the “but what if” worries that are haunting your heels

Worrying about the future seems ingrained in some people. Others may care not for what comes, they just integrate themselves into wherever they are and trust the flow of the universe to bring them to where they need to be. The worriers, however, can’t. It’s a matter of control, what if I’m not prepared and I lose what matters most to me?

We do what we can to prepare for the future, and we want to be reasonably ready for any situation. Some people are where they need to be already, and just need to learn how to let go. They need to trust that things will work out, trust themselves that their work is enough. Their efforts are enough, and their worry serves no good. It’s a reminder that some of us need to hear: there can always be more work done, but if you’ve put in the work you can, you need to trust that that is all you can do.

However, not everyone has that luxury. Sometimes people are below a certain financial line and know they can never be reasonably ready. That’s the problem with telling people to, “Just don’t worry about it”, because the same situation could ruin one family and be barely a dent for another. It’s the privilege of the rich, for good or ill.

But how do we live, knowing we aren’t ready? How do we live, knowing that we aren’t safe if something goes wrong? How do we trust things will be okay when we know if one thing goes wrong, it won’t be?

Poorer people have lower IQ. This is not a cause to their poverty, but rather a symptom of it. When put into demanding situations, our ability to see the larger patterns are limited, and for good reason. The stress forces us to focus on right now, to get through the day. It’s survival, and we can’t to sit back and luxuriously view the options without care. The issue is that sometimes we need to be able to see the larger pattern, the bigger picture. Our minds need to rest a bit so they can understand the context.

It is not wrong to worry. For some people, it’s the driving force that keeps them on top of their crazy life. It’s the grounding factor that keeps people from making reckless decisions. We shouldn’t be angry with ourselves for worrying because it is an action that makes sense in a lot of situations, and a coping mechanism for handling the variables of living.

As with most things, the issue is in how much we engage with it. If we can’t get out of bed, if it takes up most of our thoughts, that’s when our concern becomes concerning. If it’s lowering our IQ, that’s a problem. Yet, with the financial aspect, how can we get out of it?

That’s the issue right there. We shouldn’t see worry as something to “get out of”. We are the things that worry. It is our choice. Even though habits may take our will out of the equation, we can take that will back, slowly but surely. There is a line between using our worry to make our lives more productive and prepared versus letting it overwhelm us. That’s why it’s important to remind ourselves 1. what we can control and 2. what we cannot.

If we can control it, we do our best. Then step two is the difficult part, we try to let it go. We let it be. Maybe the world will fall apart. Maybe the worst will happen. Take that outcome in mind, truly face it: if it happens, life will still go on. Or it won’t, and there’s nothing we can do about that either.

Those who worry are used to the face of their fears. We know their enemy. We’ve imagined its face a thousand times and then some. If something happens we weren’t expecting, we necessarily never would have been able to expect it. If the worst happens, that’s not the end, because as long as we are alive, we can take steps to make things better. It will be different, but it can still always be better, and that’s something to cling to.

Your worry is not your enemy. You are in control of what you can control, and everything else is irrelevant to your headspace. Things will turn out. They may not turn out how you want, but they will always turn out some way, and you are more ready than you know if you’re considering it in the first place.

understanding the narrative of our lives

We each have a narrative we tell and it goes on in our heads. There’s different characters and threads, and each theme is developing at a different rate. When we are young, we might not have been able to do something, like balance a soccer ball on our heads or such. However, we learned and now we can! Thus that arc came to an end.

Whether or not the narrative in our heads is something we create or is something placed there by a higher power, it exists. We give ourselves a beginning, middle, and end; we see ourselves as pieces progressing in a larger journey! This is part of why we write and adore stories, because we love understanding the character arcs in our own lives. We understand what happens in and around us by looking at the causes and seeing how they bring us to where we are now and where we want to go. We want to understand the backstory so we know why the terrible enemy repented. Narratives satisfy the why.

Essays and interviews, and occasionally the rigorous conversation, are all aimed at getting that storyline out of someone. We want to know how they’ve gotten here and to see if they will care. The problem is that our narrative isn’t as defined as we’d like. After all, life is complicated and every small piece is a factor in some light. We might not know where we’re going, or have a hard time explaining how we got there. However, if we better comprehend our life journey, we can better understand how to move to where we want to be.

