uh, wait a minute, I forget…

Humans like to forget things. Drugs have been a part of our culture almost since the beginning of our species, partly because it takes away the past self to a certain extent. Every culture in every time has had some sort of entertainment to distract people. Our brains themselves are masters of creating and transforming the memories we’ve already made into whatever suits our desires. We can’t forget everything, but we can do a surprisingly good job of blocking out past events in the right circumstances.

The reason we like to forget things is that we reach a level where we become too much for ourselves. The life is hard. The more you look into something, the more complex it gets. It becomes difficult to deal with the truth of situations because the truth can seem to be unreachable. In the light of this multi-headed beast, we tend to settle for wherever we ended up when we got tired and stopped. Along the way, our minds tend to get caught up in a cycle that slowly gets us tangled up somewhere dark and alone. So we try to forget since dwelling on that psychological state is upsetting.

Our minds will always get caught up. We’re vulnerable and fragile creatures when it comes to overthinking. We are kites perpetually getting caught in trees. However, there is a difference in dealing with our problems and ignoring them. Of course, we should forget things, but only once we’ve dealt with them. Dealing with our problems isn’t fun. It’s exhausting, which is why we need things like entertainment. But we can easily overuse it to the point we miss out on our actual ‘living’ part of life. It’s a strange balance, and it requires constant readjusting, to know when you need to relax and when you need to charge at solving your problems. Either way, we will continue to forget. Our choice is in what we choose to remember.

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.

finding the right words

We can say all the words we want, but communication requires something extra: the right words. If you don’t explain what you want to say in the language the other person understands, their understanding is going to be limited. By “language”, I mean the broad languages like English, Mandarin, French, etc., but also the smaller subgroupings within each of those.

Region could affect accent, the field of interest could affect terminology, the relationship the speakers have to each other could effect meaning and expression, but there’s even more than that! When we express ourselves, we need to be able to express an idea that they will be able to interpret as the same thing we mean. We need to speak clearly.

However, speaking clearly isn’t an easy skill to master. There’s a temptation to stick to the groups we know and are comfortable with because we are fluent in that group’s patois. In those settings, we know how to express ourselves and we know that when we are sarcastic, they’ll understand it as sarcasm. We can be funny, and they’ll understand the joke. But the problem with that is that people are different from each other. If we only stick to our little friendly groups, we deny oursleves. Talking to someone from a different culture is difficult. If you have similar cultures, or either of you are familiar with how to communicate, it becomes easier. It can range from semi-easy to incredibly difficult.

Yet if we push ourselves, talk to people we might be socially awkward around at first, we’ll get there. It might take months. It will probably take a lot of frustration for everyone involved. But that frustration will be worth it, because at the end of the day, you’ll be able to understand someone else just a little better. You’ll be able to see inside their head just a little easier, and that look may transform how you yourself see things. It’s difficult, but how many people could you learn from and have a wonderful time with, if you just put in a little more effort to understand them?

the micro-culture and my math teacher

I had a math teacher who told me that How I Met Your Mother had a massive influence on the alcohol consumption of millennials because the characters on the show would casually buy a bottle of wine to consume in the evenings. Regardless of the truth of that information, shows do and truly impact how we percieve “normal”. Frankly, It’s amazing how linguistic quirks spread. From person to person, phrases and mannerisms spread like a disease, until entire regions share a style of communication. Through things like television shows and social media as well, habits can become ingrained in an entire nation.

Yet, think about language and culture on a smaller level. Then even smaller than that. Even families and friendships develop their own culture, which is why sometimes you visit someone’s house and its a culture shock. However we’ve gotten there, our individual micro-cultures have been developed by a massive amount of factors. Your mother might be the main cook in your because that’s the expectation of our society, but you might also give your siblings all of the stuff they’ve left in your room wrapped in a present on their birthday because of a youtube video you saw once. Or, there are times when you have strange games you and your family may play that you haven’t heard of anyone else playing.

Culture is something that’s created by humans, influenced by geography, biology, and history. But it’s also created by us and influenced by us. We may not be able to change what’s normal on our own, but we can start a trend, spread an idea or thought. People tend to think of culture as something stagnant and musty but it’s actually the mental backdrop of your life. You don’t know why you save plastic bags, or maybe you do, but you do it without thinking.

