I have had to start life over three times now, once when my ex-wife kept all of my belongings when I moved out and I had a computer and the clothes on my back, once when I left the world of far-right extremism, once when I found Judaism and currently work on it as I lose my ability to walk. Those instances, although each different, taught me valuable lessons on how to mentally cope with drastic changes and come out the other side better than before. Let me begin with a caveat here; starting over isn’t easy, it requires internal strength, hope, and a desire to step out of one’s comfort zone to enact positive change.
The first time I had to start over, was after leaving my ex-wife in Arizona to go to North Carolina, leaving my ex with enough money to quickly ship me my belongings (as she promised). I lost everything from clothes to books, from DVDs and CDs to my original art, everything down to pictures from my past. It was a dark and crushing time for me, but it was also a time that taught me many lessons that I carry with me today.
I learned to firstly, appreciate what I have, no matter how small it is, and second, to not place emotional value on objects, only experiences, and people. I learned that the fear of starting over from nothing is actually an opportunity to rebuild into something and someone even better than before. I learned that once you’re at absolute rock bottom, there is nowhere to go but up, so keep an eye on the future, while living in the present.
I also learned that it’s impossible to start a new life when you’re surrounded by everything that constantly reminds you of the past. Keeping all of those old belongings would have reminded me of all of the wasted years, the horrible things that happened to me, and would have me stuck living in the past. I would have been kept from living and enjoying the newness of the life I was living in the present and would have been unable to see an evolving future.
The next time I started over, was when the walls of extremism came crashing down, I lost belief in the ideology, and left the movement altogether. I lost more than the first time honestly, every piece of media I once enjoyed; documentaries, books, music, as well as clothing, style, certain mannerisms, words I once used regularly, and even all of my friends were gone overnight. I had to change every aspect of myself that I held onto for twenty-plus years of my life and I did a great deal of work on it myself, but later had help from a former Nation of Islam member (Bee) who also wanted to break down his indoctrination.
That was much harder than rebuilding the first time, as this was in effect rebuilding every aspect of me, from the ground up!
I started by finding new media to ingest, slowly building up more diverse tastes, and through my own work and work with Bee, I destroyed whatever ideology or hang-ups I had against anyone. The hardest part is taking accountability for everything in your own life, scapegoating nothing onto anyone external, that part bites the deepest. It is exceedingly difficult to say every failure, every pain, every falling I have had is on me, and only I can change and work through it, and not say it’s because of so and so, or come up with a grand racial conspiracy.
The final time came when I found out I am Jewish and then converted to Judaism, after 32 years as a mainstay and household name in the occult. I wrote books, gave lectures, painted occult art and idols for a living, and led an international organization, and I had been an occultist since I was 10 years old. This was another huge restart for me, I had my book retired from print, I stopped making and selling occult art, I ceased lectures that would draw in millions of viewers, and I passed my organization onto someone I knew I could trust.
I began the arduous task of the conversion process with my whole family, wife and four children included, and became an obsessive reader of all things Jewish. I put away and got rid of all things related to the occult, however many occultist friends I had remained friends regardless, so I would not have to end all of my friendships as I did the second time I started new.
Change can be pretty frightening, it forces us out of our comfort zone, but change can lead to a better and more fulfilling life. Change is what terrifies people most when they are forced to start over, the fear of the unknown, the fear of a future that does not even exist yet. Without change there is only stagnation, without taking that proverbial leap of faith into the unknown, it will never be known, and so starting over first becomes an exercise in controlling fear and apprehension.
When forced into change and starting anew, it becomes more frightening, as you feel like you have essentially lost control over your life, but none of us hold total control, that is wholly a myth. The more you clutch for absolute control in life, the more you fear any and all change and become afraid to leave your comfort zone, instead you begin opting for stagnation. Life has a way of finding us in our stagnation and giving us something that we could not have prepared for and forcing us into some sort of change through negative means.
Death, loss of employment, loss of friends, loss of free time, loss of health, etcetera… this is why I often tell people stagnation is the precursor of death, only change makes something and someone new. Only change helps to see the world differently, to find beauty where there was none before, and to feel wonderment over the very fact that you exist at all!
So, starting over is scary, it’s the fear of the unknown, it’s the fear of change, but sometimes the especially strong step out of their comfort zone themselves, declaring, “I have to change or life will have lost its luster, it’s meaning, or that I was wrong and need to change for the better.” They willfully change, and though it may manifest in ways they are wholly unprepared for, they are ready to face the challenges ahead for the sake of a brighter tomorrow.
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.“ – H.P. Lovecraft
Why is it that some people have a fear of telling others how they feel, or asking someone to go out with them? Well, it’s the same fear of the unknown, the fear of potential change, but if everyone neglected to do so, the world would be far less populous. It takes genuine courage and inner strength to change and start over, more so when you are afraid, but do so anyway. It takes true grit and determination when stepping into the unknown, with a belly full of butterflies and razor blades. But look at the alternative… is the alternative better than what could be?
I’ve started over three times, each was different, and each was terrifying for me, but I knew what could be at worse from the change, was better than where I was currently at best. I knew that my comfort zone was a comfortable lie, while change can at times be a painful truth. Today, I don’t look to the future, it isn’t written yet, I live in the now and let that formulate what the future looks like, and what change might look like.
I doubt I will need to start over again, but should I need to, I know that I am prepared to make it better than where I have been. That confidence isn’t false, it comes from having life start over three times in the past, and realizing how much better my life is today because of each. If I could do it, I promise you that you can too, and possibly even better than I have, as it just takes a small leap, to clear a huge crevice called fear. Even if you lack faith in yourself, I have faith in you… I know you can do it because I have done it thrice myself.
Now, as I lose my ability to walk, slowly, painfully, and as I lose things I’ve done since I was a small child, martial arts, wrestling etc… I face the vacuous artifice of change once more. This time, although more health-oriented and drastic, more non-positive change, I have the tenacity to face it and meet the challenges presented before me. The degrading and dehumanizing aspects are more difficult honestly, needing a commode, needing more help to get around, and the like, but I face these things with the courage of someone who has undergone some pretty radical changes already.
I’ve begun filling my life with things I can still do, to compensate for what I’ve lost my ability to do, I have the support of friends and family, and I’m looking at the bright side of things (at least my legs won’t hurt on long walks)!
Starting over is only scary when you cannot see the potential for better and when all the roads you can see are lined with jagged stone and dim lighting. I have a saying people often get angry about hearing, “Have a great day, or make it great yourself,” and what this means is that only you can make life what you want it to be. Starting over should be seen as an opportunity, not a setback because once you’re in the driver’s seat of your life, the road only ends when you take your foot off the pedal.
© 2022 Frederick W Cook
This article was featured on Son Of Sinai