In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.
If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your shit, then you deserve it.
You are the ruler of your realm.
It may not always feel that way, but, if you think about it, everything you come across is part of who you are, part of your life experience, part of your own little empire.
From that perspective, we are all responsible for our interactions, our perceptions, our feelings, and our experiences; they are the elements of our realms, and we are the monarchs.
We can decide what kind of rulers we will be. We can be hands-on benevolent rulers who take responsibility for our realms and don’t abdicate our duty. Or we can be thoughtless rulers who don’t pay attention to the business of our realms and let others determine their fate.
“But wait,” you say. “So much of our lives is beyond our control.” Maybe we’re not really supreme rulers. Maybe we’re ineffectual administrators.
Some of us let other people take control over what we do and even what we feel. We develop the attitude that things happen and all we can do is react. We manage our lives and circumstances, but we don’t take control. Taking responsibility for our lives must be an intentional choice.
If we wake up tomorrow and still go to our jobs and take care of our kids, we are choosing to do those things. We could just as easily wake up tomorrow and become mountaintop hermits. Although it doesn’t always feel that way, the choice is ours (see Choice).
So, if we’re rulers, what exactly does that mean? What do our realms look like? Who make up our realms?
As we go through the days, weeks, and years, we gravitate toward certain people and away from others. Those with whom we maintain contact are the citizens of our realms. Our realms are vast and varied. Many people may want citizenship, but we have to be intentional about who we allow in.
There are different levels of citizenship. Some people are tradesmen in our realms. These are citizens who perform specific functions. They include coaches, car-pool mates, employees, bosses, teachers, students—anyone who serves in a particular role. Although their roles in the realms are specific, we should allow them social mobility. These citizens may rise to higher levels of citizenship. But we have to be vigilant. If people enter a realm and do something that is inconsistent with the spirit of the realm, they should be asked to leave. We must be firm about this. Only citizens in good standing should stay in our realms.
Some people may rise to the level of peers. Our peers are those with whom we have emotional connections. They are our family and friends. They are the people we care about.
Some of our peers become members of our courts. They are the Lords and Ladies of our realms. As rulers, we alone decide who can appear in court and who can’t. Ideally, the members of our courts should be with us for a long time. They make our courts happy, interesting, exciting, and fun.
My own reign has been rocky at times.
I have doubted my right to the throne. Like many people, I have sometimes lacked the confidence to take charge of my own life and everything in it. As a result, I have given other people temporary rule over my feelings and my activities; I have put my reign in the hands of usurpers. But these periods have never lasted very long, and, over time, I have become much better at recognizing threats to my rule.
I have allowed people who have no right to be there into my realm—and even into my court. I should not allow those who have a negative influence on my realm into my kingdom, but I have sometimes granted citizenship to people who haven’t deserved it, people who have chipped away at the foundation of the realm, people who have actively worked against the good of the realm. Such people may appear interesting, exciting, and full of promise. But, if we dig deeper, we can see these pretenders for what they truly are. We have to understand the connections between the people in our lives and the health of our realms.
Sometimes I dream of other realms. I feel that my realm is lacking in some way, look to other realms, and wish for what they have. But then I remember: I am the supreme ruler of my realm, and I can forge it into whatever shape I want. I remember that I should follow my own vision for my realm, and if that includes elements of other realms, great. But each realm is unique. My realm is what I make it.
Like most, my reign has had its ups and downs, but I am steadfast in my rule, and my realm will prevail.