This week, the theme is Courage, and more specifically, Responsibility.
Perhaps we are more than we think we were.
I :: Courage
I think there are a lot of things that I could have phrased so much better. Over the years, I have written candidly about the people in my life and pretended that I have been building some kind of an empire but the truth of it is that I do this because it is the only place I truly feel like I can be genuine. If I write it here and publish it to my blog, or social media sometime later, then I don’t feel like I really said it. I don’t feel like I really made the words appear. It separates me just enough from reality that I forget that I did indeed write these words. As I prepared for Lifeis+ this year I looked back on old content from years ago and read through a lot of it to nail down that same essence of who I used to be. As I read through, I realized that I haven’t changed at all. I’ve grown, absolutely, but these words and these things have remained the same. This is a journal with pages so important to me I will tear my hair out if I don’t publish something, anything. I’ve been trying to be better about that. I’ve been taking a lot of time to reflect on who I am, compared to who I was. We all have this idea in the back of our minds that we are so much different than we used to be, but are we? Are we remembering more than just a collection of memories? We wanted to do things some way and we had the intention but at the moment did we really feel in a way that resonated with that intention or did we make it up so that we wouldn’t have to remember the people we used to be.
I could be speaking for more than necessary here, but I think the majority of us compare ourselves to our past selves. With each year that passes things just seem so much more difficult, so much more tedious. Two years ago the daily tasks I handle seemed so much easier. Since about halfway through 2020, it’s been hard to shower every day, to be honest. The world spins and we forget who we were, to replace it with some kind of stinky, confused version of ourselves. I don’t mean to say that in every area of our lives we degrade. I know that I am much healthier to my body than I was before. I know that I take better care of myself by and large than I did two years ago but still, I’ve felt off for some time. Maybe because I expose myself on a semi-weekly basis here and worry that whoever reads these posts will see through the thinly veiled excuses I write.
As I read back into my past, I wondered if I could keep up with the version of myself I thought I’d be. I think not, of course, that version of me was racked 24/7 on cans of Red Bull and Yellow American Spirits. I miss him a lot, but I think I’d hate him if I met him again.
II :: Identity
While I prepared for this particular post, I thought about the idea that I wanted to be like the person I was in 2014. I wanted to have that thick clay smiling mask again. I wanted to go back to cigarettes because let us be honest, vaping is obnoxious. I wanted to throw away the progress I’ve made wholly because I felt better then. I allowed myself to believe that in some, small, meaningless way, I was happier then.
Then, my life wasn’t cluttered and messy. I worked, went home, and played games for a while before I wrote through the night time and it was simple. I’d smoke a pack a day and crush a 24 case of Red Bull and pass out before the sun rose to do it again the next day. I liked the cycle that I had. I think I get that from my parents, both of them wonder what things would have been like if their lives had been different. It’s normal, we all do to some degree. If this one thing hadn’t happened and my life was eternally different, would I be different?
I’ll tell you something, I’ve seen the past and I’ve seen the future and from where I sit they are both endless dark voids. There isn’t meaning in them. The lessons I carried from 2014 into today I still remember, some I don’t hold as dear as I used to and that’s okay. Take it from me, a man who refused to acknowledge the declining state of his mental health for years, until I had someone in my life to care for. I wanted to go back to then so badly because it made me feel better. Not because it made me better. I’m sure that the feelings will arise again soon, and I will look at the clutter of my home and wish to be where I was in 2020 regardless of where I go from here. The futures before us, much like the past, are endless, but one thing is certain. In ten years I won’t remember this difficulty the same. I will see it in rose-tinted light. I will remember the romance of my struggle and how it raised me, and I will want to go back. Perhaps things will be too easy then, perhaps they will be worse.
Who is to say? I spend so much time living in the future or the past, that I forget to live in the present. My mind is as cluttered as my home and that is something that I can only blame on myself. As I write this, my wife is out working her second job, I have food in a crockpot, my dogs have been behaving strangely and I can’t help but worry. Is something wrong? Am I enough for them? Will I ever be the man I want to be?
III :: Responsibility
A long time ago, my father gave me a piece of advice I had forgotten about until I read through old posts from the first year of the blog when I was starry-eyed and filled with nicotine and lofty dreams. I was having trouble with a roommate and how we handled one another. I was frustrated because he was always in my space. He didn’t leave me alone and it turned into me coming home, and immediately going to visit my parents each night of the week because I would rather run than confront the problem. I was afraid that I would confront it incorrectly and our living situation would blow up. Perhaps I was right, but I never confronted him about it regardless.
My dad told me back then that everyone needs a door. We all need our own space. Growing up my dad had his model room, my mom had her craft room, and I had my room. For the most part, if we were there, the others knew that it was our alone time. It was space for us to be separate for a while. It was what we needed to survive. Everyone needs a door to block out the rest of the world. The rest of the things that clog up our minds and our intentions. We need our private place where we can sit and think and be at peace.
What happens then, if that private secluded place becomes your enemy? What happens when the one in your way… is you?
There is an important lesson here still, that despite your circumstance, you may wind up needing a private place away from yourself to be at peace. I’ve learned this recently. I worked so hard to try and do new things in new ways, to provide something new each week that wasn’t like the “old” me, when in reality the old me and the new me are the same me. We are the same as the me who has yet to come, too. And so are you. No matter how much we change, when we look to the past we aren’t remembering ourselves. We are remembering ourselves in the way that we thought we were. As much as I believe I was this ball of light and joy back in 2014, the content I wrote and the things I said prove otherwise. In as much the same way, there will come a day in which I will change again, but I will be the same then too. I just won’t remember it.
Those echoes of the past and future will do all they can to get in your way. They will roost on your shoulder like sinister devils while you lay down to sleep. They will wake with you and remind you of all the things you used to do, and could someday be. They will look like you and act like you and while they might be you, they are not you anymore. They are not you yet. Today is the only day that matters to us because it is the only day we can grasp. Everything behind and before us is nebulous, it is fickle. Life is as short as it is long and when we forget that, we get bunched up in the present and find ourselves stuck.
I’ve been there a lot lately, so I’ve started locking myself away in my room and remembering.
Today is here.
I am here.
and there is nothing else that matters at this moment.