I don’t know what is going on, but in the last week, something has hit me and completely overcome me like nothing before. I feel I have fallen into the valley of revelation and now so much has become clear to me. I feel that I can look through the last year of my life, maybe the hardest, and see what happened to a young man who was just trying to do what was right and in doing so lost his “true” self. It all started a week ago when a friend of mine, Jen, came to visit.

Through many conversations about this thing we call life, I realized how easy it is to lose the ability to actually “live”. Let me give an illustration of my point before I share, maybe for the first time, what really happened to me last year.

A very unusual experiment was conducted by John Fabre, the French naturalist, consisting of processionary caterpillars, a type of caterpillar that blindly follows the one in front of it. This explains the name processionary caterpillar. The experiment consisted of several of these caterpillars, a flowerpot filled to the rim with dirt, and pine needles. Fabre put the caterpillars in line to form a complete circle around the rim of the flowerpot, with the first one touching the back of the last one. The pine needles, the staple food of the processionary caterpillar, were placed in the center of the circle. The caterpillars began their procession around the flowerpot, one following the other in a circle. This went on hour after hour, day after day, for an entire week. In the end, every one of the caterpillars dropped dead of starvation. The one thing that could have saved them was only six inches away, but without getting off of their “autopilot”, the caterpillars continued with a habitual routine that eventually proved too much to endure.

Last year as the TWUSA President, there came a point where I felt something change inside me, something that clicked on and I knew it was the beginning of a hard road. I could see the symptoms as I slowly began to be like a processionary caterpillar and just go through the motions and actions. I shut off emotions and feelings and wanted only to focus on the next task at hand, in an altruistic way, as I thought it was the right thing to do. Slowly I found myself not being able to attend morning mass anymore, for fear of what the peace and quiet might do. It would have forced me to think about myself and evaluate my “true self” which was slowly vanishing. My friendships began to fade away and I literally found myself in a place where I felt I had to create a “new” Jamie in order to garner acceptance. My values and morals became an element of compromise as my integrity was blurred and the party life began. Over time, I created a “false self” which was nothing to who I was when I began. Like the caterpillars, I feel that I kept my mind and soul on autopilot until I dropped dead.

For some reason I knew this would happen and was aware I would need time away. In early January I booked 2 month tickets overseas. When I got on that plane, I took no music, rarely read anything, and literally spent time just sitting there thinking. Whether that was a 17 hour bus ride to Cairo or a 7 hour Flight to Madrid, so much time was just spent thinking and contemplating who I was and who I had become.

The thing that I have learned from all this I think is of some importance and a lesson that I will keep for the rest of my life. What happened is that my life slowly became filled with a buildup of anxiety, worry, fear and it brought me to a place of depression. (Yes I think I was in depression the last semester of school). Because of the existence of these things, I was barely able to talk about it or engage my mind to go there, for fear of what I might discover. The autopilot was now turned on. The key thing to see though is that these issues of anxiety and fear acted as a BLOCK, forming an impasse for me to effectively use my skills. They had deskilled me. No longer could I effectively engage in relationships and friendships; no longer could I motivate and inspire others. I honestly felt like a wash-up that last month at school. I had nothing to offer. I even remember a point in time where I had to tell a group who was working on a project, that I brought more negativity to the task force and that I was of no use to be on their team, I had no skills to offer, as they were blocked.

What I forget and what didn’t come to me until I was somewhere way over there in the Middle East is that it what I truly needed was peace inside my soul and I would not find that until I stopped living the “UNLIVED LIFE” and began to unshed my “false self” and find who I really am. This had to be done by encountering my fears, my fear of myself and what I had become. In the creation of that “false self” I had, without being aware of it, filled my soul with many things that in the end really don’t matter and will only lead to an unsatisfied, empty road.

You know, Jen pointed out something to me that I really agree with. Are not so many of us on this same path? Are we not in some way trying to find the true passion of our life? Why have we allowed that “autopilot” to disconnect us from our emotions? Everyone needs an “emotional trashcan” that we can simply talk, talk, and talk about all this with. If we do not find an avenue to get reconnected to our emotions and let go by letting the vulnerability let it out, we will never turn that damn autopilot off. It is like an “air conditioner motor” in our head constantly churning and humming, so loud that we no longer hear the voice that once was our conscience.

I think in some sense we are all on the same journey and we simply just want to be free, truly free from it. Last year I have never felt so many chains and bondage that simply continued a downward spiral for me. However, as Jen said, sometimes along the way you find people who are in a similar place, or where you are at and they can help you along.

You know Airbus, a French company that rivals Boeing, they believe that their planes should be made with the autopilot having the final say over pilots. So that means that if a pilot sees another plane coming towards them on a landing lets say, (by the way now days pilots don’t even land the plane, it is all done by auto-pilot), of he tries to pull the plane up immediately, the autopilot will override his action, cause it think (knows) such a drastic alteration would stall the engines and cause a free fall, therefore the autopilot stops the action. Crazy, but do you see the correlation.

We have to get our lives off autopilot before we become deskilled, lose any semblance of our emotions and sanctity and therefore crash.