systemic

When looking for a job, it’s amazing how often that little word, ‘qualifications’ comes into play. Sure, maybe I’m organized, interested, and able to communicate well, but I definitely don’t have 3+ years of experience in the field. To get that 3+ years, however, you need a certain major, be unpaid, and work part-time.

As young adults, practically all the people I know my age want to be able to survive. Financial stability is a dream. Gone are the days when a person works for a single company for most of their life, can depend on having medical insurance, retirement, and time off. The rise of the gig economy is flexible, but it comes at long term cost, heaven forbid a person gets sick or old.

There is a lot of anxiety in my generation, both the mental health issue and also as a result of systemic issues blocking us from getting the resources we need to survive and have a stable life.

Anxiety, in a way, keeps us alert. It keeps us awake. It makes us think about the options so we don’t fall into an easy trap. Anxiety as a mental issue is when that alert is never turned off, when all of the options are considered over and over again, and when thoughts themselves become the trap.

When the world is stable, anxiety can be solved through therapy alone. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help retrain cyclical thoughts and meditation can help calm a restless soul. The problem is that our current age isn’t so stable for a lot of people.

Not all Millenials are rich white middle-class young adults who eat too much avocado toats. Millennials are in fact the most diverse generation compared to anyone before it, in beliefs, race, sexuality, etc. Anxiety is a real problem, perhaps as a mental issue itself for individuals, but also as a result of the problems this generation and the one after faces with climate change, global shifts towards populism, mass incarceration of black bodies, etc.

Anxiety is something that needs to be managed, and absolutely we should do what we can to change it on the individual level. However, a generational wide problem is indicative of a system-wide problem. We should all try and push ourselves to understand the bigger issues and see what we can do to solve the systemic issues we face.

Photo Credit: Enya Callibuso

stop making emotions your enemy

When someone moves on the floor above me, it sounds strangely like water. Sloshing. Although I seriously doubt any individuals are shoving large bins of water around. However, I can still imagine that scenario if I desire because I can choose to see things in a different light.

We can’t change our beliefs. We don’t choose what we believe or what we feel. Our experiences give us information and we translate that information in a way we want to. Our emotions take us over whether we realize it or no, always lurking and influencing our decisions, no matter how rational we desire to be. Even our desire to be rational is still fueled by emotion, like pride or a sense of honor.

Yet the word “lurking”, isn’t fitting. Emotions aren’t evil. Emotions aren’t some sort of enemy we have to conquer and keep down.

Nor is rationality evil, or leading us to an unhappy life. People who advocate for getting rid of all emotions or all rationality are both irrational and likely spurred by emotion.

We need moments in our lives where we do the irrational thing. We need those moments where we act silly because the alternative is to be miserable. There comes a line between carrying out one’s responsibilities and also not dying a dull bore.

When we villainize our emotions, we begin to make ourselves into the enemy. We begin to shame ourselves when we don’t feel the ‘right’ thing. It feels good when someone we don’t like embarrasses themselves. It feels good to hate annoying people. It feels good to be vicious from time to time. Feeling that inclination doesn’t mean you are evil, it means you’re human. To some, that might be one and the same.

But that’s not the point. The point is that we shouldn’t shame ourselves for something we cannot control, but rather focus on what we can control. Why are you feeling good when your peer fails? Ask yourself about the feeling. Track down where it’s coming from.

Many times when we feel hatred, we feel it because we are afraid. Hatred is an outlet for our insecurities. It feels good to hate because it gives us a sense of power, and that power stabilizes us for a time. It doesn’t solve the core problem, however. It doesn’t solve the core insecurity and ignoring it will only make the problem grow worse.

Our emotions are not foreign entities, they are us, and we should embrace them as we gently guide them. We can choose to see things in a different light. We can’t change our immediate perceptions, but we can change how we interpret what they mean.

little weights and balance

There is a balance between being patient with yourself, and encouraging yourself to actually get things done.

