Empty Chair

| by Alison Hundt |

I’ve always had something sitting in front of me. Sometimes it was a blessing in disguise. Sometimes, it was disguised as a blessing. It was always an obstacle.

As a child, I sat at the table with a host of ‘something’s.  I managed to turn each obstacle into a nicely wrapped accomplishment, and then sat waiting for the next one. I took childhood poverty and became good with my money. I turned child neglect into self-sufficiency, molded abandonment into independence, repurposed abuse into strength, and transformed disappointments into determination.

I got annoyingly creative and became an encyclopedia of clichés – but nicely wrapped and organized ones. I grew into adulthood with a constant stream of disguises set in front of me. It was my purpose to use that unknown for good whether it was a blessing or not. It was my purpose to overcome the obstacle and add it to the file of completed life experiences. I overcame my childhood. I put myself through college, bought a house, started a career, got my younger siblings to graduate, helped my mom get clean, started a relationship with my dad, helped inner city and suburban youth find meaning and made a difference in their lives – I even graduated from therapy!

And now, for the first time, that seat in front of me is empty. I tried to fill it myself last year. I traveled the world alone, I explored other cultures, I went out of my comfort zone and learned new things – more nicely wrapped life experiences to add to my files, but now I’m back home. My mom doesn’t need me. My siblings are living their own lives. My career has been successful. My home is beautiful. My friends are fulfilling.

So why does that empty chair mean so much to me? Why do I feel so lonely without it? Do I sit here and wait for the next obstacle? What purpose does my life hold without obstacles to overcome? What is the purpose of my life now? What is the point – when everything is nicely wrapped, organized, and on display for others to learn from? If I allow myself to be honest, I think I want an obstacle to sit in front of me because I know another human being never will. Or maybe, I need to just get up and walk away.

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