I’ve been reading a good bit recently, partially because I want to, but mostly because I need an escape. When I begin reading something new, I always wonder how it will be. The first few pages of the chosen book will make it or break it in my mind and I either read on, or move on. So much of this is dependent on my mood. The other day, I finally began reading something a friend had told me read months ago. The moment I began, I couldn’t stop. Everything that was written, each word and each pounding phrase hit me. It was a true moment of feeling as if this author knew exactly how I felt. Here is the puzzle for you.
1. “While there’s no real enemy to be identified, the pain exists nonetheless…”
2. “An intelligent man cannot seriously become anything and that only a fool can become something…a man possessing character, a man of action, is fundamentally a limited character…being overly conscious is a disease”
3. “To reach, by using the most inevitable logical combinations, the most revolting conclusions on the eternal theme that you are somehow or other to blame even for the stone wall, even though it’s absolutely clear once again that you’re in no way to blame, and, as a result of all of this, while silently and impotently gnashing your teeth, you sink voluptuously into inertia, musing on the fact, that as it turns out, there’s no one to be angry with; that an object cannot be found, and perhaps never will be…”
The stone wall we are speaking of acts like a chameleon changing in appearance, but still a chameleon nonetheless. That wall that was there a few months ago is still here now, with different hurdles ahead.
I’ve thought so much about my life, about other people’s lives and where they find their way to get by. I’ve thought about people who absolutely love what they do, and people who dread going to work in the morning. And I’ve been trying to decide where those people that love their jobs succeed. How do they get to where they are?
In no way did school make me feel prepared or as if I truly knew what I wanted to do. I think for now, I have a better idea of what I don’t want to do. What I know is that part of this is attitude and part of it is just straightforward fact. To wake up with the wrong attitude can magnify, can project, can exasperate what is already there.
I have been trying to decide what is worthwhile. Is it worth it to stay where I am? To keep doing what I am doing and constantly feel at odds with myself? So much of how I feel conflicts. I hold guilt for things that are not my fault and stumble in these decisions when I know there will be people that are hurt or harmed or people that will have to work a lot harder than they do now..
Here is my honesty: I allow others to undervalue me because I undervalue myself. I don’t believe anyone to be deserving of anything necessarily because it’s of a mentality that the world revolves around me. Something David Foster Wallace references in his “This is Water” speech (you should read this by the way). Something I try to remind myself of time to time because the world does not revolve around me, my happiness or unhappiness, my job, my life. And while that is the case, it doesn’t make it unfair to seek opportunities that make me happier, but it makes it wrong to constantly dwell on these feelings, this situation.
One thing I have been trying to learn is to not dwell. While many of you may hate “Eat, Pray, Love,” I found something in it that embodied a mindset I have been trying to take on for so long. To think about something, acknowledge the hurt, the pain, the feeling, but to “drop it.”
While people are incredibly resilient, always bouncing back and falling down, do they ever really lick the pain? Do they ever really leave it behind? I wake up with pain in my shoulders and neck. I do it because I carry that pain with me everyday. I might not think about it every second of the day, but it’s there. And I think that more people than none would say the same presence exists in their life in some way. People are broken. I believe that with every bone of my body, every nerve, every ounce in me. But that belief brings nothing, but an acknowledgment that we are somehow the same, somehow connected in this all.
There is no real answer is there. Question or statement, I think the answer varies person to person. We all have some remedy, some way that we make it easier. The days that I come home and feel terrible, I have to make myself forget it somehow. It is much easier, for whatever reason, to just sit there and think about it over and over again. Maybe it’s a character trait mostly, but I know it is much easier to dwell on these negative thoughts, nervousness and discomfort than it is to hold on to the realistic, the positive and the beneficial. Maybe it’s the human condition..
We are so used to being down that it seems an abnormality to be up sometimes. A couple weeks ago, it felt like every single thing was going right. I was on the ball at work, it was doable, and things just seemed like they would work out. Then all of the sudden, it started to go downhill, and, of course, when it did, I began feeling like nothing could ever go right naturally gravitating toward this negative train of thought.
