Live It

I wait for the universe to unfurl for me and
blood curdling, sitting, watching
trying to see the moment,
but it’s gone.
Seizing pretty sayings,
trying to remember what or why
so I can make it come back to a
‘if I knew what I knew’,
but I’m only hurdled forward.
I know I was forewarned,
but I still thought that mortality meant
I could do it tomorrow.
Tomorrow is never today,
is always a blank page,
a clutched fist,
an active mind,
unsure how to hurl itself onto the page
and make something worth making.
Take heart while you
take your bliss.
Write fiction as if you
don’t live it.
Live it.

Self Improvement’s Guise

If you’ve been reading this blog, chances are that you know I’m all about self improvement. I’d like to take a moment to make what I think is an important distinction, which I don’t think is always clear.

By being an advocate of self-improvement, I’m not saying that the Celes of yesterday was so flawed that a new me is needed. There seems to be the theme among people who are into self improvement that you need to hate yourself to want to be better. I don’t think improvement works well this way, nor do I think that improvement is about being better each day, every day.

I try to improve myself and my life, but I do so with knowing I will never reach level 1000. Life if not like some games where you’re gaining all these experience points and leveling up and leveling up until you’re at level 1000+ by the time I’m seventy-eight years old. As much as I wish it were, life just isn’t like that, my friends. Everyone whose self improvement is a linear picture of reaching perfection will be sadly disappointed in the end.

We as people, and life itself, go in cycles. You can’t always be happy or healthy. The best you can do is try to extend the times you are and minimize the times you aren’t. If anything, learning to deal with the times when things are bad in the best way possible is self improvement. To try to reach a state where you never trip, never falter, and never stray from the best of the best is not only an impossible goal, it’s a step backwards. To improve you first have to realize that you’re not horrible the way you are now, you’re never going to suddenly morph into that butterfly or swan or whatever, and you’re going to make terrible mistakes and have horrible things happen to you on your journey.

You are you, with your own faults and particular qualities. To pledge to make slight changes is one thing, but to act like some day a Honda Civic is going to become a Hummer is delusional and sad (about as sad as that metaphor).

Today is as important as tomorrow, and as much as you should be working towards something, you need to realize, accept, and live in the moment of who you are today as well. Do it because there may not be tomorrow. Do it because to really improve you have to love and accept who you are now. Do it because tomorrow, whether or not you like it, you will still be you no matter what you tell yourself. Do it because even if right now sucks, it is part of you and your story, and only you can do something with it that makes it worth having happened.

I know some things about myself, others I’m sure I’m still learning. By knowing I am a certain way, I can embrace and express that in ways that I am increasingly more comfortable with. Faults are not always faults, and finer qualities not always so fine. To focus on ‘changing the bad things about yourself’ is to place a black and white value on a part of who you are and either try to cut it out or replace it like some kind of Frankenstein graft. To see both sides to a coin is to admit the world is flat on only has two sides. Consider the many sides to the tetrahedron, or other polyhedrons that are the building blocks of life, and try to find how each piece can fit together.

I try to be realistic. Combine slight tweaks with strategies and meet yourself somewhere in the middle before you fall off the edge. If you hate who you are now and set an impossible goal for tomorrow, you will fail in the worst way. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you’re not who you were, because you will always be some version of yourself. Accept it as everything you were has made you today, and will make you every day after until the end of this life. All things shape us, the best we can do is try to take some control over how they do and accept the things we cannot so we can move past them.

Acceptance is the biggest piece to the puzzle I think most people miss. You have to accept yourself, your life, and the general way of life, that it is not a perfect pearl or even an oyster, before you can move on.

And move on to what? What do you really want? Figuring is as much part of the journey and figuring out how to get it.

I want to be better than yesterday may seem like a the daily goal to strive for, but in the long term it makes little sense as it is a generalization, a judgment on the unquantifiable, and an impossibility.

More than self improvement, I think of this as learning to live by living. This involves thinking and introspection as much as it involves getting out there, taking chances, and doing.

