We all live on a Mainland, filled with typical jobs, responsibilities, consumerism and shallow emotion. The Mainland is where newspapers need to be written at the 6th grade level, $800 iPhones are purchased regularly and people talk about the newest Star Wars movie or celebrities as if they’re gods. In typical hierarchy, the higher classes judge your value in whether or not you have MA or PhD at the end of your name and many others are constantly competing to “keep up with the Jones'”. That’s the Mainland. We all have lived here or currently live here. There are all walks of life on the Mainland, but the Critic, the Optimist and the Warrior are more common than others.
Some of us walk out to the Cliffs of the Mainland to appreciate the ocean because we know the Island is out there. We’ve heard of its beauty. According to legend, it’s a snowglobe of perfection filled with happiness, hopes, dreams and transcendence. Elders make it appear like a mystical utopia where enlightenment comes naturally. Here’s the thing though…the waters can be choppy, you can’t fly there, there are no hotels and its innocent beauty has been preserved. The worlds deepest trench is between the Mainland and the Island, new species are discovered all the time and its particularly dangerous because many predators breed there.
The Island tests our courage.
Some people rarely go to the Cliffs because the edge terrifies them, they can dream on occasion but it never goes beyond that. They are susceptible to gossip, conspiracies and fear mongering. Complaining is their way of life, dreaming is not acceptance of reality, that’s for the hippies and the rich. Their relationships are typically toxic, non-existent, superficial or co-dependent. A staggering percentage of the population on the Mainland are these types. These are the Critics.
Others are so fascinated by the island that they charter a small boat and go to a smaller, closer island. Although it’s not really an island but more like a big rock similar to Alcatraz, only, there’s no prison. They find it beautiful and intriguing so they return to the Mainland with stories of hope and gratitude, convincing themselves they have experienced enlightenment of the Island, even though its not the actual Island. These are our Optimists, always giving advice, always trying to help. But they, too, were fearful of the turbulent waters in the journey to the Island. So they settled for one with a shorter path, less risk and faster gratification. These people are happy and content, they lift us up, light up a room and make us feel connected.
Then there are those of us that build up the courage to journey to the Island. We are more curious than fearful and feel like we have to see this Island that our culture so highly regards. Starry eyed and fueled by determination, we begin. We encounter storms and sharks, fear of death and gratitude for life. Every day survived in these conditions we feel more blessed and more surprised at our own resolve. It’s terrifying and we wonder why the hell we thought this was ever a good idea. There’s a reason no one you know has ever actually been there, we think to ourselves. This really sucks. We get stung by jellyfish but learn that the pain eventually goes away. A shark bites off a finger and we learn to write with the other hand. We run out of food but learn to fish with dolphins. Every “bad” thing, teaches us something else. It’s long and arduous. When we finally arrive bruised, beaten and exhausted, we find the Island is nothing the stories spoke of. It’s no more of a utopia than the tiny Alcatraz-like rock. But that’s ok, we think. This is beautiful BECAUSE of what it took to get here. We arrive different, changed, grateful. These are the Warriors.
When we return to the Mainland, we share our story. The Critics judge us and make fun of our missing finger, the Optimists think you learned what they did, but the still have all their digits and no idea how to fish. But the Warriors, they see you immediately. They see the waves of the journey in your eyes. They can relate with their missing toe and tales of near death. They don’t speak of the Island as a utopia, because like you, they have been there, and know the utopia resides in you, every second of every day. They know that some lessons can only be learned when you need to learn them for your very survival.