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.

not just a work bod

There is so much more to life than work. There is so much more to life than looking a certain way and achieving some ideal you aren’t actually happy with. There is so much more, and yet we still get stuck on these basic things of loving ourselves and being content with where we are.

We fundamentally feel empty when we reach grand milestones without the backing of social support. If we aren’t making a difference, if we aren’t paying attention to the people around us, it’s just hard to have any motivation at all. We can strive after money, freedom, success, all of that, but we are nothing if we are alone.

Granted, money, freedom, and success are all nice. But we feel like we are using our money wisely when we can support ourselves and those around us. We feel free when our bonds to others are healthy instead of constricting. We feel successful when we are able to feel secure financially and are connected to others. Sitting alone in a pile of gold has a similar feel to sitting on a pile of rocks alone.

We struggle with motivation at times because we’re often going about it the wrong way. We try to use fear, but fear wears away. We try to use logic, but logic isn’t very inspiring. We try to use self-discipline but that’s something we need to build up over time and for the right reasons.

It’s true, we need money to survive. This shouldn’t be a spot of shame on us. We might not love what we do– that’s okay. If we are miserable, over time we can work to see if there is a better path. It’s easy to fear getting stuck. Midlife crises are unfortunately common. There’s that terrifying idea that we will blink and our life will have passed us by. But if that is your fear, then act. Take charge of your decisions. Whatever you chose in life, chose it willingly. Chose it without regrets. We are forced into all sorts of situations, but we take responsibility for who we are, we are empowered.

Life will be difficult in some way, no matter what. There will always be boring situations. The key to being okay with that is realizing that even the boring moments are moments of our lives. There is a beauty in everywhere if we look for it. There is always something interesting, and when we open our minds to it in the little moments, we can begin to trust oursleves that we’ll find it in the important moments.

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.

do your best, one of the most general phrases to ever exist

“Do your best” is one of those phrases that paradoxically implies you could always be doing better. Someone says it, and whatever you do next, no matter how great it is, feels lackluster. We compare our “best” from the situations that allowed us to do that best, and when the circumstances change, the results aren’t necessarily going to follow.

For example, picture a basketball player. In the middle of the training season, putting in the extra hours, with well-worn shoes, healthy relationships, and with the right mindset, their best might be 50 successful free shots in a row (Please have a flexible mind with the analogy, it’s not the numbers that matter). Now take that same player, exhausted in their 13th game of the season, with strained relationships, with new shoes, who under the clock is told to, “Do their best”.

It’s not going to be the same. Perhaps the best record that player will get is still down the road. Our “best” is inherently relative from within our circumstances.

Furthermore, it’s hard to judge what “best” means in the first place. We want to achieve the maximum amount of productivity, not over one day, but in the long term also. Most adults in their 50s don’t pull all nighter’s to prep for the next day of work because it’s not sustainable.

If you can physically do more, you might not be mentally there. If you’re mentally there, you might be distracted emotionally. Maybe you could still put in an effort, but you’re incredibly tired and that effort would be subpar. It’s hard to do where the line is, between working too much and giving up on how much you could accomplish.

This is the line of thinking that tends to drag people into losing sleep. They think, even if it’s not my best work, if I stay up three more hours, I can get this project finished up. But say you do stay up, and you end up getting four hours of sleep. Your body will try and force you awake so you might feel alert but you won’t be mentally there. From there, it’s so easy to continue into falling into an unhealthy sleep schedule where you’re tired all day and trying to make up for it at night.

Rest is needed. Work is needed. Vacations can be so frustrating because too much nothing is the opposite extreme. When we miss out on work or rest, we struggle. We become miserable because humans need purpose and the ability to relax.

When someone says to, “Do your best”, it’s more of, “Do what you can”. This is one instance in a whole slew of moments that make up your life. We need to balance “right now” and “later” in a way where neither gives us regret. Your best will change. Be patient with yourself.

turns out, you need other people, and that’s how it’s supposed to be

Any expert is a proxy that will simplify the books and knowledge you don’t want to spend the time learning about. Theoretically, you could become the foremost expert on North Eastern moss, but we trust the sites on Google that break it down more effectively into what we need to know. Trust is involved for so many of our actions because we are limited individuals. There is only so much time in the day, and only so much effort and focus we can exert. When we find ourselves at a loss, we ask. Or rather, we should ask.

Even though we are social creatures that thrive and require social connections, we also have a deep desire to be independent. We want to be able to exist without our social matrix. “Surviving in the Wilderness” videos get so many views because we want to know that we could do it. We want to know that we aren’t dependent on others, that we have value in and of ourselves. The issue with that line of thought is that almost all of our values matter in relation to other people. We want to be individuals, almost in spite of our relation to a network, but that in itself creates a relationship. We value other people, even though we may claim that other’s opinions don’t matter.

So, what do we do? Give up any semblance of individuality and commit to the needs of the whole without complaint?

Absolutely not. We need other people, but that doesn’t destroy the value of the individual. Some differences, some values should not be thrown away just because the majority disagrees. It is good and important that we want to be independent. By interacting with the group and offering up the differences we have, we both gain value as an individual and support the whole. Sometimes we don’t realize how we have value, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Simply by living and experiencing things, we can offer different perspectives, different natural abilities,  and even just being there to listen to others can do incredible good.

