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In conflict with myself

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For the last several months, I have found myself in conflict.

There’s one side of me that wants to drive real change, build a better world, express something new and exciting, strive for that new level of personal development, make a name for itself, and on and on. It has endless ideas, sees infinite possibilities. It sees the imperfection in its writing and other output, all the potential left untapped due to simple laziness. It asks that it mold itself into its best version, to transcend past limitations.

But there’s another side that just wants to rest. It doesn’t see the point of all this striving. It wants to live in a space of no stress, no obligation. It wants to be at peace. It feels the weight of decades of striving – for good grades, to get into a good college, to find a good career, to progress through that career, to make change, to be a better writer. From third grade on, it has been striving, striving, striving and it wants to stop. It wants to free itself of the burden of stress, the need to be productive, the need to be acknowledged and praised and to be “somebody”.

Some who would say that these two sides of me aren’t in conflict at all. They’d say that we do our best work when we are at peace with ourselves. They’d say that I can have both.

But I am not so sure.

Change is hard work. Change is painful. Change is not safe or relaxing. If I am at peace, am I really doing my work? If I am relaxed, am I really present to the needs of the world around me? And yet, how can I help create a peaceful, harmonious world if I first am not at peace, in harmony with myself?

My mind turns and turns, grasping for some sort of relief, some answer. After I grapple with it long enough, I realize there is no answer.

I will never be as impactful as I hope to be. I won’t ever be as good a writer as I think I could be. And I won’t ever be completely at peace, free from anxiety or stress. I won’t ever attain a life detached from all the business and obligations floating all around all of us every day.

I can’t and won’t keep putting as much stress and ego into my life as I have the last three decades. And I also can’t and won’t live a life without striving, without purpose, without the quest for growth and impact.

I live life on a teeter-totter, constantly, eternally, readjusting. I live life doing my best to discover and honor all the parts of me that can’t be reconciled.


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Peter Schulte

Peter Schulte is the founder and editor of Kindling. Peter is also Senior Digital Engagement Associate for the Pacific Institute and the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate, connecting businesses to sustainable water practices. Peter holds a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies and a B.A. in Comparative Literature from University of California, Berkeley, and an M.B.A. in Sustainable Systems from Pinchot University. He lives in Bellingham, WA, USA with his wife, son, and cat.

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