I sometimes forget how far I've come, what I've accomplished, that, in the best possible sense of the term, I'm a saved soul. What I might have become--without the morality of self-interest, without Ayn Rand--it's hard to fathom, harder yet to face in any concrete way. (Frankly, though, that alternate future, that anti-life road I was spared from navigating, deserves nothing save the acknowledgement that it could have been--that it never will be.) What deserves attention, or at least momentary, explicit recognition, is the distance I've traveled--from that point of a young, frightened boy kneeling at the precipice of Hell and eagerly accepting my fate to where I am now as an evolving, confident young man standing upright and proudly at the entrance to Heaven on Earth. My gates are not pearly, though, but a gleaming steel of blueish green. There is no St. Peter standing guard with book of sins--only my clear conscience and the confidence to know that this place, this Nirvana, is mine to seize.
A few compliments lately--about rationality and benevolence--jolted me into this reflective exercise. I've learned to take compliments gracefully and with genuine respect, mostly because I've learned that people often mean what they say--at least the people I choose to spend time with. The latest two did not strike me as wrong or insincere, of course. Contrarily, I've rarely felt better about receiving such kind words. Yet they were unexpected in a sense. Why? I'm not sure it matters--at least not as much as it used to--because the unexpectedness doesn't come from a sense of guilt (finally), and I genuinely appreciate the words--right now especially, more than I can convey with typefaced text.
I suppose it's because I no longer seek such praise. I don't even mean approval, really, but praise as such. My self-esteem is no longer, in any way, derived from the worth other people see in me. If they find something of value in me (genuine value, properly understood), all the better. I want to be of value to people I love. But I don't need them to find value in me--as long as I find value in myself.
Moreover, I've been along for the ride. That is, I've been with me for every step of this transformational journey. What were only incremental steps along this path to enlightenment is now one cavernous gap, the other side of which I can barely discern--not that I care to stare long anyway.
And so I find another way that the people I value enrich my life--by reflecting the me I've become and helping me notice exactly how I've molded myself. It's a sweet sculpture thus far, but the devilish details are yet to come. It's abundantly clear, though, that in me I find no fear. Confidence--check. Anxiousness--check. Eagerness--check. But not a second of hesitation or doubt or the guilt that's oft associated with selfishly striving for happiness.
My, how I look forward to defining myself.