The over-simplification of life’s grandest inquiries.
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I’d like to catch everyone up on how I got here. Despite some questionable methods, I’ve always rendered my life as fragile. I’ve understood — intellectually, at least — that I only get one shot. I’ve understood that there are no do-overs. And I’ve understood that my legacy is that of a butterfly effect, where I’m responsible for a lot more than just my actions and interpretations.
I didn’t have a rulebook for life — certainly not defending anything here, for many have come before me and accomplished far more with less (to you, my hat is off and envy is omnipresent). I merely saw what I wanted and went after it with the best of my common knowledge.
But because I treated life as so easily broken, I often overdid it attempting to protect its elements — namely, my ego, reputation, image, self-esteem, and general public perception.
If you’ve read the foreward, you already know that didn’t work out too well. I’m hardly the first person to get hung up on his own shit, but I certainly spared no style points in the process. Relationships ruined by fear, friendships impeded by secrets, and inner peace foregone via the discernible absence of compassion.
In retrospect, it wasn’t all bad — I cared enough about my life to continue getting out of bed and trying, albeit acquiescent that it probably wasn’t going to get any better, yet prideful enough to throw the scent off the suffering trail. I had great parents — I didn’t listen to them all that much, but both were influential enough to keep the house of cards from collapsing into finality. And I always seemed to get lucky enough to have just enough money to get by at whatever level I was trying to play at (results may vary).
Still, the overbearing undertone of “You can’t mess this up” would taunt me. The “Why haven’t you made it yet?”s and “What is taking so long?” had taken out a long-term lease in my head — the pitch too piercing to ignore.
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Enter personal development. How original, right? Like you need another quote or inspirational message. Have you been on Instagram lately? I hadn’t. It was all new to me. And despite most of the curriculum being devolved from cliche, I liked the effect it had on me. For the first time in my life, I was authentically empowered. No over-falsity of confidence. No testosterone-driven arrogance. No overt attempts at surmounting insecurity. And while it certainly came with some crap, the shit was kept at bay.
This was refreshing. Real progress — what a concept. I grew addicted to this feeling, registering for seminar after seminar, reading book after book, ripping idea after idea.
The results were unlike anything I had ever seen. I mended relationships, confronted many of deepest-seated fears, and embodied a boldness many explicitly revered. Even the fact that you’re reading this right now is a result of the initial influenza that overcame me, pushing me to communicate what I was uncovering through a variety of expansive channels.
And best of all, when I screwed up, I wasn't blind to it. I was able to comfortably call myself out and take responsibility, instead of shirking and assigning it elsewhere. A lack of self-awareness had plagued me perpetually over the years, and now it was finally within my grasp.
What I failed to realize, however — and still struggle with to this day — is how quickly your strengths can become weaknesses.
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Cue the eye roll. You may have heard a similar story before. Guy has a horrible relationship with himself, and therefore horrible relationships with others. Alienates one too many people and is forced to look in the mirror. Looks. Goes to a seminar. Gets “enlightened”. Tells people what to do on the internet every other day based on what he’s learning from various conflicting sources. Attempts to become a personal development guru and lifestyle savant. Rides off into the sunset (Send me the bill for your carpet cleaning from where you just threw up).
I’m not here to give you any of that. I’m tired of typing that stuff as much as you’re tired of reading it. But here’s the real, honest value of what I’ve taken away from my unremarkable, traditionally Western, run-of-the-mill journey to self-awareness:
Like humility, the minute you think you’re aware, you’re not.
Developing yourself as a person is total paradox, man — and by the way, you don’t have to. If you do, circumstances may be a little easier to bear, but who am I to judge? Either way, I don’t have any answers for you. I’m not a guru. I’m not an expert. I’m not a “master practitioner” like the online certification I completed says I am. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know. I’ve only been chipping away at my psyche from a lateral perspective for (almost) a year now — hardly long enough to develop a solid, fortified foundation to extract bona fide wisdom from.
The more I work at bettering myself, the more susceptible I am to blind spots. The more I try to be grateful, the harder it is for me to feel it emotionally. The more I try to protect this life, the more I realize I’m putting it at risk.
I found a silver lining, however. The hard work attempting to avoid messing it up is all for naught. You can’t mess it up because you can’t get it right. It’s inherently arbitrary.
Here’s the straight dope of what I feel at this particular moment in time: life is fucking art, not science. This shit is a roll of the proverbial dice. The fact that I’m sitting here typing this right now is a godsend. And for no other reason whatsoever. I did nothing to get here — I was gifted every single bit of it. I was dealt an extraordinary hand. And holy shit, do I lose sight of that far more often than I should.
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I’ve written about pain, suffering, anxiety, fear, self-deprecation, self-loathing, and just about every other ridiculously selfish connotation you wish to add to the list. Time after time after time, I’ve flat-out missed the most important lesson of all: I am entitled to nothing — not even my own feelings. The fact that I’m experiencing some perceived, gradiose discomfort is actually a product of a thousand imperceptible, muted blessings. I don’t want to veer too far to the left on you here, but the quickest way out of your own problems is to get outside of yourself.
When it’s all about you, it’s you against the world — which can be liberating for a period, but will eventually exhaust you to the point of diminishing returns. When you treat yourself like a cog in the machine, lucky enough to have made it so far down the conveyer belt without meeting the incinerator, life’s a little less dark.
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I can’t mess this up. You can’t mess this up. There may be morality, legality, religion, and politicking, but there’s no specific way to live your life the “right” way. That’s so much damn pressure. I’ve found, the less I make it about me, the happier I am. The inverse is true, also — which is why I’ve got to remember to ask myself who and what I’m doing it for the next time I walk into a seminar.
To paint a masterpiece, the artist must stroke the brush from the heart. It’s still a game of chance how the work will fare, but the likelihood of success skyrockets when love is at the source.
The petty nuances, I’ll do without. The world — America, specifically — is a cluttered mess. It’s up to the individual to look beyond the distractions and realize the zenith in which they’ve been given, for it’s distinct to each person.
Once that occurs, the individual has the best chance possible to make a positive impact on others — when they’re feeling thankful and appreciative.
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I want to apologize to everyone in my life for not doing that lately. I’ve been making it about me. I’ve been slipping back into the self-absorbed ways of old. The past and the present have felt far too close for comfort and it’s scared the ever-living shit out of me. But I’m proud to say — at least for this moment until it goes to my head and my awareness has to be found once more — I’m moving past all that.
No more lack. No more entitlement. No more shoulds, woulds or could haves. I don’t have that much control. All I have is my best — it’s up to me to choose it, or something else. Hard to love what’s right in front of you when you stay wallowing in the cosmos.
I could be anyone right now, but I’m me. And I don’t despise myself (anymore), so I’d say that’s a damn good draw.
I consider that box checked, and now it’s off to more important duties, such as growth and contribution.
And honor. Helping my fellow man — through giving my best, remaining thankful for every precious, fleeting moment, and finding more ways to be of service.
If I must do things for myself, I’ll do it for either the excited, bright-eyed little boy of my past, or the gentle, humble, and wise man of my future — there’s plenty of celebrations to be had and lessons to be absorbed.
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Love can run far, far away if you make it all about you. I’m beginning to get a grip on that now. I haven’t mastered this, but the warning is being etched in stone this time versus written in pencil.
I can’t mess this up. It’s too important.
I can’t mess this up. There is no mess.
I can’t. Mess. This. Up.
It’s not possible.
It’s far too beautiful.
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