Life presents each of us, at various times throughout, with a number of opposing energies, and depending on how we navigate our paths, the trajectory through which our lives unfold, and what our intentions are as we traverse those paths, we come to view the events which compose our lives as either obstacles or opportunities. There are times when the assignment of the appropriate term to those events is easily made by us, but many times, our initial evaluation ends up being incorrect, in spite of all indications that the event is either one or the other.
In the image above, the boulder in the road is 25 feet high, and it arrived in that location as a result of torrential rains and mudslides in southern California. The road in question was closed for three days, and the only way to remove the boulder was to blast it into smaller pieces using explosives. This immediately gives the impression of being an obstacle. Indeed, for anyone who had intended to drive on that road during those three days, this circumstance clearly must have been viewed as an obstacle. When we review the facts in this case, however, what initially seemed like an obvious obstacle, when viewed from a different perspective, suddenly took on a completely opposite quality.
No one was injured as a result of the arrival of the boulder on the road. The rains which caused the mudslide and the arrival of the boulder in this location, were desperately needed as a result of a prolonged dry spell in the area. The crews which were assigned to the removal of the boulder not only had a good laugh when they first viewed the situation, but received a very unusual opportunity to respond to a circumstance which provided valuable training for dealing with such emergencies, and inspired the engineers called to the site to investigate and analyze the entire length of the road, in order to identify other potential areas where the danger might occur again. At the end of the day, with nothing more than a diversion for traffic, and some challenging work for the road crew who had to remove the “obstacle,” opportunities appeared in a number of ways as a result of what COULD have been a catastrophe.
Over the last six years or so, I have struggled to find opportunities for employment as the result of the sagging economy in the United States. The first three years of the last six provided several “opportunities,” for work, which ended up being more like “obstacles” to gainful employment than opportunities to work. After you spend a fair amount of time without employment, you begin to see any offer as an “opportunity,” but in my case, the offers I explored ended up as obstacles to gainful employment. I nearly gave up several times. Eventually, I was able to locate employment which has sustained me during the last three years, but in truth, this “opportunity,” has actually been an obstacle far more often than not. The demands of the job are daunting, and while I am clearly grateful to be employed, and have benefits which support my family, there is no question that the need to provide income, regardless of how daunting it might be, in this case, is an obstacle to other ambitions and goals. We do what we must in order to survive, but it isn’t always a clear cut case to identify our circumstances as one or the other.
Each time we choose a path, for better or worse, we present ourselves with opportunities, and encounter obstacles. As we approach the future, we do not have any clear view of what that future will contain. We do our best to make choices which promote our values and support our goals. As we view the road ahead, we observe the path, consider the variables, and proceed as best we can toward the future we aspire to achieve. We cannot know with certainty how life will unfold, and yet, we move forward with hope, and adjust as we go.
Tomorrow, I will step out into the world, as I have done for so many years, and there may be either obstacles or opportunities awaiting. For me, it will be the beginning of my sixth decade of life, and even though I have no idea how it will unfold, I am optimistic that whatever obstacles I may encounter, if I can view them in the right way, will become opportunities.
Wish me luck….lol
10 thoughts on “Obstacles and Opportunities”
That’s a very impressive boulder! Best wishes for better employment. A few years ago, having commuted 45 miles to and from work for 7 long years, I knew I had to make a job change and possibly a career change. I was so tired of the commute that I took a job 3 miles from where I live and hated it. Little did I know that it was through a business connection at that miserable job that I landed my current job which suits me and although it’s 18 miles from home, is a pleasant drive in the country to a job that I am happy with. You’re right, obstacles can lead to opportunities.
It’s interesting to me how the dynamics of the workplace can change so much about our daily experience of being. An environment that suits us which is enriching, but which presents other even more daunting challenges like a resource-draining commute can still be to our detriment. In my most recent attempts to find a suitable environment, I found several which were ideal in important ways, but which had other mitigating factors which made a long term assignment to them untenable. Opportunities come in all shapes and sizes, as do obstacles, and finding our way through the field of all possibilities is our task in life.
Thanks for your comment….John H.
You are an inspiration to me John. You have the gift of words and you say things with such elegance, grace and meaning. So, you are entering the 6th decade of your life! I look to you, to show me the way, as I am not far behind you. I hope this new decade has many opportunities for you.
Opportunities can be “presented” to us but we need to seize them, which I have found is the hard part. I guess sometimes they are MADE by us as well which may be even more difficult.
Let me take this opportunity to say happy birthday and many many more!
Your thoughtful response is greatly appreciated, and it is wonderful to know that you find inspiration in my expressions here. While it is true that I have labored long in my writing, and seek to open channels to an expanded awareness for those who visit here, it is my feeling that even the great writers of history, and all those who came before us, up to and including those of our time now, must look for THEIR inspiration in the same world we all live in, and must look INTO the world, with all of its hills and valleys, its nooks and crannies, and its triumphs and tragedies, to find the elements which inspire others. It is the EFFORT by the readers to discern what is essential and important that truly inspires.
Your observation that opportunities are nothing unless we “seize them,” and your insight that efforts to CREATE opportunities for ourselves are equally important, shows me that you are a thoughtful reader who recognizes the same in others. This is a gift, and you appear to have made good use of it.
I thank you for your birthday greetings, and am equally hopeful that I am able to enjoy many more….John H.
You show real optimism in this essay, along with a mature and realistic view of how difficult the search for employment can be for the seeker. Personal sacrifice is the hallmark of a man or woman with a family, and the sacrifice is almost always made willingly, however difficult and exhausting. You are to be admired, and certainly wished a happy 60th birthday – both of which I do wholeheartedly!
You honor me with your response to my posting, and I acknowledge your good wishes with much humility. “Personal sacrifice” is an interesting term to describe what is necessary for a person who decides to have a family, and although it clearly DOES often require that we relinquish some portion of our own self interest in order that our children may flourish, for me, the sacrifice has been mitigated enormously by the reciprocal joy and sweetness of sharing this planet with such fabulous human beings as my children. IF we are truly passionate in our love for our family, it seems less like a sacrifice, and more like a natural tendency.
It may be that my responsibilities as a father prevented me from being able to seize other opportunities, and I doubt there is a parent alive today who doesn’t occasionally wonder “what might have been,” had they chosen a path without children, but it seems clear now, as it often does in retrospect, that whatever way my life MIGHT have unfolded absent any of the elements it currently contains, it could not have been the life I DO have, and when it comes to my family, the life I have is pretty great!
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and for your good wishes…..John H.
Great work John as usual.
You are very nice to acknowledge my work on this blog post, and I often get much inspiration from those I love…and you are definitely one of those people I love….John
Good luck in your journey! My father (who is also around your age) recently took a similar step in his life and retired – he is now looking for more meaningful pursuits for his time.
What a friendly comment! I would LOVE to retire, if it were possible to do, and there are many more meaningful pursuits for someone my age than generating income, but it’s not looking as though I will be able to retire anytime soon. With luck, your father and I will both figure out a way to find meaningful pursuits that are both satisfying and beneficial to us both.