The Kerosene Lamp

I had the honor of doing my first group motivational talk about a month ago. It was both a culmination and a dawning in my quest for my true identity and passion. Culmination because it marked the end of a journey that began six months ago when I finally took the plunge from the known into the unknown, murky world of self-employment. A new dawn because I was now doing what I truly desired, what made me who I am, a true realization of my identity.

When I first asked myself who I truly was three years ago, my identity was mired in my titles, material possessions and relationships. Most of us will tend to define ourselves based on the people and things around us and not who we really are when everything is stripped away. I was no different and I found myself frustrated by the feeling of worthlessness despite having a pretty decent life. As I started to peel away the masks that I had hidden behind for decades, I slowly started to realize my true vision. Interestingly it was something that I had always spoken about as a small child – to be a teacher. To shape behavior. To influence. To transform lives through imparting knowledge.

For me, the greatest feeling is guiding someone in peeling away the layers and masks to rediscover what truly makes them tick. What makes them happy. The light inside of each of us which will not be extinguished easily though we go to great lengths to keep it suppressed and possibly, forgotten.

The other day, I was thinking of this light inside of us and the way it lies just waiting to be unveiled. It reminded me of a kerosene lamp. For those of you born before the 80s like me, this will probably invoke quite a bit of nostalgia. This was way before the solar lamp or even pressure lamp. The type that had a blue metal frame that held a fragile glass mounted on a metal base. The base was also the storage for the kerosene and was completely covered save for a small slit from which sprung the wick that was lit to produce the flame.

Now this lamp was treated almost like a child. It had to be stored safely to avoid damage to the glass – scratches or God forbid, breakage as the lamp was utterly useless without that glass. The glass also had to be shined to ensure sufficient light to illuminate the darkness. Touching the glass with our bare hands was forbidden as that would leave smudges on it. There was a lever on the side of the frame whose purpose was to lift the glass up and down to access the wick. The wick also needed extra care and trimming to ensure the flame would be “clean” and not full of black soot. Once the lamp was lit, if you turned the wick up too far the flame would produce a lot of smoke which would blacken the glass. If you turned it down too low, it would drop into the base and retrieving it involved a messy dismantling of the entire lamp.

This lamp was actually a diva of sorts now that I think about it. I digress though.

When I think about identity and self-awareness, I draw a lot of parallels with this lamp of our younger days. The frame is our physical bodies – what people see on the outside. The flame and wick represent our true identity. It is only in embracing our true selves that we truly shine. Just as that flame illuminates the darkness, so does your true identity and passion illuminate your life and the lives of those around you.  The glass represents our minds. Our thoughts. Our feelings. Our conscious choices. We determine how our thoughts or even other people will influence our identity. The kerosene in the lamp is our foundation. The basis for everything that we do.

Who are you allowing to influence your thoughts or desires or passions? Who determines your vision, you or those around you? Who is smudging your vision such that your light does not illuminate clearly through the confusion of life around you? Do you protect your thoughts and vision from those who would seek to damage them? Just as the lamp is useless without the glass, your life has no meaning if you do not have your own thoughts, opinions and decisions.  If you aren’t clear about who you truly are, then your goals and vision will not have much clarity.  Turning up the wick just right also illustrates the delicate balance required when nurturing our true passions and desires. Too much and we could burn out; too little and your flame will never illuminate. And to top it all off, even with all the clarity of vision of purpose in the world, without motivation (fuel), you are pretty much dead in the water. What motivates you? What do you allow as fuel in your life?

I hope that these questions ignite a fire inside of you; a journey of introspection to determine if you are aware of who you truly are. If nothing else, I trust that on your next trip to the village, you will gaze upon the old kerosene lamp with a fresh set of eyes.

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