Oftentimes we have to treat ourselves like small children. We have to reward ourselves with snacks, set time apart for naps, make sure our schedule is in line. Things become messy when we realize the person who will reward us is usually us. It’s easy to be our child-self, far more difficult to convince ourselves to be adults.

Being an adult seems like its own world when you’re a child. It is a set of concepts we associate with responsibility and personal power: opening accounts, setting a budget, going grocery shopping, going to work, etc. It seems foreign to those who haven’t done it, terrifying, really.

But it’s a challenge like every other we face. We learn things one by one. We walk to a place, we fill out a form, and we ask questions when we aren’t sure.

Being “adult” is more or less scary to different individuals, but the same idea holds for a lot of things. Fundamentally, we build things up in our head. We make mole hills into mountains and that makes the prospect of climbing them far more difficult. No matter how complicated a task, we break it down into simpler steps. No matter how important a decision is, the moments leading up help give us the necessary information.

So be patient with yourself on the little things, but get those little things done. All of the huge weights we create are an accumulation of little bits we can handle.

the shift

I’ve been moving slowly but surely, and my mind is slugging down to the absolute minimum rate necessary for survival. Before this semester started, I was aiming for great things, extra miles, the beyond-part of above and beyond. At this point, I’m celebrating if I can get by.

And that’s a shift. A significant one.

I can’t pretend like I’m put together, I don’t have the energy anymore. But the more time goes on, the more I’m disillusioned with the whole idea of “put together” in the first place. If my body is a machine, it’s still running. I’m still breathing, eating, walking around. Consider language! The complexity of it, how even amazing animals like dolphins are significantly limited in their communication. And yet we have that, most of us without effort. Most of us are ‘put together’ in most ways already.

For the rest of our existence, life is variable.

You can try to make plans, but they are fundamental guesses you throw at an unknown that might bend in unexpected ways. We put in the effort anyway, and we should, but why is it a mark against us when the universe doesn’t conform to our tiny, limited view?

The race of life isn’t so much a race as a bucket full of marbles being dumped with a lattice of shoots catching them on their way down.

Do the best you can, but comfort yourself with that same thought: you are doing the best you can. And if you aren’t, re-evaluate yourself. There might be something else going on, and that’s to be expected.

Life is hard, but we keep going anyways, embracing the absurdity and reveling in existence for its own sake.

delays and de-lazy

I apologize for the delay in posts, I had a draft that I forgot to publish two days ago. That in and of itself is a bit symbolic for how my head has been. I’m lucky enough to be so supported by a good circle of family and friends, but my mind has been struggling to focus. The issue is that I have a significant amount of work that I need to do.

So here is my advice on the topic: get back up. Even if you’re late responding to an email, respond. Even if you’re late to class, still show up. If you made mistakes, if you couldn’t get the things done you wanted to, jump back in. Do what you can.

“Do what you can”, is incredibly vague. I realize that. Some things we can physically do, but we really shouldn’t or we’ll screw ourselves over in the future. In the most technical semantic sense, you probably could kill someone (it’s what you can do), but that doesn’t mean you should.

When I mutter to myself, “Do what you can”, I’m referring to those specific tasks on my to-do list. Aim for accomplishing as much as the list as possible, and by the end of the day, try to be okay with the fact you only were able to accomplish half.

Some days we are more productive than others. I’m beginning to learn this, although the trick is learning how to be consistently on top of your productivity game.

Some of those tricks include sleeping well, eating well, and staying consistent with your schedule. You can live a fun, novel, and flexible life while still going to bed at 11pm and waking up at 7am. You can enjoy the deliciousness of a good meal while remaining relatively healthy.

Structure isn’t the enemy. When it comes to being free to live your life, there is a certain level of limitation that actually serves us. Limiting our intake of alcohol, decadent food, media, etc., are all ways that improve our ability to be happy and available to do many things.

