Me — Unlocking Your Own Secrets

I’m a very introspective person. I’m constantly thinking about things and framing my experience into sizable chunks, and a lot of my life is characterized by the need to constantly improve myself and my personality.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that we as people do things for the wrong reasons a lot, even when we ourselves don’t realize it. I’m constantly trying to better myself, but I often misdiagnose the problems in the first place simply because knowing who you are isn’t always simple.

Let’s imagine a person, we’ll call him Jack. He’s very extroverted, pretty attractive, gets along with everyone. The kind of person that goes to lots of parties and has a huge social media presence just because they’re so sociable. Jack has a problem, though. He never makes time for specific people. He’s too busy hanging out with and being everyone’s friend. He might say he’s too busy with other friends to actually spend time on any one person. His best friends are just the people that he hangs around most when he goes to these parties.

But what he doesn’t realize about himself is that he doesn’t make actual, meaningful connections with people because he’s scared. His mom left when he was a kid, and he never understood or overcame that. He doesn’t want to get close to anybody because he’s terrified that if he allows himself to be vulnerable, that person will leave him. He may not realize it, but the brain has a way of doing things even if you’re not aware of it.

I’m not going all Freud on you, I promise. But even when we try to learn why we are the way we are, we may not be able to find a solution. You have so much baggage surrounding your life that it’s hard to parse what is and isn’t relevant towards for determining the reasoning behind your behavior. It gets even harder when we rationalize actions based on false information to unconsciously hide ourselves away.

I wish I could know every objective truth behind me and my actions. It’s a lot like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle of your brain, only you don’t know what the picture is supposed to look like, you just have a pile of pieces with no edge to work with.

But when you tell a friend about your troubles, they’re not looking at the information the same way. They don’t have all the baggage that comes with your life, they’re just thinking about the information you give them. Imagine them watching you struggle to put this huge puzzle together and they say “Dude, the box is right here, why don’t you just look at it?” The answer seems so simple that it’s hard to believe, but the more you think about it, the more you realize they’re right.

Of course, this is what psychologists and therapists are for, but sometimes a good, close friend can do the same thing.

Self discovery is a quest never finished, but it’s a much longer journey when taken alone.

Me — Kindness Towards Strangers

I was driving around the other day. One of the two days we had rain in the last several months. I had just gotten gas, and was on my way to a friend’s house when I noticed a girl using her backpack as an umbrella as she walked down the street. The high school had just gotten out of class, and I imagine she was probably walking home.

This situation upset me a bit, because as a person, I’d have liked to stop and give her a ride home. I wasn’t in a hurry, and her walk seemed rather unpleasant. But society has taught both me and that girl that that is inappropriate. I could not be kind simply because it would have put me in a position of power, and were I a worse person, something bad could have happened. There was nothing I would have been able to do to help her outside of driving to the store, buying her an umbrella, and bringing it to her.

The worst part is, if I had pulled over and managed to convince her I was trustworthy, the conclusion to draw from that would be that she is too trusting a person. Sure, I would have just driven her home (or wherever she was going) and been about my way, but wouldn’t that give her the impression that the world is a better place than it actually is? If the person pulling over to help her was anyone other than me, whom I would claim to know somewhat well, I would advise against getting in the car. So if I had helped her, and everything went well, I would only teach her that it’s okay to do that, when it’s not, because any time you put yourself at the mercy of a stranger is an extremely dangerous risk.

I think the takeaway here that our society (at least where I live) is very distrusting of strangers, and in some ways that’s a good thing. But in this case, it means that kindness cannot take the simplest, most direct route. It’s a shame, but it’s probably better this way. I imagine any times and places where this situation would be innocuous would also end up getting a lot of people hurt.

Obviously, I’ll say that kindness is something our world could use more of, but I think that statement will always be applicable. We simply have to find appropriate ways of doing it that don’t teach strangers the wrong lessons. Also, another thing people don’t seem to realize about helping strangers is that it makes one feel better about oneself. This is another can of worms, but I don’t believe in altruism. I think people do selfless acts because it allows them to feel better about themselves. At least, I know that’s why I do nice things.

So maybe helping people shouldn’t primarily be about forcing other people to trust you in order to prove your intentions are virtuous. Maybe we should focus on doing little things that allow both parties to walk away happier.

Me — Knowing Yourself

Recently (within the past few years) I’ve noticed that I really don’t know myself all that well. I, like everyone else, have this nebulous list of wants and needs, but lately, I’ve realized that in order to figure out the “how” of achieving this list, it’s important to understand the “why” those wants and needs are in place. If you don’t know the “why”, figuring out the “how” can be nearly impossible.

It isn’t enough to say “I want to start a family and be successful.” There are lots of ways to accomplish this. If you want a family because you think it will make you feel validated as a person, you need to dig deeper. There are lots of ways to feel validated as a person. This isn’t to say that your list of wants is wrong, just that the why can inform your decision making. Why is having a family the way you choose to pursue your goal of validation? Is it because you never felt like you had a supportive family? Or because you want to leave something behind? Or something completely different?

These aren’t the questions I ask myself, but the idea is the same. Figuring out the “why” will make the “how” much clearer, but it’s not always easy to see. Sometimes, the wants themselves are difficult to understand. This happens a lot with teenagers who are just finding things (and people) they like. I’m sure we’ve all heard stories about (or are) people who dated people against their sexual preference because they didn’t know themselves to act differently. It’s a learning process, and the path is really obscure. As in, the canopy is four feet high and we can’t even see where we’re going because we’re constantly getting whacked with leaves and branches.