The funny thing is, I was reading the personal statement that I wrote to for school applications and it addressed exactly this. It put me on the spot with myself because the very characteristic that I used to pride myself in is currently waning in this situation.
I wrote about my childhood, which consisted of random and constant sickness. I am beginning to believe that I blocked a majority of it out, but it truly did define much of who I am: my hardheadedness, my hatred for being babied, and my unfailing need to prove everyone wrong.
I was severely allergic to walnut trees, but continued to play in the leaves despite this. That is the way of a child of course. Constantly doing something, taking a chance despite the negative consequences that would ensue. The point of course being that those negative feelings do not outweigh the reward.
I told colleges this about myself and playing in leaves:
“We would make little progress this way, but it allowed us to enjoy things that were normally dreary. Our games were hardly original, but they are something that I still value today as a life philosophy. After spending a day playing tiring games, I would go home feeling sick. However, my short-term illness was incomparable to the day that had just passed. Every day spent playing in the walnut trees was a risk. My allergies were unpredictable and playing in such a dangerous field seems as if I was begging for illness, but my constant experience with sickness allowed me to build an optimistic view of life. I did not spend my time worrying about the hours I would spend tending to my stuffy nose later. I didn’t worry because I recognized that in all choices there are unpredictable outcomes. Since we are unable to control what happens to us, it is our job to take those situations and make the best of them. Playing in leaves, despite the pain it caused later, was one of the best decisions I made as a child. Reflecting on it now, I find a lesson that I hope to utilize in the coming years. As a person and a student, raking leaves and odd sicknesses have taught me to live with optimism and the belief that I can make the best of any situation as well as allow those situations to better me as a person.”
It’s funny, the timing of my going and reading this. I am at an exact point where I am afraid to take a chance because of the consequences. I am exactly in a place where that decision I terrifying and not an easy out, like I wish I had.
Something I have always been amazed by is the way in which poignant moments and realizations are eventually lost or fade. I had so many moments as a child where I realized something immense and of huge gravity to my life, but slowly that information, that change just became a memory and no longer affected me. This moment, reading this, it is proof of that experience and how it will continue to repeat itself throughout my life.
Tell me how, in 12th grade, I had better insight into what I need to do than I do now? The answer I can provide is merely that the decisions you make are harder to make when so close to the situation. The myopic view I have is so hindered by guilt, by inconvenience, by other people, but mostly by myself. I set standards in my mind that are in no rational or beneficial in times like these. While they have made me into a sort of perfectionist, they also allow me to be extremely hard on myself and make me indecisive in times like these.
This is the first time I’ve written in weeks it seems. I told myself when I took this job that I would write, I would find a way, but as things go, the way to write becomes harder to find, harder to maneuver and make the time.
There is no resolution. There is no definite answer because everyone seems to have a different one. I come to that point frequently because to me, if I waited until some universal truth came about, or was found, I may be waiting too long. I am 20. I am 20 years old and this is what my life consists of. Sometimes I forget that I am younger than most people in the same situation as myself.
I think what I need is to take time to give myself some credit, since I have yet to do that so far. I know what I need is to take a chance here. I need to take steps toward making things change. I can’t count how many poems, stories and articles I’ve read encouraging me to seize the day and also how few times I think I’ve truly listened. Here is where I go from here: I make a change. Sometimes a change in attitude is not enough and sometimes being hardheaded to stick a position out just because you said you would is not the best answer.
And, yes, I am still talking myself into my decision. Probably because I never thought I would be here. There is such a glorified picture of what a career is in my head. I don’t know exactly how it got there, but it is there. While I know I may not find that picture, I want to get close. I want to do something I love. In the mean time, I’ll do as the 12th grade me would do. I’ll make the best of what I have because there is no point dwelling on it. I just have to let it go.
Try it some time. It’s worth it.
“Notes From the Underground” by Fyodor Dostoevskey
“Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert