the shift

I’ve been moving slowly but surely, and my mind is slugging down to the absolute minimum rate necessary for survival. Before this semester started, I was aiming for great things, extra miles, the beyond-part of above and beyond. At this point, I’m celebrating if I can get by.

And that’s a shift. A significant one.

I can’t pretend like I’m put together, I don’t have the energy anymore. But the more time goes on, the more I’m disillusioned with the whole idea of “put together” in the first place. If my body is a machine, it’s still running. I’m still breathing, eating, walking around. Consider language! The complexity of it, how even amazing animals like dolphins are significantly limited in their communication. And yet we have that, most of us without effort. Most of us are ‘put together’ in most ways already.

For the rest of our existence, life is variable.

You can try to make plans, but they are fundamental guesses you throw at an unknown that might bend in unexpected ways. We put in the effort anyway, and we should, but why is it a mark against us when the universe doesn’t conform to our tiny, limited view?

The race of life isn’t so much a race as a bucket full of marbles being dumped with a lattice of shoots catching them on their way down.

Do the best you can, but comfort yourself with that same thought: you are doing the best you can. And if you aren’t, re-evaluate yourself. There might be something else going on, and that’s to be expected.

Life is hard, but we keep going anyways, embracing the absurdity and reveling in existence for its own sake.

the misfit of mind and grit

The thing about hard work is that it’s hard. No matter what motivational speech you listen to, no matter how large your desire, no matter how grand your goal– giving your all isn’t something that’s easy. If you have to stop and wonder, “Am I giving my best effort?”, you probably aren’t. Living to the fullest of your potential isn’t a passive activity. It’s a choice you make, over and over and over again. It’s a choice that will always be hard, but it is a choice that will always be the right one.

Hard work often seems like a good, but useless phrase. If someone is a ‘hard worker’ usually it gets translated to, “They aren’t smart, but they get the job done”. There’s a line of thought which follows, if you are smart enough, you will hardly work, so if you’re working hard, you might not be the brightest spoon in the silverware drawer. Hard work and perseverance are placed in contention with intelligence and natural brilliance. However, this line of reasoning can become easily convoluted in a manner of ways. For one, intelligence is partly innate, but can also be developed to a great degree through hard work. Second of all, you can be the most intelligent being on planet Earth, but if you can’t stick with something, that potential will never be realized. Furthermore, there are plenty of people who are both intelligent and hard working. It’s not a paradox, they are traits that help guide a person to the best of their ability.

The thing about intelligence is that it can only take you so far. There comes a point where one’s IQ can’t be raised much higher. Endurance and grit are far more helpful traits in the real world. Even if things don’t come easily to you, learning how to achieve goals through the hardships is far more practical than the person who never has to try. At some point, we all experience obstacles we can’t bluff through with innate intellectual guesses. The difference then lies between the person who will keep going, and those who will give up. Hard work is hard! It’s horrible! You have to be uncomfortable and be uncomfortable constantly! However, if you’re always feeling safe and well put together, how are you truly living? No matter what path you take, there will be difficulties. The difference is that by living to your full potential, by taking the risks and working hard, you are building your character to be better fit against any future calamity.

So just do the hard, right thing. Don’t live life making excuses, because that’s not really living life at all.

mind to body, body to mind

Our bodies and feelings are connected, not in some mystical, intangible way, but in a manner that directly affects our everyday life. Smiling makes us more prone to becoming happy, punching things makes us angry, and nodding your head yes makes you more likely to agree; many times our physical actions reaffirm our emotions and make them more powerful. While we like to think of our minds as powerful rudders that guide our bodies, our emotions and physicality are more like two oars on the same boat. 

Thoughts mean nothing by themselves. Yet, because they are connected to our bodies, they mean everything. Sure, thinking about killing your boss might not make you kill them. However, it would be foolish to assume that the culmination of those negative thoughts doesn’t impact you. Where we focus is what we value. What we value is what we end up putting our time and effort into. What this means is that you can’t say you value honesty and spend most of your time lying. You can’t say you value kindness and be cruel to people don’t do what you want them to. You can’t say tomorrow you’ll be different if you didn’t put in the effort today.

Or rather, you can’t act in that hypocritical way and expect anything to change. The basis of solving or changing anything is realizing there is a problem. Only by seeing the mistakes you’ve made can you begin to fix it. If you truly want to be better, you have to begin thinking the right way and acting the right way. If you really care, that will come out in how you behave. And you can do this! It’s terrifying to admit your errors. Looking at where you are and where you want to be is like staring up at some colossal giant who’s ready to smash you under their heel. But Jack Beanstalk is the hero at the end of the day. If you want to make a difference, you can. You do it a little bit at a time, making little changes, slowly but surely becoming better than who you were before.