The issue with structure is that it’s sometimes difficult to implement in our own lives. Sleeping in feels great, even if it ruins the rest of your day.

Furthermore, there are some mistakes we can’t avoid making. Sometimes you forget to publish your post, for example, and there comes a shame because you failed yourself. We wake up late. We miss important emails. The random errors of life will always complicate things.

But so what if it’s difficult? Everything is difficult. The choice is what kind of problems we face for the outcome we want. Again, if you miss the email, respond anyways. If you make a mistake, try to fix it. Misery is comfortable at times, so make yourself uncomfortable.

Hiatus

Life is about decisions. I don’t think we can ever be 100% sure about our decisions, but I think it’s important that I try my best anyways. For right now, I know that I can’t upkeep this blog with consistent content and maintain my wellbeing at the same time, so I’m going on an indefinite hiatus. Perhaps I’ll be back in a month, or a year. But no matter what, remember that you are going to be okay, life just takes a while to work out sometimes.

materialism vs valuing material

In many ways, the material things we keep near us begin to become a part of our identity. Materials do matter. Having money is something we need, and it’s okay to want it. Dressing well has very real social results. The things we have and carry with us matter. The problem with materialism is when the physical things we have undercut or try to replace our well being.

Such as with the Instagram trend of artists showing what they have in their bags, or with the fashion we wear, how we adorn ourselves represents us in a very real way to those around us. While in some ways, a shirt may just be a shirt, it still says something. Are you the person who cares about trends? Are you confident enough to try out more risky styles? Even if one’s style is, “comfortable”, how far does that stretch? What colors are you incorporating? But it’s not only about fashion. For good or ill, for many people, our technology is also incorporated into our existence. It’s a part of how we survive the day to day, it’s a part of our routine, and our use of it because personalized to our needs and limits. Operating more or less dependently on a phone or laptop is a feature of how we exist. In a weird way, it could even be considered a personality trait, or at least be related to certain traits. Humans have been relying on technology since the beginning, and in that way, the technology we use is a fundamental part of our humanity.

While we like to think of ourselves in the way we think of souls, as entities separate from physical form, we exist in a physical world. At some level, we have to interact with what is around us to survive. From what we know about our health, exercising, having basic hygiene, being careful with what we eat, practicing mindfulness and so on: the better we take care of our physical bodies, our psychological health tends to follow. There are always exceptions, and mental illness for example, isn’t something that be wished away, but taking care of your body helps your whole self.

Yet, if we accept that we need to take care of our physical bodies to take care of our full self, we need to also look at the material things we surround ourselves with. Presenting yourself in a stylish way, thinking about what you wear with intention, is automatically making you invest in you. If you’ve put in the effort to prepare for yourself for the day, it provides incentive to care more about the day. If you know you go on social media too much and it is making your mindset more negative, try to cut it out. On one hand, small material things may seem silly to value. However, if bubble tea makes your day a little better, why deny yourself simply because it’s a silly thing? Granted, everything in moderation is a good rule of thumb, but we often place more limitations on ourselves than is necessary in the spirit that the material world doesn’t matter. What is important is that we realize where and why we are desiring and surrounding ourselves with what we are. Be intentional about your life because it’s yours.

 

aspiration, not constant label

We like to divide people up into two categories: good and bad. There are those who put in effort to help others and make the world a better place, and then those who are all for themselves and want to tear things down. Even though we can typically sense that’s an overgeneralization, we still live with those categories in our mind. The jerk who just cut you off in traffic? Bad person. The person that let you go ahead of you in line? Good person. Life is ambiguous, and we all know that there are different parts to every person, but we still want to believe that all of these things have points and overall, you’re more good than bad.

We have a positivity bias in this, that we all think we’re just a little better than average than everyone else around us. However, since everyone has this, statistically, that means you’re probably not. We want to believe in our goodness, but far more often, we ignore the bad parts of ourselves because we don’t want to deal with it. That, or we focus so much so on the bad that it paralyzes our ability to do anything.

