About Choices

Man on a bench.  Photo by Callen Harty.

Man on a bench. Photo by Callen Harty.

Life is about choices.

All of us have had bad things happen to us. Life is filled with tragedy, hurt, pain. Some of it may seem insurmountable and some of it passes faster than we might expect. Some of it stays with us forever.

On the other hand we have all had good things happen to us, too. Life is filled with little kindnesses, smiles, love, and incredible beauty. It is a matter of focus. Do we focus on the ugly or the beautiful, on the evil or the good?

As noted, life is also about choices. If someone does something horrible to me I can choose many paths out of that horror, or I can even choose to stay in it. I can choose to wallow in the event and live there, never getting past it or growing in any way. I can choose anger and retribution by lashing out and doing horrible things to others. Or I can choose a path on which I grow from the experience and become a better person, even if those around me do not make the same choice. The latter path, the “road less traveled”,  is the more difficult, but it is also the most rewarding.

I could choose to go down a path of destruction and blame the perpetrator for putting me in the frame of mind where that becomes a choice. But it is still a choice. The person who hurt you can hurt you badly and can even do so repeatedly, but they cannot make you choose a particular path in your life. Only you can do that.  You can make a bad choice and blame them for it, but it is your choice, not theirs, and the consequences are upon you, not them.

So the question is, what path do you choose? Do you take the hurt and the pain and impose that upon others because you were hurt? Or do you choose to try to create a life and a world where less people get hurt? Do you choose a life of hatred and anguish or do you choose a life of love? I fall on the side of love because I believe that love is more powerful than hate and hope is more powerful than despair. I choose to live in the power of love.

This is not some pollyanna vision of the world where making such a choice leaves nothing but rainbows, unicorns, and smiles in your life. Realistically bad things will still happen–it is part of life–and evil will still rear its ugly head on occasion. But you can still choose how you handle these things and how you move forward. You can choose to accept the bad things that happen as part of life, whether it is the loss of a loved one or an abuse perpetrated upon you, and you can look for the lessons it may teach you. You can do your best to ensure it doesn’t happen again and you can do your best to grow as a compassionate human being.

You can choose the easy path where you have no responsibility and lay it all upon others or you can choose the more difficult path that has greater rewards at the end. I choose to walk the long path of love. My strength is in love. My power is in love. My recovery and my hope are in love. Come, walk with me.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on Amazon.com (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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1 Response to About Choices

  1. marcea0k says:

    So powerful and beautiful, it made me weep.

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