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.

questions of the Self, a most annoying plague

Books and movies tend to portray “the Self” as something you find after a life struggle or going on a trip to a foreign country. In our everyday life, however, the more we look for ourselves, it seems the more we lose it. When we try to address and find this thing that seems to have consciousness, we miss it.  The self is dynamic and we can find ourselves cut up into so many parts, it’s hard to see the overall vision. Are you the person who wakes up late? Are you the person that takes short showers? Are you fashionable? Kind? All the little details of who you are changing all the time, and so who is the person underneath it all? Are you the voice reflecting on yourself? If so, who is the self you are looking at?

Philosophers, neuroscientists, biologists, poets with large egos, plenty of people have tried to tackle the question of consciousness. It is perhaps one of the greatest mysteries in the universe, and we can only consider its mysteriousness because of it Itself. Where we are right now, we don’t understand what it is exactly or how it works. While it would be comforting to know, we don’t have to understand it to live our lives. If it is something that captures you, heart and soul, you can research into it, try and understand it. We probably won’t find a perfect model of it.

I realize that’s not a satisfactory answer because it’s not a hard and fast explanation or even a definition. However, it’s not stopped you from reading this, understanding this, and impacting your life. You are conscious, whether or not you understand it. Consciousness may be a process, and we can’t see that process clearly because we are it. In a similar way, we may be incapable of seeing and understanding ourselves. When we introspect, we are automatically splitting ourselves off to look at it, and that splitting off is necessarily limiting what we are looking at.

As to say, the “Self” that people often look for isn’t some distinct character who likes A, does B, and has traits C, D, and E. We know we are splitting ourselves up with possible actions we could be taking, and that partitioning is driving us to doubt who we are. However, we will always be our Self. Your Self is you, you’ve never lost it in the first place. If we take one path or another, those two eventual Selves would likely be different. But who are we to know that? We can’t see the bird’s eye view of our life. We’re on the ground, subjective and ignorant of so many things– it is who we are, and those limitations make us who we are.

More often than not, what we are looking for is confidence. We never make the “right” decisions, we can only make the decision we think is best. Even when we feel like we are being pulled by so many options, we have faced every single choice before and gone with it. Choices are inevitable, and if we mess up, we can choose to try and fix it. Maybe your Self yesterday loved coffee, and today your Self loves tea, but you were yourself yesterday and you are yourself today.

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.

 

please please you

We overlook an important factor when we say, “Don’t try to please other people”, and that factor is that we have to live with people. To some extent, we do have to adjust our behaviors to fit into the norm. For example, we typically are pressured to wear clothes, be hygenic, etc. However, more than that, we have a mighty desire to get along with people! And part of getting along with someone is pleasing them to a certain degree. While these are all important facts, there still remains that feeling that giving your life to “please everyone” is wrong.

We are social, caring, and relatively altrustic creatures. It makes sense to do something for another person so that they are more pleasing to you. Yet we can get too caught up in it. We can give and give and not want to express our true feelings for fear that the relationships we have will change too dramatically. It’s way easier to scream and make a scene on your last day of work then on your first, and the reason is that (assuming they don’t fire you) you’ll have to live with everyone afterward. Whether we want to admit it or not, being yourself and expressing your opinions is a risky activity. It provides space for crtique, for disappointments, conflict!

But without conflict, critique, or disappointment, we cannot grow. We should aspire to be respectful in whatever situation to make it smoother and facilitate understanding, but people are going to disagree. If you take a risk and say what you think, sure, you might ruin a relationship or make it awkward. But being in a true, geniune relationship of any kind requires honesty. If it’s awkward, you’ll eventually figure it out and be better for it. If it ruins the relationship itself, there was likely something missing in the first place. The relationships we have with other people should be sincere. Not being true to yourself hurts you but also the integrity of your bonds. So take the risk! Express yourself and be assertive! You can do such great things!

when life throws you off a cliff for fun

Life happens whether we like it or not. Things get in our way, we are thrust into horrible circumstances. We miscommunicate about something important. We forget something and have to pay the price. Something happens that messes up our plans and it’s discouraging! We struggle and struggle and find that the struggle keeps continuing.

Yet! As much as problems block our path and we get thrown into circumstances beyond our control, our struggles are not the only thing we experience. We also are constantly breathing– just because something takes continuous effort doesn’t make it bad. It also doesn’t force “breathing” to be an all-encompassing label upon our life. We breathe, and yet we don’t typically think of ourselves as “breathers”. In the same way, struggling doesn’t define you. It is an important part of you, but it’s just one aspect of being a complex individual. We are more than our problems.

We are made up of so much! And no matter how terrible you your life may be, there is always something beautiful in it. It could be a friend, or a class. Heck, it could even be as small as a pretty painting! But life isn’t so tiny to be boiled down to our difficulties, and therefore we have so much more to live for and experience. There is always hope, its just a matter of finding where to look.

asking the right questions

Who are we? What do we look like from other’s points of view? What impressions do we make upon strangers? Are we funny? Are we peculiar? Are we boring? Are we bland? We ask these sorts of questions, we wonder them all the time. The truth is, we will never know what every single person thinks of us. Nor will we be able to truly experience oursleves as strangers. And yet, the real problem is this: why do we wonder so much about ourselves, give ourselves so much leniency and thought, and miss out so completely on other people?

We tend to mistake humility for self-hatred. Being humble usually somehow “equates” to saying that we are awful people. The truth, however, is that humility isn’t about putting yourself down. Its about being selfless, supporting and encouraging others. On the contrary, when we put ourselves down, the task is very active and makes us focus on ourselves even more. Being humble means sincerely thinking about other’s needs before your own, not ignoring your own.

Being humble is hard. It’s not the natural mode of most people; we like to think about ourselves. But it is also incredibly important. If we desire to know what others think of us and see us as, other people might want to know the same exact thing about themselves. It’s about forgetting about yourself for a while and helping others because we’re all in this together. The great things we want to achieve are impossible alone.

understanding the self

There are entire worlds we know nothing about. That includes possible life on other planets, but mostly I mean the experiences of different people on Earth. Watching documentaries can show a lot of that. Even watching reality tv shows about individuals from a certain culture can seem so strange to us because it is strange. It varies from what we normally expect. Part of what makes technology such a game changer is that is allows us to see the lives of people from different races, circumstances, professions, ethnicities, physical wellbeing, personality, and social group interactions! Everyone has troubles, but the flavours vary an amazing, frightening amount.

When we experience emotions, we experience them for a reason. Even our irrational bursts, there is always an emotionally rational reason beneath it, even if that reasoning isn’t fair or logical. Humans are emotional beings. We can’t act as if all emotions are good and healthy, but what we must do is deal with our emotions, all of them.

Feelings are defined as fleeting things. You feel them, and then it’s gone. The more logical side of you kicks in and suppresses the urge. That’s a good, healthy thing for your mind to do; it’s a sign of self control. But there are also deep rooted issues that keep coming back up because we keep pushing them down, and in that situation, we are ignoring instead of solving the problem.

When we want to improve ourselves, we have to put ourselves into context a bit. Like we watch and read about other cultures and people, we have to understand ourselves and our own people. We also have to put context over our emotions: is this just some fad I can push away, or is this a sign of something deeper? And the answers aren’t clear. However, just as other people live in worlds so different from our own, we can make our future a world that is different for the better. To get there, we have to know who we are first, and it’s not going to come all at once. But you can do this! You are stronger than you know. Keep fighting for a better world.

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.

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.