No one is fully good, nor is anyone fully bad. We do both noble, selfless things, and cruel, selfish things. We have those categories of good and bad because it helps motivate us. No one truly wants to be bad, everyone is just searching for purpose and happiness and go about it in different ways. Some are more effective than others. Even if we want to be selfless, it’s hard to will yourself into having better motivations. We’re used to be selfish because we want to survive. We want the good things in life, and we also would greatly prefer to not have to work and wait for them. The labels of Good and Bad are dangerous because calling ourselves Good can make us think we don’t have to try anymore, and calling ourselves Bad can make us think there’s no hope. But there’s also a similar danger to labeling ourselves as Gray, because if everyone is a mix, you can justify doing something immoral by saying you’ll do better things later, or that you’re not so easily pegged down.

We have a deep understanding that it is good, it is better, to put others first. To think before we speak. To be kind, but firm when needed. To have self control. To have compassion and help those who are in need. Things are wonderful things to aspire to, and we should aspire to them because not only does it help others, but also it inadvertently givers the doer purpose as well. But being Good like this doesn’t mean that we don’t take care of ourselves, or that we rip ourselves down. Instead, it means we are comfortable enough with ourselves to focus on someone else. However, the process of helping others in itself helps make us more comfortable with ourselves. It’s hard work. We get distracted easily. We constantly face conflicts between our ambitions and helping others, but aiming for the Good, avoiding the Bad, and keeping in mind our Gray can help motivate us to be better people. We don’t have all the information on everyone else, so we have no place to judge them, but if we want to place things into categories so much, we should focus on how we can strive to be better ourselves.

similar and not

We’re all a bit crazy. In our own way, we have the things that we can’t let go. We have our quirks that keep us from being completely normal. We each have our personalities and past experiences– but really, we’re usually actually quite alike.

We want to be content with our lives, we usually aren’t. We want to be connected to people, but we don’t want to be ignored or typical. We want to be okay, but also better than okay. There’s a lot of difference in what we consider to be “okay”, and someone who is homeless probably values a space to live as more important than someone who has always had one. In addition, we may be more or less ambitious, and in different parts of our lives.

People are not the same. We are separated from a large number of people because of geography, culture, politics, etc. Our experiences are different which makes our personalities and perspectives different. Yet, no matter how different people appear to be, we can understand the emotions of others. Do we understand everything intimately? No. But having empathy makes us able to understand at least a smidgen of their feelings, if we’re able to let go of our reservations.

So understand, or try. Don’t be afraid to relate to other people and their positions. Our emotions are what bind us together.

another on why you should rest

There are numerous ways of being tired. There’s the tired in your bones, when you’re so weary and ready to be done. There’s the tired where you feel your eyes dropping, and sense this pool of sleep you could collapse into. There’s the tired where your body tingles with warmth from exertion and lying down is true bliss. They sometimes combine with each other in fun new ways, and rarely, we experience all three, full force at once.

But at some level, feeling tired can be guilt-inducing. Sure, you’ve done something to get you to that state of exhaustion, but those levels of tired don’t exactly make it easy to keep going. That’s because you shouldn’t. If you feel tired, it’s for a reason. Sometimes it means changing your sleeping habits to get more, other times it means finding help mentally, and sometimes you just wake up at the wrong part of your sleep cycle.

America tends to praise workaholics. Working until you burn out is a sort ot prize, it seems good to accomplish many things. But at some point, we have to look at if what we’re doing is forcing our bodies through the motions, or living our lives and enjoying every moment of it. Even if we love what we do, everyone needs a break from it. Life is meant to be diversified. If you’re working 24/7, you’re depriving yourself of rest and hurting yourself.

Everyone’s limit is different. Everyone’s limit can change gradually over time. But no one is immune to exhaustion, because everyone needs to rest.