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.

slackers and try-hards or whatever

There’s been a lull in the crazy storm. Looking at my agenda, I think it’s the eye of this mess, and soon I’ll be again trying to stay afloat.

The interesting thing about college, and also about life in general, is that it seems amazing how people choose to do more or less. There are people who are okay with Cs, their goal is to meet the minimum and spend their time outside of school or work with their friends. Then there are people who are not okay with Cs, who tend to overwork themselves and have few friends. Maybe there’s someone who has both good grades, an active social life, and a full schedule, but frankly, that seems pretty rare.

I’m oversimplifying things by painting this picture that many will want to call the dichotomy of “try-hards” and “slackers”. However, I don’t think it’s a fair assessment of either group, even if they do fit all of the stereotypes.

People have different priorities. The person who wants to be an Olympic swimmer? They are driven towards their goal, they get up early to practice every day, and they are going to be far more upset when some little kid pees in the pool. The fellow around the sleep who works extra shifts so they can afford to go to college without debt for at least half of their retirement? They just see a snobby know-it-all who doesn’t realize kids are kids.

There can be tension between any two groups when the Type A folks think Type B are slacking off, and when Type B see Type A as unnecessarily upset about little things. It’s our natural tendency to think that everyone else shares our same circumstances and priorities.

It seems completely outside of my bandwidth however, to even consider some of the things my friends do. I have friends who are engaged and I have no thoughts about even dating people. I have friends who go to parties, but that’s not my scene. I have friends who only focus on their major, like a reasonable human being would do, without adding on too many extra things. And these people are my friends!

If we are so distinct from our friends, how can we assume the same holds for strangers?

Putting my workaholic tendencies aside, wanting to spend time on work or school is typically good. Caring about your work and what you put out in the world is a good thing. However, so is making connections with people. We cannot exist happily without some of those humans nearby to keep us company.

And even within this simple priorities-binary, we see there is a great deal of variation. Sometimes we prioritize friends and then wait to the last minute and nearly die from trying to catch up. Sometimes friends aren’t really in the picture at all. Sometimes we are more try-hard and other times slacker depending on how tired we are.

As with many things, fighting our instinct to judge pays off in the long run, because we don’t know the full story in most cases. People value what they do for good reason. If we can’t stop to consider those reasons and the person behind the values, we miss the chance to meet them where they are.

long term and short term, the termites

Here’s a secret: a majority of things take time. The best things are part of that number. We aren’t who we are because of single events. Most everything has a lead-up, a series and a habit of thinking and acting. Whether it’s crime and abuse or generosity and charity, human behaviors don’t come out of the blue.

That’s why one of the most challenging parts of life is something we overlook: the ordinary days. We see celebrities on TV shows and think it’s a one time work of chance that throws the spotlight on them. However, working hard isn’t something you can decide to do once. Working hard is a pattern you develop every day. Ordinary days are the easiest to overlook, but they are the meat of our life. Our worst days and happiest days are nothing compared to the sheer power of numerosity of our ‘regular’ days. That’s why mindfulness, meditation, and religions tend to encourage people to use their day to the best of their potential.

And yet, our mortality and own sanity must be considered. The long game isn’t the only thing that matters. If we’re consistently miserable, how awful a thing in the space of our limited life! We should be able to find a way to balance enjoying the moment with working towards the future.

A good rule of thumb is to be prepared for the future, have an rough roadmap of how you’re getting to your long term goals, but once you get those bits set up, enjoy your day. More practically, this means making a budget, sticking to the budget, setting aside money for an emergency fund, and all that boring stuff we know we should do but don’t. However, once you get that bit of ‘adulting’ out of the way, go make kraft mac and cheese if you want. Have a picnic in your living room. Watch a good show that makes you happy. Things take time. It’s frustrating to be on the path but not where you want to be. However, where we are can be something special, if we let it. If things take time, enjoy the time.

Picking the right path

It’s hard to stay committed to our goals. It’s easier to not care, to be selfish, to take the easy way out and give an excuse. We promise ourselves we won’t give in to our temptations, but we do. Over and over again, we have to recommit ourselves, and try to be better.

No one goes through this life without challenges. Everyone has a vice, and everyone has let that vice win themselves over more than they want it to. Sometimes it’s pushing people away, sometimes it’s giving too much of yourself, sometimes it’s a drug, sometimes it’s a person, sometimes its an illness, but everyone has something that they need to overcome. Our troubles may be unique to us in kind, but they are never unique to us by nature. We are both special and not at all special.

You are a special individual because you’ve gone through specific circumstances and were born the way you were. However, as strange as it may sound, we can also take comfort in the fact that we aren’t special at all. Someone has felt your kind of pain. Even if they haven’t jumped over the same hurdle, they know how you feel. Sure, you may be broken, but everyone else is too, and we’re trying our best to get put back together. So it matters that you try and be better than who you were yesterday, but if you need to recommit yourself to your goals, that’s okay. Recommit yourself every day to live the life you want to live.

on loving yourself in little ways on little days

Today is a day just like any other. Statistically speaking, it’s an average day. But what is absolutely amazing is the fact that the Present never stops. It’s never Not the present. It is always today, which means that we always have the opportunity to take action. That’s something spectacular, because it means we have the ability to make choices.

