The popular belief that we are defined by our past has unfortunately created for us a self-inflicted prison. In truth, our past was just a sequence of experiences, which gifted us the opportunity to make decisions based on who we believe ourselves to be in that moment. Each experience allows for a new understanding of who we are by the choices we make either out of Love or Fear.
Below are two different biographies written by me, each true but vastly different. Which string of experiences and decisions do you believe defines who I am?
I was born in 1968, the youngest boy and the seventh of eight kids. My parents were exhausted by the time I was born, which allowed for some freedom from the strict Catholic upbringing my older brothers and sisters had to endure. I was fortunate to watch the mistakes made by my six older siblings, allowing me to navigate my parents. We were an upper middle-class family with a beautiful home, full-time housemaid and a live-in nanny off and on during my child hood. If that wasn’t enough, we also belonged to one of the top country clubs in the US where we played tennis, golf and all of us participated on the swim team. I remember the summers. We were there every day from seven am to seven pm, and we loved every minute of it. We went to a private Catholic elementary school, a public high school and all eight kids went on to graduate from college. I was fortunate enough to get a swimming scholarship at the University of Washington, from which I graduated after four years with a BS in Architecture. After college, I married my college sweetheart and we moved to Northern California. Unable to find a job in the field of Architecture, due in part to the state of the economy, I began working for a privately held fortune 250 company. Over the next ten years, starting off as a trainee working sixty-hour weeks and moving seven times for advancement opportunities, I finally made it to upper management, where I became responsible for ten stores and millions of dollars in assets. During those ten years, we started a family, with our oldest being a boy and our baby girl. After several months of debates, we decided I would quit my job, we would sell our house, and move to my hometown in Colorado where I would work for a startup technology company. After three years in Colorado, we had identical twin girls. Shortly after the twins were born, a business opportunity came down the pipe for me to start and co-own a company with one of my brothers. This began my successful entrepreneurial carrier over the last fifteen years. I started four new companies: construction, property management, real estate, and women’s apparel. I am happy to say that some became successful business ventures.
Everything is perspective and so written below is another biography of myself. The question I ask is: “Who am I?”
After reading the book, The Key To Love Is Knowing Who I Am, the answer may surprise you.
My name is Gary Fuller, I was born in 1968. I am one of eight kids who grew up in an upper middle-class family which was able to afford many luxuries such as: a full-time housemaid, a live-in nanny from time to time, a country club membership, and a great private education through eighth grade. I finished high school then went on to college and graduated with a BS in Architecture. Life growing up as the seventh child out of eight was hard. I had to fight for attention because I was always passed over by my siblings. I was always looked at as “the little brother of so-and-so”. I didn’t have my own identity. I was in constant competition with what my brothers and sisters had done. My family was all about appearances and making great impressions, and we were looked at as the model family, but boy did we have skeletons. I can’t speak for my siblings, but I was lost growing up. I was molested as a child and to make matters worse, my Catholic upbringing told me that I was born a sinner, and I believed it. Therefore I was constantly trying to make my god and parents happy and proud of me. I had periods of major anxiety, and I based my identity on what everyone thought of me; from my parents to my brothers, sisters, friends, business associates, acquaintances and even strangers. They all had an influence based on their opinion of me.
I did what society dictated I should do, which was get an education, get married, have kids, get a career, buy a house and live happily ever after. Well, I did all that, but I wasn’t living happily ever after. Happiness was present during some moments and gone the next. My happiness was based on possessions and the opinions others had regarding who I was. I was a good person, if that’s what all the others thought of me. This life, and my resultant mindset, was exhausting! I never thought my true self was good enough.
So, at the age of thirty-six, I decided I needed to make changes in areas where I wasn’t happy. That decision lead me to divorce my wife after fourteen years of marriage. This started what some people would call a “mid-life crisis”. I moved into the city, I dated, and I enjoyed drinking. I had a few relationships that explored the swinging lifestyle, I enjoyed a few years of drugs and partying that those who experimented in the ‘70’s would have been impressed with. As an entrepreneur, I enjoyed years of financial success, but I also had periods where I didn’t have a dime to my name. I felt manipulated, alone, sad, fearful, but there were times where I felt great.
After my divorce, I was cast out by my own family; I was damned, told I was going to hell and that I was leading my kids to hell with my actions. To them, I was not worthy, less-than, I was living a sinful life. At times I had thoughts of dying, and other times I experienced periods of happiness and contentment. My life had been a complete roller coaster and I was exhausted. Finally, at the age of forty-two, I said stop. Enough was enough. I vehemently questioned who I was and the legitimacy of who society said I was. This began my awakening to the possibility that there was something else to my existence. I’ve since called this very moment of awakening the beginning of my journey of “Being”.
The following eight years were spent attending lectures and reading books, researching many different religions, spirituality, new age ideas and taking classes on meditative techniques such as TM. And so began my days of solitude and times of frustration. I found the more I learned, the less I knew. I began to see huge disconnects between the most common societal beliefs and my understanding of the world. And after several years passed, I had grown so frustrated with my business and the selfish expectations of others that at the end of 2014 I simply closed the company down. I took a few months off after that to reflect. After some time, I became inspired to create a new way of conducting business, and the next eight months were spent co-developing a mindful corporation that focused on changing the way we view and participate in the industries of agriculture, new technology, poverty, housing and the interconnection between them for profit and helping humanity. The price tag to get the company up and running was in the millions, so we needed to find an investor. Many who listened to and read the business plan loved it but said it was too visionary and way too much to tackle at once. But I was convinced that we would find funding for our new business model. Over the next year, I met with a few investors who said they would fund the business but time and time again, the funding dates came and went. I spent every last dime of my savings to pursue this venture; I sold everything, from my clothing to my furniture and paintings. It got so bad that I couldn’t pay rent and lost my time with my kids. I couldn’t afford my car payments and my car was repossessed. I couldn’t afford my cell phone bill, so my phone was turned off. Things got so bad that I had no way of getting a job and I had used up all my friends and family members invitations for help. Fortunately, after a few months I was offered a vehicle from a friend which I periodically used as a place to sleep. During this period of time I met a wonderful and caring woman who I now call my life-partner. Despite my situation and my early attempt to end the relationship, telling her I had nothing to offer her financially and the burden I would bring to the relationship, she—without hesitation—told me to stop my self-pity and stayed with me. She stayed through the years (even though some of her close family members made many horrific attempts to sabotage our relationship). And as if that wasn’t enough, she too ended up going through an extreme financial hardship that lasted over a year. We both had moments of pure panic, but at the same time, there was always a calming force and a feeling of certainty that our newfound understanding of who we are, our love for ourselves, each other and others would carry us through our countless difficult experiences.
How my major has influenced my writing
The study of Architecture pushed me to look at form and function from the perspective of the past and present, and how those two things to influence the future. This forced me to look at the commonalities, their differences and how they evolve. Over time, this way of looking at architecture soon became the way I looked at life. I began to question who I was and what is Love by way of the past (religion), and what I believed myself to be in the present. Also, as an entrepreneur, I am always looking at ways to view things from a new perspective that may present new opportunities in business and in life.
What makes me special as a writer
There is nothing special about me or anyone else and this very statement is a major difference in my understanding of "who we are" from the mainstream. We are unique in our personalities, abilities and features, but that does not make us special. Looking at others as special creates division and separateness, which is the opposite of who we are.