Work & Work

The system is that was go to school to go to school to get a job to get money to live. Where’s the time to enjoy the life or the money we make (if there is any left after living). Many of are expected to be at work even when we’re not working or be on call. We look forward to retirement which may not happen before we die and when it does we will be either too old or poor to enjoy it. We take part in this cycle because it’s what we’re born into. The most that most of us can do is try to get that job that you somehow identify yourself with. That way, when it becomes the all consuming meaning of your life, it won’t feel quite so empty. When you admit that you are so much of your job, hopefully it is something you can at least take a piece of pride in. Relate it to a piece of your true self are a large notch above most of the working world.

The double irony of all of this is there are those of us who enjoy working. My entertainment mostly consists of work, but it’s work that I chose to do. It relaxes me in its own way. I put my full self into it with gusto. This is the sort of thing most of us dream about getting paid to do on a regular basis. Many people can be happy with a job they don’t identify with. I am the type of person who will probably not feel completely whole unless I have a job that I own. I want to work somewhere were I have pride, pronouns like ‘my’, and see myself in products of my labors. That may sound a little selfish, but all I’m asking is to work in the world as me, and not just be a moving, warm body that goes from day to day. I want more, I’m willing to work hard for more, but none of us knows how to get that (even the people that have it). They would look at you or I and say “I dunno.” or “Work hard.” as if that’s all they did to get where they are. They say it as if it’s not what you are doing. A few honest people have told me to be in the right place at the right time or talk to the right people.

Life doesn’t give you much to go on. It’s so hard even just to be and remain you.

I look at the people my age who I know and they are struggling with this aspect of their lives. They have college degrees and resumes and mad skills and talents. Yet, still, they fall into few categories. I have friends who get jobs they love, but they’re temporary or don’t actually support them. Internships are supposed to get you the better job tomorrow, just like college was. How many jobs is a person supposed to have to support their life? I have friends who find themselves out of work due to weather, economy, and simply being the low man on the totem pole. It seems like we have to pick up the ‘any’ job or drown. And then there are those that have better than the ‘any’ job, secure, but still somehow utterly miserable. They work for X Corp. which is part of their field, but no matter what they were hired as, they find themselves as little more than a glorified receptionist / personal assistant. Low man on totem pole is always looking for work whether or not they have a job and is scraping by for money even when they have a job. If you have the money for fun after everything else, it’s a must to survive life. You can’t work so many hours at a job, even one you like, and then when the weekend comes say, “I would socially interact with you, but I need to pay the bills.”

We play the ‘whose bills’ game with each other. Who has the worst student loan debt? Who has the lowest bank account balance? We all have savings accounts, but they’re for good intentions and future hopes at this point. Who gets by without getting any money from the family since they moved out? Anyone? Anyone?

This is my generation and I’m trying hard to be the exception. But then, most of us are.

Today VS Tomorrow

Final Fantasy 6 Son of a Submariner
Here is a tip to all the young, aspiring bad guys out there. To be a truly crazy, evil, and scary villain, try addressing the protagonist (as he gets away in a castle submerging into the desert) like so. Only then will you show your evil wit. Take it from Kefka of Final Fantasy 3/6 (SNES/Playstation).

It gets old trying to predict the future. I enjoy working on things for the future, it’s the expecting and trying to make things turn out a certain way that can be a bit grating. I try to live keeping in mind that people die in silly, unbelievable ways ‘before their time’ all the time. Even if you’re taking care of the ‘macrocosm’ of your life, the big picture, if you forget about the ‘microcosm’, all the moments that make up your day (and essentially you) then you’re missing out on life. As helpful as a crystal ball could be, it’s not the point.

Trying for tomorrow is great, but no matter what we work for or how hard we try, it can be a bit of a problem to expect things to work out as a result. I encountered that in a rather big way when my big long term plans for Virgina did not work out and I ended up in back in Mass. I saved a lot of money the summer before for the move (and all the things that went with it). I was looking forward to it even before that, when I was in Newcastle, “It’s gonna be so great!”.

My eggs were mostly in that basket. I’m glad I managed to make time for fun this past summer, maybe my last summer in Portland ever. I had living situation issues, but then I just made sure I was gone from my living space and with friends as often as possible. I miss the guys and gals I hung with (my P-land pals), even the people I worked with and the job itself. I miss it in a nostalgic way, however, not a ‘now sucks’ manner. I also don’t regret working so hard because I did make time for fun. I’m trying to make it so I can look back fondly on this time too some day.

Just keep going. It’s all we can do. Work for tomorrow, but live for today knowing tomorrow could still up and decide it has other plans for you.