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.

you’ll never get today back but also, why would you want to?

You’ll never get today back. That is a terrifying thought, at least for most of us. The fact is, most of us don’t live absolutely fantastic lives. Most of our days are mundane. Plenty of people go to work as a means of making money, not because it’s their passion or dream. Furthermore, working a job to make money isn’t something to be ashamed of.

For most of history, what we did was determined by what our parents did. Farmers farmed to survive. Art was seen as a profession of skill, not necessarily vision or creativity. Unless you want to mark off the majority of the time before now as utterly miserable, we have to realize that jobs don’t have to be our whole reason for existing.

What matters far more is our social relationships. We have a deep desire to be loved, to be in connection with other human beings. People can get drawn into some desperately dark situations because they are so hungry for the bond with another human. It’s how gangs and cults come about– the violence becomes justified in the members’ mind because they feel a relationship with those around them. Religion, ideology, community, all of these massively important concepts of influence are centered around that desire.

But sometimes what makes our days mundane isn’t the job, but the loneliness. Not everyone has the connections they long for.

It’s hard to keep going when there doesn’t seem to be a good reason for going. Add that onto the ghastly features of temporality and our own mortality, and life suddenly doesn’t seem so hopeful. What do we have in our lives that is of worth? Is life fleeting so fast that we can’t fully grasp it until it’s too late?

In the end, no. If we are lonely, we try to find friends. If we are bored, we try to find excitement. If we have the fear of being numb to life, of being unable to grasp time in its entirety, that is a hidden moment of empowerment. If you didn’t fear it, you wouldn’t know how to fight to change it. Trying to ignore our fear doesn’t make us brave, it makes us try and avoid the situation altogether. Instead, what is better for us is to try and face our reality. Whatever we do, we do it knowing that we are alive. This is the moment, you are alive whether you decide to ignore your existential crisis or deal with it. Time will pass, either slowly or fast, but it will pass.

This passing, this ending is what gives us meaning. Some people die happy, some people die miserable, but we are the ones who decide how we live our lives. We can be in the most despondent circumstances, but our struggles do not command us to be one way or another; they may pressure us significantly, and will always shape us, but there are always a few things we can control, and those are ours. “Right now” is the most magical thing to ever be, and the bewitching nature of it is something we get to enjoy every moment we exist. Yes, this day will never come back, but why should you want it? It would be boring to live it over and over, and the only way to figure out how things turn out is to live the next day.

It’s the most stressful time of the year 

With the holiday season ramping up, things are becoming more stressful and it’s only going to get worse from here on in. Money is tight and yet each day you remember some other family member or friend that you need to be kind to and buy a thoughtful gift for. While others may claim it’s best time of the year, the so-called “happiest time of the year” can be miserable for a lot of people.

In a time and place where close ones are celebrated, it makes a lack of intimacy seem even more apparent. Like the saying goes, we never really seem to know what we have until it’s gone. It may be easy, therefore, to think that holidays don’t matter, or that the stress isn’t worth it, or overall, that you are alone. But you’d be wrong.

Holidays matter because it’s important to take a break and be grateful for what we have. The stress can be overwhelming, so take care of yourself, it’s okay to lean on others, as long as they know they can lean on you. Most of all, you are never as lonely as you think. Or rather, you are never as alone as you think. Talk. Be awkward and deal with the strangeness of making new friends. Catch up with old buddies, deal with the stress of not being as far along or successful as them. Do something, communicate in some form! It’s hard to socialize, but it’s worse to not. It’s true, this season is hard, but it’s also a challenge. It’s representative of our lives. Take care of yourself and push through! The best gift of all will be getting to the end of it, if nothing else. 

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.

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.

 

The Fans

Not all passions are equal in the eyes of our culture. People who care about TV shows seem somehow “less” or more frivolous. That arises from the fact that it usually doesn’t require a higher degree of education or complex thinking to watch it. Furthermore, spending all of your time thinking about a show takes away from thinking about something more valued by our culture. However, I’d like to try and change that view point just a bit: why do most people care more about shows than we do real things?