I don’t have any clear cut answers that will help you figure out who you are. I’m a little busy asking myself hard questions. There are two things that I’ve made a habit of doing, though, to ensure that I’m at least on the right path. One: ask yourself if you’re happy, or if you feel you’re taking steps to get there. If not, what steps can you take now that will put you in that direction? Two: Constantly keep tabs on how you feel. Keep track of what makes you feel good and bad, and use this as a road map. Play Hot-Cold by yourself, and soon you’ll develop a compass that will get you somewhere. It may not be the place that you expected to go, but constantly questioning everything, and thinking about why you are the way you are is bound to yield good results, even if it doesn’t happen right away.

In my experience, everyone older than you seems to know what you’re doing. It’s amazing, if you think about it. Everyone 50% older than me seems to have their life on track, but as soon as I get that old, I realize I’m wrong. I’m probably showing my age a bit by asking this half-rhetorical question, but I’m curious: do people ever really “figure out” who they are? Or are we all just swimming around in a pool of confusion and only barely figuring out where we should be?

Life — Doing What You Love (340)

A lot of people will tell you that you should learn what you love doing and then find a way to make an income from it. “If your job is something you love doing, you’ll never work a day in your life.” But at the same time, I’ve also heard advice that you shouldn’t make your passion your job, because soon you won’t enjoy it anymore. If you love writing, making it your profession would supposedly kill the enjoyment you get from it.

I think there’s merit to both arguments. There are certainly situations in which making what was a hobby a job could run the potential of making that thing less enjoyable. If woodcarving is your release, and how you relax after a long day, getting commissions and suddenly having to stress over completing the project in time may not be the best course of action.

But taking all of that into consideration, I think a lot of life is about learning not only about the world around you, but about yourself. You can’t make a blanket statement and say that a hobby can’t turn into a job without positive results. It clearly works for a lot of people. The question then becomes: Is doing your passion professionally good idea for you?

In general, I think its best to give it a shot. The ideal thing here is to work a job that you enjoy, and one of the easiest and simplest ways to accomplish that is by getting a job where you do what you love. If you find that the added wait of making this hobby a profession adds too much stress to enjoy something, you can always stop. Just quit the job. If you like woodcarving but don’t like the time constraints commissions may add, you can always go back to having woodcarving be just a hobby.

In the end, this process will have the guaranteed effect of making you learn about yourself. Maybe you found that getting money from woodcarving was pretty dang cool, but it was specifically the time constraints and the stress that occurred because of it that you didn’t like. In that case, you can step back and re-calibrate what you want to be doing. Maybe instead of offering commissions, you can simply sell things online when you’re done with them. That way you can still have fun doing it, work at your own pace, and get money.

I’m a firm believer that any hobby can be worked into a job. If one does enough exploring and self-discovery, the capability of finding a job one enjoys is always out there, even if its not a job you expected to enjoy. For example, I didn’t expect to enjoy writing in this blog. It was purely a means to force me to write more often. by a happy coincidence, I also enjoy writing on the various topics on a weekly basis, in addition to the fiction.

So, don’t let anyone’s advice on what you should be studying in school, or what jobs you should and should not apply for scare you. The process of self-discovery is always working on the sidelines, so no matter what you end up doing, you’ll end up closer to what you really should be doing with your life.

Life — Riding a Bumpy Road (310)

 

The most important tool that you have at your disposal is your brain. Sounds obvious, sure, but a very useful function that a lot of people forget is its capacity to think and reflect. We learn why we didn’t do well on a test, reflecting our past choices and determining a better set of choices that can be made in the future. We learn why people act a certain way in specific situations, and learn what to expect and how to act accordingly.

But, even with this reflection, people don’t often look at themselves and wonder why they think a certain way, or how their personality came to be what it is. It is crucial to look at who we are, because that’s where so much growth comes from.

Imagine you’re driving along a road late one night, and it is extremely bumpy. The bumps in the road make for an unpleasant ride, and it leaves you frustrated. “If only this road could have been paved properly!” you lament. Your drive would be so pleasant if these bumps weren’t making your life miserable.

One day, you have enough of these bumps, so you stop to rest. While you’re taking this break, you get out of the car to examine these bumps. Maybe they’re more common on one side of the road, and careful driving can avoid it. But as you inspect the pavement, you find that there are no bumps to speak of.

Looking back to your car, you realize that one of the tires has a bubble on it: a pocket of air that makes the tire not quite circular. It’s not the road that’s leading to an unpleasant ride, but the car itself!

I’m pretty proud of this analogy, because it can be extended pretty far. Bubbles in tires can be caused by damage relating to some sort of impact: a pothole or something that caused a high amount of pressure. You can take this to be a high stress event in your life that changed your personality. The bubble isn’t necessarily noticeable until you’re looking at the tire.

Continuing down this path, many people driving on this same road wouldn’t have the same bumps. You can talk to other people about your problems, but they tell you “the road isn’t bumpy! Stop whining!” In this circumstance, both people are right. The road isn’t bumpy, but that doesn’t mean you’re making your life complicated just because: you have a legitimate problem.

So, once you find out that it’s the car that is the problem, what do you do? Maybe you’re the sort of person that always carries a spare (though in all honesty I don’t know how that part of the metaphor translates.) More likely, however, you’ll have to go to greater lengths to solve the problem. You’ll have to find a way to replace the tire, because tire bubbles can be quite dangerous! Ignoring the problem could only make it worse, and the whole tire may give out on you.

That’s as far as the metaphor goes, I’m afraid. I don’t know how to fix a tire bubble in your life. In fact, I’m looking at one on my own car. But, once you spot it, you can know that it’s not life trying to hold you down, but specific circumstances around you. You may not know how to change the tire and solve your problem, but identifying the problem immediately makes you that much safer.