Most “bucket list” activities are ones that interrupt all the conceptualizing — all the internal commentary — and force you to be with your own humanity. As fun as roller-coasters or sky-diving may be, they aren’t required for a fully-experienced life. We simply have to get that we don’t have access to our experiences anymore — just our memories of them (which, as you might consider, are a little distorted sometimes).
This year, give up invalidating yourself. Relating to yourself as incapable. Making yourself wrong. Give up resisting the parts of yourself you don’t like, for when you resist the rapids, you get hurled into stones. Instead, celebrate them. For what’s celebrated is acknowledged, and what’s acknowledged is heard, and what’s heard becomes quiet.
Nothing wrong with following your dreams, but it’s important to get responsible for the narrow thinking it can result in. When dreams are the shot-caller, we’re easily tricked — blinded, rather — into the rock and the hard place. We naturally think that actualizing that dream is the sole route to experiencing the type of happiness that breaks the Richter scale of elation.
Contrary to popular belief, reactions are not at the heart of the matter. A reaction is merely a by-product of what’s given rein at a far more profound and consequential level. Dealing with a by-product is much like dealing with a symptom — you have to address the source, the sickness itself, if you wish for it to disappear. Otherwise, you’re looking at a series of perpetual Band-aids.
Who I truly am is perfect, enough, and missing nothing. The identity is simply the roadblock to my expression and experience of who I really am. The identity may cause some success, but it hardly generates lasting fulfillment. Love — not for the superfluous warm and fuzzies, but for the sake of getting that close to one’s humanity — is the access to a life worth living. I can notice when the identity is at play, robbing the boy of all his joy and wonder. This isn’t something I can think about, for thinking is far too subjective and easily collapsed inside the survival mechanism. I have to look.
I’ll be straight with you: there are some days I am just flat-out insecure. I seek validation and praise like a five-year old requesting his drawing be tacked onto the fridge. I often do this by virtue of writing (pretty easy to distinguish this based on my tone), posting on Instagram, or sharing my accomplishments via trumpet-calls and humblebrags with the people I most admire.
I wanted so badly to be useful because I never felt like I was. I had a taste of feeling like I was needed — that I mattered — and as a result, it had me scared to death to suspend any of the behavior that led to it. To be totally vulnerable. To be wildly curious. To be silent. And it’s now become a paradox: the deeper I focus on being a leader and being useful for people, the easier I fall into the trap of being that way with everyone, including potential romantic partners.
As with anything pure, once commercialized past a particular threshold, virtues barrel right into cliché. They devolve into tips, hacks, quick wins, or something to apply to improve a situation. They become something inherently selfish meant for consumption, as opposed to the contribution they are meant to be for others. They become the exact opposite of what they actually are in essence.
Much of living a good life these days gets collapsed somewhere within the pillars of happiness, morality and love. As powerful as those are on their own volition, all three can vanish quicker than we can even realize we’re losing our grip. It’s not about just making sure you end up with a good life — it’s how effective we are in managing what causes a good life that makes all the difference. Anyone can luck into love or happiness — to create it, is a whole different story.
As I stood there with my head bowed and eyes closed, I saw where I was not even a year ago. I saw the young man who so vehemently resisted taking the look in the mirror. The beautiful, heartbreaking moments that led to the sense of calm I feel today. The pain and hurt that others so graciously took on all those years because I didn’t have the capacity to see beyond my own view. I saw it all.
What my ordinary game kept us from was reaching the apex of why you play the game in the first place. The magic, the beauty, and the honor of charging side-by-side toward a goal much greater than a single person, that you have no guarantee of reaching and an even better chance of getting heartbroken in the process.
Art is not science. Trying to fit the fluidity of human emotion into the rigid expectations we have for our lives takes away all appreciation for it. The paradox being human very much has to do with deeming the nonsense in our head as valid, while being resistant to label the ordinary as remarkable.
In any case, searching to like hell to figure out a person or organization’s motive puts you at the effect of it all — rendered powerless. And when you can’t or won’t take the time to discover, you’ll often end up choosing something apathetic by default simply because it lets you off on an easier hook.
It’s your life, ultimately. We only get one. It’s invaluable. Yet, we tend to show it in funny ways. It seems our fear gets out in front a lot faster than our appreciation and thus, the self-love factor is leveraged in response to said fear — i.e. “I’m scared shitless about the amount of time I have left, and I need to ensure it’s lived with enjoyment, care and — most notably — undisturbed comfort.”
The dreams themselves may never be realized, but the dreaming (and subsequent chasing) often produces results imperceptible to the imagination. “It’s better than I could’ve ever dreamed of,” is the ultimate goal. And you conjuring up the scary shit your ordinary self says you cannot have and gunning for it anyway is the source of someone else being able to say those words.
Life can easily become about doing just enough to look good for everyone else, blind to the fact that something’s inherently missing inside you. You know this intellectually, but catching this inclination in the moment is a taller order. The truth is always fleeting, and it’s up to us to grab hold before it surpasses our reach.
When social issues are brought up, it’s a communication that humanity is suffering. I can either get on the field and contribute something — anything — or I can remain watching from the sidelines, continuing to blow off what a vast collective are upset over. Eye-rolling, looking the other way, or pretending I didn't hear isn’t making a difference for anyone — and that’s not what I want my life to stand for.