We are who we are. No matter who we want to be, and no matter who we’ve been, right now you are the person you are. There’s both good things and bad things about our current state. Maybe we’re forward, which makes us easy to get to know but hard to deal with at times. Or, maybe we’re too soft spoken, too willing to let people talk over us, but can really get along with others.
There’s no ‘perfect’ combination of traits inside a single human being that makes them inherently better than anyone else. We all are surviving the best we can with what we have. All of our vices have virtues, and all of our virtues vices. The real question is this: What are you going to about it? If you want to be something you’re not, the best way to get there is to do the things that that person does. Don’t buy a yacht just because you want to be a billionaire, but ask yourself what part of that lifestyle you want. If it’s for the materials, then become hardworking by working hard on what’s in front of you. You might not have the strappings of a billionaire, but you can have the ambition, drive, and work ethic of self-made one. There will always be cause to do anything; we are masters at justification. So do what you know you need to do! Pay attention to your conscience and people’s advice.
The first step to anything is realizing where you are. No matter who you are, there is something you can fix about yourself. However, there’s also some good, some talent in you too! We tend to overlook our natural talents because for us, there’s always there. Math is incredibly difficult to a lot of people, if you can do that? That’s a skill! That’s something good about your abilities! Maybe it’s not math, maybe it’s writing, or being a good friend, or being hard working, or being creative, or any of a multitude of things! Yes, go out and be the person you want to be– you have that capability. You are who you are, but that doesn’t make that place a rut, nor does it make it the only place you can be. Life is a journey and we’re progressing whether we like it or not. Actively decide where you want to progress to, because you have talents to get you places if you look in the right places.
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.
It’s easy to drudge from day to dull day. The regular routines we follow typically aren’t exciting. We get up, work, eat, maybe have a tiny bit of fun, and then go back to sleep. However, a lot of the dread we have around work is a monster we’ve created ourselves.
We struggle throughout most of lives, so how can we find joy in that? By changing our perspective as much as we can, and if need be, our circumstances. There is always something we can do to make life a little brighter. When I say dread is a monster we create, I don’t mean that we can somehow snap our fingers, change our attitude and float away on a magicial pink cloud. No matter what we do, sometimes life sucks. However, we can make it seem worse than it is when we constantly think to ourselves, “I don’t want to do this, there’s no meaning in this, I just want to go home…” Wherever you are, you’re there. You exist in that location. This is a part of your life, and it can be just as precious as any other part of your life. Focus on the good things to get you through, to distract you as much as you can, even if you have to start being thankful for dandelions in the sidewalk.
If the situation is really that bad, then get out of there. That’s not always possible, but it may be more possible than you realize. We often convince ourselves that things lie in a certain fixed pattern and there’s nothing we can do to change that. However, is it? Look at where you are again. Research your options. Talk to other people, maybe there’s a solution you’re missing.
At the end of the day, yes it’s just another day. But it’s also another day of your life. We may be experts at making ourselves miserable, but we don’t have to stay that way. Slowly, we can change our outlook on life. Maybe we can’t escape a situation just yet, but that won’t always be the case. Have hope! Keep your eyes open.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Intelligence is actually incredibly hard to pin down with a solid definition. Academic success depends on the class, past knowledge, family situations, even who you sit by. IQ can only predict success to a certain degree, and it judges only how good people are at finding new patterns and solving problems. Some argue only looking at academic intelligence cuts out creative or practical intelligence. Emotional intelligence is a term for how well people know and understand their own and other’s emotions; it’s been shown to strongly predict interpersonal success. Even from culture to culture, intelligence can be seen as something focused around how you deal with people, or how you deal with information. It is multifaceted and the line between intelligence and talent is slimmer than most people realize.
However, we are obbsessed with intelligence. We want to believe it’s something you are naturally born with, that you can’t escape, but that’s not necessarily true. A person can actually raise their IQ to a certain degree, more effort can increase one’s grade and success in the workplace, and happiness isn’t even correlated with IQ! Pyschologists have been trying to pin it down for forever because it’s not as simple as “If you are intelligent, you will succeed in life.”
I have my own little theory about intelligence, and it is this: intelligence is how well a person can adapt and solve problems, while wisdom is how well a person can apply things they’ve learned to the “real world” ane real relationships. There’s overlap between the two. People have different amounts of each. It’s hard to judge something as complex as intelligence in something as small as a single number. When you go out and about your day, just remember that you can improve from wherever you’re at.