Everyone has a culture. We have cultures within our families, friend groups, schools, communities, cities, regions, nation– all on different levels and all special to help defining your world view and behaviors. This does not take away from those behaviors or justify them, just helps explain them. No matter how disconnected you may feel at times, you aren’t. Your actions and manners of expression are part of the fabric of a living culture.

poof! there goes my pride

It’s practically magical how you never seem to realize how prideful you are until you see other people with the same problem. You think you must absolutely, 100% be right! And then poof! You see how much you’ve been building yourself up when you could have been more respectful and ready to learn. It’s like stubbing your toe, except the thing that suffers isn’t an extremity but a core part of your self-esteem.

The fact is, as much as we like to think of ourselves as objective viewers of our lives, we aren’t. We have emotions and experiences that add filters of meaning upon what we see. The same situation could make two people react in vastly different ways! It’s our culture, our habits, our hobbies, our values: it’s us. When we are forced to take a step back, it hurts because it makes us question the rest of the experiences we had overlooked. We begin to doubt ourselves and can become entangled in a mess of emotions.

We need confidence in ourselves. We need to have that positivity bias that encourages us to take risks. We need to be able to do our own thing and be autonomous. Especially in American culture, that individualism is so critical to our way of life and the ways we tend to think. However! There’s a reason we stub our metaphorical toe. It’s a helpful reminder that we need to listen. It keeps us centered around that important detail of life: we aren’t always right. As horrible and embarrassing as it is, we mess up. We make mistake after mistake. However, what we can also do is work through that and use those mistakes to grow into better people. Shattered pride can hurt, but it will heal and hopefully can be remade to something less inflated. It’s something we all go through! And it’s something we can all learn from.

why we do boring, uncomfortable things

Reputation is bizarre, if you think about it. Most people who “hear” a reputation have never actually been around the person. A few people witness someone doing something kind or cruel, and those few people spread that idea around. Reputation is a social phenomenon; one person cannot have a reputation by themselves, there needs to be others to give them one.

We do not own ourselves. Any individual could try to rob a bank and flee for the border, or dance around in a tutu on the table of a meeting, but we don’t. We are bound morally to follow the rules because there are other people. We are born into a social group and follow the customs because of both habit and belief that the law will provide order and justice. Even more than the law, we are bound by our friends and family. We cannot do certain things or else we will hurt those we love.

Whether we like it or not, humans are less like individuals and more like parts of a whole. We do many things we don’t want to do, solely because of our responsibilities to those around us. To think of that might be terrifying. Especially in certain cultures, the idea that we are without ‘true’ freedom is almost equivocal to death. However, paradoxically, the selflessness of responsibility often helps us. When we help others, they tend to help us too. When we do things we don’t want to do, it enables us to have more options to do what we do want to do.

Reputation may seem like a chain to some people. Indeed, we easily become over-obsessed with self image. Yet if your idea of freedom is just “doing whatever you want”, it will become a miserable, lonely existence. We need other people in order to function. We have to take responsibilities on because we
care and honor others. Don’t just do things out of habit, remember why you are doing it! Let us live intentionally so we don’t waste it unintentionally.

pride?

Pride is a concept, but it is also a question. Some cultures have valued it more than others, but it has existed in practically, if not totally, in all. It is tied to dignity, as well as foolishness. Pride is a way of seeing yourself as set apart from others. When someone says they have to “maintain their pride”, it often relates to their moral character and values. So what is pride? Is it a love and distinction? Or is it holding values? Maybe is it a love of certain values that is set apart?

One interesting thing about pride however, is that it is almost always placed upon a concept. A people don’t necessarily love their nation, they love the idea of that nation, the feelings and stereotypical emblems of that place or people. Pride is based upon symbols, often a more idealistic view of what the true thing is. Therefore, however, pride is by nature always an overestimation or extreme version of reality. As data points in some hypothetical graph, you could narrow down all the points and times a parent and child interacted. You could take into account every variable! But the pride that parent has in their child is more than the sum it’s parts because it’s the emotional impact that really ties home the bond they share.

Emotions are hard to deal with. Pride is a question, because it usually doesn’t “feel” wrong. To some extent, it is healthy to love and hold loyalty to some concepts and values. However, pride is also dangerous because if you always keep comparing reality to the heady notions, there’s going to be a bit of a disconnect. You’ll miss the earth with your head in the clouds. People each have their own emotions and experiences, but what connects us is the nitty gritty, reality of existence. Losing the sight of other’s experiences, setting you and your own ideals too far apart, makes us dehumanize others.