We have an undeniable skill at making excuses and limitations for ourselves as humans. And part of the reason is that, as humans, we need limitations. We need boundaries so we know where to put in our effort. We care about what other people think because we have to get along with other people to survive to the best of our ability. We need to fulfill our duties at work and/or school in order to tell people know we are trustworthy and reliable in the future. We need to complete our various goals, even pushing through the boring parts because it allows us to be confident in our abilities and build our character.

There are plenty of reasons to do all of these things, but those examples above are just to illustrate the fact that there is a reason to have and care about our responsibilities. The thing we tend to forget and also the thing we need to remember is that we have freedom outside of that. If we want to use an extra two dollars to buy a overpriced drink we love, we can. If we want to stay up late drawing different kinds of pumpkins, we can. If we want to keep up with the styles and be basic, that’s up to us. These are silly things to think about as ‘freedom’, but we place an extra layer of expectation upon ourselves at times when we think something is too nonsensical. We’re more emotionally driven than we think, and that’s okay, but if it’s better to bend to the emotion of joy than that of fear for simple things that will do us no harm. Do those little things you love for yourself, because life is too short to not!




how goals look

We have goals of the kind of person we want to be, but even if we achieve parts of that goal, we don’t fundamentally change. That’s because our ideal image is typically stereotypical. We don’t imagine being us as a doctor, so much as a broad image of a doctor. This can be both good and bad.

The good is that having a broad stereotype to go after means you can get there in multiple ways. It doesn’t close you off as much, and you can be more comfortable with a type of specialization within it. For example, say you want to be a surburban-home living engineer; that still leaves a lot of options of which location you’ll live and what sort of things you’ll design. The bad of having a broad stereotype as a goal is that it might not feel like you. Humans aren’t simple beings. Even the least complicated of us have nuances and subtleties, and we rarely fit into the “typical” perfectly. Even if you achieve becoming an engineer and living in a suburban home, it might feel off, because it’s you that’s the engineer.

We idealize the future because we want to believe we can improve things, and we can! But even improved, our future will still have difficulties and conflicts. We aren’t going to be wonderful people all the time, and sometimes things come up out of nowhere. It is so important to have goals and work for them, but we also need to realize that they probably won’t turn out like we want. That’s not to say we won’t be able to appreciate the outcome! Rather, if you’re asocial and slightly misanthropic, you might become more generous and connecting a person, but don’t force yourself to be some outgoing people-lover you’re not. Achieve your goals, but keep yourself in it.

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.

minimalist goals

Spurned on by my messy room and a random TedTalk I decided to become minimalist. It was relatively easy for me because I’m young, poor, and have little attachment to most physical things. For others, its probably a much larger step. I’m likely not a “true” minimalist just yet either because I have a pile of old clothes in storage I needed to get rid of, but I’ve taken the plunge into owning less and keeping it that way. I suggest it, it’s way easier to clean, to find the things you need, and allows you to really think about what you need.

However, I’m still working on being more minimalist in my goals. I recently read a LinkedIn article on why “finding your passion” is horrible career advice. The bottom line is that it assumes we have one passion, and that’s just not realistic for most people. I have adored and taken dance lessons for most of my childhood, but it would be incredibly difficult for me to seek back into becoming a professional dancer at this point, especially because I’m really quite inflexible. Some things pass us by, or aren’t good fits. Sure, you could make the effort. With enough practice and time, you could become good at anything! That’s the key phrase there, “with enough practice and time”.

We often can’t give ourselves to a singular passion, but then again, we also have so many things we want to do that we don’t. We struggle with being minimalist in our goals, because we think that, somewhere, somehow we’ll be able to achieve all of them. We won’t. Or maybe we just might, but we can’t if we think of it as achieving all our goals at once. Rather, we need to list out what we want to do, and work on them one at a time. Split effort means more overall work and less overall result. When we work with fewer results, we aren’t as motivated to keep going.

So avoid splitting yourself up! Have those few goals you want the most, and post them up everywhere you look most often. Think about them. Work for them. Realize why you want them and go for it! Don’t think you have to find one specific thing to devote your life to, just focus on one specific thing right now, and trust yourself that you’ll get to the other stuff.

the most brilliant of plans

I had this brilliant plan to wake up at 6 am and go to the gym. It didn’t work out. The reason it didn’t work out is because I was really tired and my sleep has been shallow and problematic of late. As I see it, there are three primary responses I could have here. 1. Say it isn’t a big deal, people break their gym goals all the time. 2. Say it is a big deal and chide myself for being so lazy, I should have pushed through. Or 3. Say I want to be better and next time actually be better.

Out of all of these, I’d say the was last one is the most healthy response. Why? Because I can think whatever I want. Thinking matters only so much as my actions here. Whether I chide myself or excuse my actions, the fact is that I didn’t carry out the promise I had to myself. It doesn’t matter if my reasons are truly justified, I have to deal with the fact that I did what I did.

We tend to get caught up in our heads. There’s worlds you could build inside there and never come out of. However, we live in This world, as messed up as it is. It’s not very fun. For most people, we spend the majority of our days doing something boring that we have no interest in. By the time we get home, there seems to be nothing else to do but watch TV or sleep. That doesn’t feel very much like living.

Most times, however, we can try to find our best self even in our worst life. We have plenty of dreams, but what are we doing to actually achieve them? Maybe its a pipe dream to show up on Ellen, but if you want to make an impact big enough that talk shows would show you off, you can’t do that by making excuses. For better or worse, whoever we are today is who we are. Parts of us can improve, but the “us” in the equation never goes away. Don’t try to be something you’re not, make yourself do something you want.