this. In my 50s I had the realization that people do heal emotionally, spiritually and occasionally even physically when we connect. I still do not understand it fully, but I have come to accept it.
Seventh Decade: I can write to help others.
I discovered I can write in a way that helps others grow and heal. It has also been a time of spiritual growth, as I have allowed myself to experience the interconnectedness of us all.
Note to myself: do this exercise again in 10 years.
Dr. Neill Neill, Registered Psychologist, Comprehensive Energy Psychology, helps capable people who feel stuck… trauma, relationships, addictions.