We can do great things as individuals but pretending like we don’t need other people will only make us miserable. So ask others when you don’t know what to do. If no one knows, then take your best guess and maybe you’ll be able to help someone else that falls into the same situation.

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.

what to value

Our work should be prioritized. But so should our relationships, our mental and physical health, and our values. There are so many things that matter to us in different ways, but it’s difficult to put them into a hierarchy, because it depends on circumstance. We care about so much, and that makes it difficult sometimes for us to know what the “right thing” to prioritize in each situation is.

Frankly, sometimes we will never know if we did the right thing. Sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances where each option has a uncontrollable downside. We look at our situation and know that there is probably a better way to go about solving it, but we can’t see it. In the original Star Trek, Kirk is almost always placed in a pick A or B choice where both are horrendous options. But he finds a C, and things turn out okay, even if it’s a huge risk.

We should strive for our option C, for being able to do as much as we can for all of our values. There are few situations in which C will not exist. However, just because it often exists doesn’t mean we see it easily. We see nothing easily but that which we want to see, and nothing is easier to see than a bad end when we’re under pressure. We don’t know what we want, what the most desirable ending is, and even when we do, we don’t know how to get there. There are so many unknowns we must constantly juggle. But practice makes perfect. Even if we don’t know how to balance things right now, doing our best will eventually teach us what to not do. There is a time for everything, if we make it.

aspiration, not constant label

We like to divide people up into two categories: good and bad. There are those who put in effort to help others and make the world a better place, and then those who are all for themselves and want to tear things down. Even though we can typically sense that’s an overgeneralization, we still live with those categories in our mind. The jerk who just cut you off in traffic? Bad person. The person that let you go ahead of you in line? Good person. Life is ambiguous, and we all know that there are different parts to every person, but we still want to believe that all of these things have points and overall, you’re more good than bad.

We have a positivity bias in this, that we all think we’re just a little better than average than everyone else around us. However, since everyone has this, statistically, that means you’re probably not. We want to believe in our goodness, but far more often, we ignore the bad parts of ourselves because we don’t want to deal with it. That, or we focus so much so on the bad that it paralyzes our ability to do anything.

No one is fully good, nor is anyone fully bad. We do both noble, selfless things, and cruel, selfish things. We have those categories of good and bad because it helps motivate us. No one truly wants to be bad, everyone is just searching for purpose and happiness and go about it in different ways. Some are more effective than others. Even if we want to be selfless, it’s hard to will yourself into having better motivations. We’re used to be selfish because we want to survive. We want the good things in life, and we also would greatly prefer to not have to work and wait for them. The labels of Good and Bad are dangerous because calling ourselves Good can make us think we don’t have to try anymore, and calling ourselves Bad can make us think there’s no hope. But there’s also a similar danger to labeling ourselves as Gray, because if everyone is a mix, you can justify doing something immoral by saying you’ll do better things later, or that you’re not so easily pegged down.

We have a deep understanding that it is good, it is better, to put others first. To think before we speak. To be kind, but firm when needed. To have self control. To have compassion and help those who are in need. Things are wonderful things to aspire to, and we should aspire to them because not only does it help others, but also it inadvertently givers the doer purpose as well. But being Good like this doesn’t mean that we don’t take care of ourselves, or that we rip ourselves down. Instead, it means we are comfortable enough with ourselves to focus on someone else. However, the process of helping others in itself helps make us more comfortable with ourselves. It’s hard work. We get distracted easily. We constantly face conflicts between our ambitions and helping others, but aiming for the Good, avoiding the Bad, and keeping in mind our Gray can help motivate us to be better people. We don’t have all the information on everyone else, so we have no place to judge them, but if we want to place things into categories so much, we should focus on how we can strive to be better ourselves.

risks and ladders

Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t done what you want yet. It doesn’t matter if you’re a wreck right now. It doesn’t matter, because it’s not the end. Every moment doesn’t feel like a new chance, but it is. Most of the time, the bars and limits we have are those we put on ourselves. If you want to do something more, you can achieve that.

It’s easy to think that couldn’t be the case. We think that if we want to go see a new movie in theaters, we have to go with friends. You don’t, you could go yourself. We think we can’t switch careers, because we wouldn’t even know where to start. Fine, you don’t know where to start, but knowing that means your first step is finding out what the steps are. We think that if we don’t stay or become a certain way, we’ll be alone forever. Surely, there is an importance to listening to what others have to say and heeding their advice, but at the end of the day, there is a line between listening to others and letting them rule your life.

Everything to this point matters in that it has built you up into who you are right now, but that doesn’t mean you have to play your hand out exactly like it’s expected. We are in a processing of growing, and its going to take a while to get to where we want to go. It’s terrifying to abruptly change, and there are many things that seem way beyond us– and that’s okay! Changing overnight is a difficult and natural thing. What is good is teaching yourself, step by step, to creep towards those goals of yours, pushing what’s comfortable for you. This moment is a chance. This moment too. If you don’t take it now, seriously ask yourself if you ever will.