Pride is a question, but it is also something that grows within us. Let’s just be sure to mind the garden, so that we can see other people and the value they have.

identity is not a matter for the individual alone

People are different. That might seem a bit of an understatement, but the truth is that we tend to assume similarity between us and others far more than is the case. The best symptom, relevant and explemary of this, is gifts gotten from relatives during the holidays. Somehow a dear, lovely person picks out the most horrendous, unappealing gift for you that you certainly will never use. A great gift, something that you actually would adore and love, is very rare, because people tend to buy things for other people that they themselves would enjoy. We assume similarity, so if you would adore a giant oil painting of a cat in translucent-purple glittery heels, of course so would they! Who we are is so rooted in us, we don’t even realize it’s our experiences giving us this bias.

Therefore, when it comes to finding out who you are, as a person, it’s hard. How can you somehow decode what you’ve been assuming your whole life? How do you know what you’ve been assuming? People are different, yes, but how we are different is harder to put our finger on. With the inflation of education, college is the new required norm. Higher education means more time in school, which means more time for trying to find out who we are, as people. For those between the ages of 12 and 28, the question of identity never seems to let up because it’s still being developed. Yet, in this age, even those who are older (or perhaps younger) are needing to re-ask that question of themselves: who are you?

America is a very western, individualistic culture. We think of things in the individual, the singular being, as if we were singular beings in little separated boxes. Humans are social creatures, and our bonds connect us and give us purpose. We like to think that one person can accomplish something amazing, but the truth is that one person can accomplish something amazing by inspiring lots of people to work together for that one goal. No great deed is truly done alone. Everyone you know, they know a bit of you. The mind of the herd shouldn’t necessarily define you, but we use bits of the whole to define ourselves.

Identity is a hard thing to understand, it takes time and lots of questions and trials and errors. What might help us along the way is finding people who see the greatest version of you, people who want you to truly care about and support you. You don’t necessarily have to follow the path people expect you walk, but advice from others can help you find the right one. Identity is what defines an individual, but it’s not a thing that occurs in isolation.

Halloween isn’t about death in practice, but you can use it to kill off the problems between you and those you care about

Happy Halloween! For a holiday associated with death, dark creatures, and general wickedness, the majority of people have a fondness for halloween. It’s like horror movies- you don’t like the vicious creature that’s slowly hunting everyone down, you like the thrill. And Halloween is a thrill! Operating at night, talking strangers out of their candy, masking your identity: these are all pleasurable activites because they are customs that we take part in as a community. 

For some, Halloween is just an excuse to party. However, the importance of the holiday isn’t that it’s celebrating creatures of darkness, but that we are celebrating a time together with people we care about in a light hearted manner. The features of the holiday are creepy, but sometimes creepy is fun! It’s an aesthetic that marks it apart from the rest of the year. It has a sort of childlike glee compared to Valentine’s day or Thanksgiving. 

Whatever your views on Halloween, just remember that it’s a holiday. At the end of the day,  it’s not about some costume or summoning demons, but about having an excuse to be with the people you love, sharing in traditions you care about. Even if you hate everything about this night, don’t close yourself off! Sometimes you need to shake things up from the routine.

Make your life your novel

 

Almost everyone has tried to write a book at some point in their life. It might be three pages long and half developed or it might be a full three page novel they can’t stop editing. If you ask someone what they would like to write a book about, practically every single person can think of something they’ve secretly been working on mentally. However, there obviously isn’t a book on the shelves for every person who wants to write one because they usually don’t even find their way onto paper.

There’s lots of reasons why a book doesn’t come into fruition. The person forgets the idea, they discard it, life gets in the way and they don’t work on it, they complete it and never get it published, they try to get it published and no one wants it; there’s so many things that can sway a book from publication. The big factor, though, is the individual who wants to write it. We don’t write books because we usually don’t have the self-control to do so. It’s not that the idea isn’t big enough, or that the plot isn’t developed enough. It’s the fact that we have to put our heads in the game on a daily basis and work on it until we make the idea big enough and the plot developed enough.

Not everyone is a writer, and not all writers are good at what they do. Writing is an incredibly difficult task, trying to get at the barest bones of communication. You don’t have to work on a book in order to feel successful in life, but we could all improve our self-discipline. It doesn’t matter what you want if you don’t do anything to get it. In some areas, writing a book is easier than other tasks because you can measure how much you’ve done through page number, word count, or chapters completed. So give yourself a measure! Make a checklist and fill out your goals. Don’t let your ambitions be unrealized, but seek them out every day, because every day is a gift.