So ask yourself! If you are the protagonist of a plot of your life, who are the major players? What are the major themes? What things have you done and why? Understanding your own motivations helps you cultivate and prune them. Maybe money doesn’t matter to you as much as assume– or, maybe it matters more. Where are you right now compared to where you’ve been? Understand that, and it will help you know where to go next. And keep going! Keep understanding! Narratives evolve, so don’t be afraid to change.

the known and unknown

Being positive means one of two things: (1) facing the known and trying to find something worthwhile in it, and (2) facing the unknown and trying to look ahead to the good possibilities instead of the bad ones. Both of these tend to be incredibly difficult because our fears like to overcome our hopes. In terms of strength, negative emotions just stick around better! It makes sense to be prepared for the worst outcome, after all. The problem is that, as humans, we tend to ruminate on those negative emotions and it can paralyze us.

So what can we do to find the good in both the known and the unknown? The first step is to look at what we know. “Looking at what we know” may sound a little silly, but we don’t do it that often. We look at what we want to, and ignore other relevant information. So, make an effort to look at that relevant information! Things might go wrong, but you have things. One aspect of your life may be tremendously difficult, but that doesn’t make the rest of it unimportant. Acknowledging these parts of your life doesn’t mean that suddenly everything is easy or that you don’t have a right to complain, it just reminds you that this one problem isn’t the full picture. We are not the center of the universe, and that’s a good thing.

The second part of being positive is looking into the unknown with hope. This becomes more and more difficult depending on the life you’ve had to this point. Someone who has had their trust betrayed multiple times is likely going to have trust issues with their partners in the future because their experience is telling them their hope will not be rewarded. However, while experience impacts us significantly, there is still that unknown factor. That factor could be both positive or negative, but we want to focus on the negative because we’re not sure if we can handle it.

However, we can handle a lot more than we think. Mentally, we want to hold back because of all of those negative emotions. But we shouldn’t! We have situations that likely will turn out poorly, but we also have situations that will likely turn out amazing! Knowing or not knowing, the future is still something we haven’t experienced yet. All we can do is the best we can in our present, so leave the future to its own devices. You can do this.

from love to life

People genuinely love different things, it’s truly a fascinating thing. A conversation about cells can either be thrilling or utterly boring, depending on the person. Furthermore, so are talents; an athletic person might actually desire to go out and commit exercise? It’s stunning, frankly.

And yet there is this argument within ourselves: do we pursue what’s easy and fun for us or what’s challenging and grow? There’s a philosophy that if you do what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life. However, not everyone has a passion that directly translates into money, and even if it could translate into money, that person might value a more safe option. It’s great to have a purpose and mission, but if you only want to work a dream job, you’ll most likely find yourself poor and out of luck. There has to be a balance between what we love, what we value, and reality.

Humans are lazy. There’s a reason sloth is included in the seven deadly sins; we like to do nothing! I think in our hearts, we know when we are giving up too easily. We need to fill our days with something that has meaning to us, that hopefully is enjoyable and fun. However, we need to pick among the activities we enjoy and pick the ones with “meat”, the ones that we can do a lot with and will impact our lives for the better. We should pick though. We should pick what we want to accomplish in a concrete manner and actually commit to achieving them. Pick something you love, that challenging, meaty thing, and go for it! You’ve got this.

the things that pass us by

We are not who we were in the past. Sometimes we go back to old places, come across old friends or enemies, or maybe even just pick up some item that sends you reeling back into a past obession. In those moments, it suddenly becomes very obvious that you have changed. We are wiser or more bitter, or maybe we just feel like a different person in different circumstances all together. However the change is recognized, it’s sometimes hard to deal with the fact that we can’t go back.

If we knew then what we knew now, we’d still mess up, just in a different way. Each age also has its own pros and cons. As children, we have some limited freedoms, but we are dependent on others and their expectations of us, plus a whole slew of disrespect. As teenagers, we have struggles and problems that no one takes seriously because everyone goes through them, but those struggles help define us. As adults, we have freedom but so much more responsibility. There is no golden era. There is no perfect time. The best time of your life is the present, because that is the only thing you can change. 

As messed up or fantastic the past has been, we can’t fix it or continue living in it. It can be easy to see our past self as someone who is entirely different from who we are now. However, there are certain things that don’t ever change. We are born with a temperament. We have key obstacles that keep coming up to trip us. Our history will always be our history, we just keep adding to it. It’s a rush to be reminded of a past event, but at the end of the day, that event helped bring you to where you are now. The best part is that we always have the ability to use our past to make our future better. 

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.

What does your face look like?

We only see the mirror view of ourselves. Others get to see all angles of our faces, but we are limited in seeing how we really look on a daily basis. That’s why seeing a video of yourself is such a peculiar event; you are suddenly the onlooker of your own actions. But what is it like for a stranger? What parts of you are most salient? What aspect of your face do people focus on?  It’s important to think about because perspective because we get really caught up in our own heads sometimes.