Shows are captivating because they have story lines. As humans, we love stories, we think in stories. Yet they are also captivating because a vast majority of them have character development. You can trust someone is going to change, and most likely it will be for the better. It’s comforting. Also, if they are done correctly, shows can be amazingly interesting. Science is absolutely fascinating, but not thrilling like watching dragons attack a castle. Books are entertaining, but people don’t like spending the energy it takes to imagine and process the words.

When you compare random bits of data, it’s much harder to get excited than over Person A killing Person B over Person C who loves person D who loves person B. In our lives, we love stories, but we also get frustrated when our lives work out more like a series of random events and less like a path that leads somewhere. Not all passions are equal because some roles seem to be only available to those who are skilled enough to achieve them. Fans are a dime a dozen, but lawyers? Learning the Law takes years of extra schooling. The problem is most lawyers probably aren’t that passionate about the law. 

 What if we were as passionate about our lives as we are by really good shows? What if we could see ourselves as the protagonist and the hard work as a mighty challenge that’s worth overcoming? Consider becoming a fan of your own life.

Asking questions 

What does it mean to be human? Are we a sum of memories? Is there some sort of innate seed of a soul we can’t ever get rid of? Are we simply a brain? Scientists, philosophers, and anyone else who has ever taken a really long shower have debated this with themselves. It’s good to ask these questions, it helps us define what we believe and who we are. However it can be a toil to really try and figure that sort of thing out; a trouble we don’t really want to deal with all the time. Some people do everything in their power to avoid thinking about existence, others spend all their time doing it. Overthinking can get you into a dark spiral, but ignoring the big questions can make it hard to find meaning. The real question is how do we find the balance between the two? Where is the perfect level of cognition?

The first time I had chocolate soymilk I was disgusted. The second time I thought it was alright. The third time was pretty good, and today it was absolutely delicious.  We might never get a clear answer when it comes to philosophical questions because even the small things like our opinions about a drink can be impacted by time, location, mood, etc. However by asking them, we force oursleves to take a hard look at the world we perceive, and surprisingly at the world within oursleves. It would be handy to have some sort of meter that guided you to the “perfect” level of cognition, or some sort of algorithm for life. Yet it is the nature of this ambiguity that gives us meaning and maybe a clue as to what makes us human. 

Life is more trial and error than a systematic procedure. We operate on general concepts and broad ideas. We can be cruel or kind but we exist. So exist! Overthink, underthink, make mistakes, feel terrible, feel terrific! Ask the big questions and do your best to answer them. Then watch some mindless TV because it’s fun. If you don’t know what you’re doing, try and figure it out! The greatest mistake we can make is tricking ourselves into thinking we don’t have a choice and stagnating. You can do this. 

It’s okay to be afraid

Fear is a part of our lives. As Americans, we don’t like thinking about that: “We’re free independent people! We do what we want because we want to do it!” But even if we say the only thing to fear is fear itself, we don’t apply that to our everyday lives. We fear being judged, failing, being embarrassed, and more. Then it stops us, freezes us up from taking risks.

However, fear is also a powerful motivator, if you’ve heard any villian-monologue. True in a lot of cases, fear is an influential emotion. It can even be a healthy motivator. Everyone experiences fear at some time or another, but it’s a matter of what scares you that drives your actions. If we fear remaining the same, we can strive to make a change. If we teach ourselves to fear the risk of doing nothing, we can convince ourselves to take risks that help us in the long run. 

And it’s okay to be afraid! Fear has such a negative connotation around it because it seems like only cowards get scared. However, fear is very real. It’s even a wise action to be afraid; it means you know the risks and are alert for your safety. Being afraid means being on guard in dangerous situations. If you are afraid, you can prepare yourself, it makes evolutionary sense. When we experience this fear, the key isn’t to try and ignore it, but push through it. Be afraid and take the jump anyways.