Looking Forward to Looking Forward [#52weeks]

First off, I just want to say that I never really intended for this blog to be as much about my personal life as it’s become. But such is life, I guess. I keep telling myself that my next post will be about something else. Perhaps there’s just been a lot for me to ponder lately.

In any case, today I want to talk about letting go of something you hope for, in exchange for the hope for something unknown.

Freedom is close to the top of my list of things I value. But I’m not talking about the kind of raw independence that you see championed so often in the US: the desire to be able to do whatever one wants with no regard for consequences or external factors guiding choices made. I’m talking about real freedom. I think it’s something that you can really only find in your mind. It’s the ability to look out in front of you while you’re standing in the present, and see everything out there as future, as opportunity, but most importantly as unknown.

So often we plan and plan and plan, and hope, and try to control outcomes. And after so much hoping and fretting and plotting, you look out in front of you, and suddenly chunks of the future are already the past in your mind. Those plans and scenarios, conditions and contingencies, they start to restrict what you see. The options you see start to diminish, or mutate so that they can fit into this predetermined future-past.

I’m perhaps the most guilty of doing this to myself of everyone I know. It’s because I’m systematic, I like to plan, I like to judge my decisions based on predictable consequences. In my head I tell myself it’s my duty to myself and others to make informed decisions.

I didn’t think I’d manage to do this, but I’m going to work in video games to my explanation here, of the effects of all of this. Have any of you played World of Goo? Ok, for those who haven’t, you string these little goo guys together to try to build structures, but you have to be careful that they don’t warp or topple over (see Exhibit A). All this planning is just like that. The more you build up, the greater the stress that the whole thing will collapse, and the more restricted the options for your next move become.

Exhibit A via Manapool

Last night I tore down one of these gooey, future-past structures that I had been building for a while. And I won’t lie, it feels really sad. I said goodbye to a future me that I thought already existed out there somewhere. But it doesn’t compare at all to the burden that feels lifted. The past is back where it belongs and the future’s out there somewhere. And I maintain my faith that no matter how good my imagination or planning skills may be, I can’t imagine or plan anything as wonderful as what the future will reveal.

I’m going to take us out with Zee Avi, who besides having a beautiful voice, wrote an album of songs that very accurately describes my past 18 months. I highly recommend checking it out.

The Blind Leading the Blind, or Walking the Walk [#52weeks]

Maybe it’s something about me and my friends. Maybe it’s a fact of being in your early 20’s. Maybe it’s the human experience. But it seems like every one of my friends has experienced some kind of tumultuous or haphazard relationship situation in the past 6-12 months. I’ve been trying really hard to avoid writing about relationships here, but I suppose there’s a time and place for everything, so here goes.

We talk a lot about these experiences, as friends do, and compare notes, listen, ask questions, give advice, commiserate, hug, and distract ourselves. In all of the confusions, frustrations, and hopes, I’ve noticed a few things:

1. We suddenly know everything when it’s someone else’s problem. The most confused of us can have an extraordinary amount of clarity when it comes to looking at someone else’s problems. It can seem so obvious what needs to be done and why. Not that it seems any easier to deal with. Plenty of my friends are struggling with challenges much bigger and gnarlier (not a word? well, it should be, so hush) than my own, and I don’t envy them for having to deal with them. But I feel so much less confusion looking at their problems than my own. Which brings me to…

2. We know a lot more than we think we do about our own problems. I’m not sure if I can speak for anyone else, but I walk around feeling so confused about my own situations regarding relationships. As soon as I start to talk about them, though, I begin to realize that the solutions were already in my head, waiting to be articulated. As far as I can tell, asking for advice is more an admission that we feel confused than it is a real lack of direction. It’s also a check and balance on our own judgment. I think whether we admit to it or not, most of us maintain the secret fear that somewhere along the road we accidentally hopped on the train to Crazy Town. Getting advice from a good friend is just a form of checking with the conductor that you’re on the right track.

3. Life doesn’t give a rat’s ass what you know. You can have all the answers. Seek all the advice. Listen to your parents. Do everything you’re told. Do everything on your own. Have great mentors. Read biographies of inspiring people. Pray. Meditate. Read WikiAnswers. Read WebMD. See a therapist. Learn cake decorating. Feng shui your house. Write spoken word poetry. And sometimes life still makes no sense.

In summary…

Many #52weeks ago

Living back at home for the first time since I left for college, and for the first indefinite time since I went to Spain after my sophomore year of high school has been a completely new experience for me. I’ve been working on re-aclimate myself to these familiar surroundings. The biggest project I’ve been working on to do this is to redecorate my room. I haven’t lived in it for such a long period of time since I was 16, and it’s been decorated the same way since I was about 13, so there’s plenty of work to do.

board

The other day I decided to do what I’ve been thinking about for a long, long time: take down my bulletin board. When I was in middle school I decided it would be great to buy a huge bulletin board and post items to it that were significant in my life or that I related to. Over the years, I’ve been looking back at everything I had posted, thinking “why is that still up there?” or “I can’t believe I used to think that was cool!” Finally I decided to take the whole thing down. But I didn’t expect it to be so unsettling.

It felt like dismantling someone else’s past. I was pulling down clipped out New Yorker cartoons with jokes that I didn’t even understand when I had put them up. Quotes that I had printed out in huge word art, that have no relevance to my life now, much less any relevance to my life in middle school. Ticket stubs from movies I barely remember seeing. It was a perfect illustration of how much I’ve changed in the last 10 years.

It might well be the same feeling I experience when I go back and read this blog, years from now. And it made me think about how we change. Changing little by little, and occasionally in huge leaps and bounds, it’s hard to be aware of the changes without the ability to hold ourselves up to our past for comparison.

This opportunity to look back and compare was odd and a bit disconcerting, but I’m grateful for it. It was a reminder that I’m grateful for where I’ve gotten and who I am now. It was also a reminder that I’m grateful for who I was then, because she made the choices that got me where I am now. I can’t claim to have “made it” (not even a little), or to be exactly who I want to be or where I want to be just yet, but for now I’m happy to be here.

So thanks, Old Me, you were a bit weird and I still don’t totally get what you were thinking… but we’ve had some good times.

#52weeks Starts Now

As you can gather from my last post, my desire to keep up with blogging is both an ongoing desire and a chronic struggle for me. So when my friend Jessy told me about #52weeks (her initiative with some other creative minds from the internet to become contributors of content, at least once a week), I wanted in instantly. While I’ve always had the desire to write more and share my writing, I’ve never had a community to center it around. But #52 weeks is about more than community…

… it’s about what can happen in a year. I’m not usually one for New Year’s resolutions, but I do think it’s important to recognize when it’s time for a shift.

I’m no stranger to hard work. Lord knows writing an honors thesis while teaching two sections of Spanish lab my senior year in college was no cake walk. But everything from the classes I took, to the major I chose, took the form of things that came naturally to me in some way. Again, not that there wasn’t difficulty or challenge in the goals I chose to pursue, but I tended to stick to things I knew I could do well, if I put enough time in.

This coming year is about breaking that mold and taking some risks. I’m ready to focus on the things I want to accomplish that I’m not sure about. The things that don’t come naturally, that might frustrate me, things that I may initially believe I’m not good at. Because real rewards come with real risks.

One of these challenges for me is blogging. While I love writing, I’ve never had the ability to blog consistently. I’m hoping that by facing this challenge and putting in the work it takes to accomplish this goal, I will also gain the motivation, self confidence, and hopefully support, that it will take to put my axe to the grindstone and accomplish much riskier and more rewarding goals.