The fact is, we dwell on certain things. We get bored and start thinking about tasks that aren’t necessary for survival like the humans we are. However it also means that when anything occurs, we are looking through a subjective lens. The faults we see may not be obvious to other people. The beautiful parts we see might also be hidden. We are used to our own standard of features, people, places, emotions, and we compare everything to it,  but it remains an unquantifiable bar. 

All of this is just to say that it’s easy to forget that not everyone has had the same experiences. Not everyone sees what you see. To some people, our noses might be the first thing they think about. To others it might be our forehead or chin. When frustrations arise, try to look on as an outsider. Try to bend your mind. You don’t have to agree, just get out of your own head for a little bit and you’ll find that it shows the other person a great deal of respect.

“I want to die. lol.”

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The most beautiful part of any day is the fact that it exists. Particularly among the younger generations who’ve grown up alongside social media and computer technology, there’s a generally negative culture. Posting something means you are motivated emotionally to do so, and in most instances, we tend to feel more motivated by negative emotions than positive ones. That means what’s going onto our walls and blogs reflects those same emotions. There are jokes about the void, nihilism, and the ‘sweet embrace of death’ because we deal with these heavy feelings through humor. Linguistically, we’ve developed a form of hyperbolic speech contrasted with minor events and appropriated entire concepts into slang like “same”. However, we can get easily overwhelmed by this constant stream and begin to cultivate unhealthy thought processes.

Just take a moment to pause yourself and think about what you see everyday. We like to think of ourselves as unaffected by propaganda compared to the normal population (It’s called the third-person effect) but the truth is that, statistically speaking, you are affected by the media. There’s a whole slew of phenomenon and theories about it, but spending hours on social media has an impact on your psychological health. I am not immune, you are not immune, your friends aren’t immune; it’s just a result of living. It’s not always a bad thing either, but it is always good to be aware of what we are reading.

When you read these jokes and are surrounded with an atmosphere that mocks existence, it can be easy to feel purposeless. However, the existence of existence is important. Some claim that it would be better to not have been born at all. If you weren’t born, after all, then you would’t feel all the pain of living. You also wouldn’t even be able to appreciate nonexistence. Because we are, because we exist, we can feel every emotion. We can feel the positive feelings as well as the negative ones. We can laugh at stupid jokes and feel idiotic for not seeing something obvious. Existence and nonexistence aren’t comparable. Existence means being able to do something and grow past the difficulties. Existence means that you have the opportunity to both screw up your life, and also to fix it.

 

 

Davison, W. (1983). “The third-person effect in communication”. Public Opinion Quarterly. 47 (1): 1–15. doi:10.1086/268763

 

Don’t starve yourself from people

For social beings who by nature need communication and contact, we have a really bad habit of isolating ourselves. We would prefer to hide behind social media, small talk, and our own self-doubts rather than try and make connections. Socialization is hard work, even for extroverts. You are a bubble of experiences, ideas, thoughts, temperament, and genetics and you meet another bubble that has all its own experiences and beliefs. Who knows if youre bubbles overlap? Trying to find similarities is frightening because people don’t always click right away.

Making friends means being vulnerable, and vulnerability is uncomfortable because it means not being able to predict the future as well. Even something as minor as revealing you love dogs: what if they hate dogs and have had traumatic experiences with them? It’s unlikely, but the more personal the topics get, the more risky it is to share them because you don’t know how they’ll react. As much as social anxiety is seen as over reacting in our culture, it’s actually not that unreasonable when you consider how socialization puts identity and sense of self at risk.

We like focusing on the ‘good stuff’, especially in American culture. We like feeling good, looking good, and being happy 100% of the time. When we talk and risk oursleves, we demand and expect payback for that socialization risk. Yet sometimes the result is awkward and embarrassing. It’s not required to be pretty and it usually isn’t  smooth at all. In fact, it can be uncomfortable and unsatisfying.  Talking to other people is hard, that’s proven by how entire college majors are dedicated to simple communication.

It’s okay to be socially awkward, everything gets better with practice. It’s okay to miscommunicate something, you’ll keep at it and they’ll eventually catch on. It’s okay to not know what to say, you’re not a mind-reader. It’s natural to have some difficulties when bridging the gap between two entirely different lives. Keep at it! Keep taking risks and communicating with people. Closing ourselves off socially is starving ourselves of a basic pyschological desire, so stay fed! It might not always seem worth it in the moment but it is in the long run.