Authenticity, Through the Layers

In our daily interactions, we all betray our likeness to onions.

Below the layers of our clothes we wrap ourselves in our own layers – layers that are internal, inherent, and invisible. These are the facades that we put on when we interact with strangers, or acquaintances, or even sometimes our loved ones.

They are both our blessing and our curse.

Let’s take the first time you meet someone. Usually this conversation starts out polite and non-invasive, like a toddler dipping her toe in the pool to gauge the temperature. Such a conversation may transpire as follows: Nice weather today, don’t you agree? I do. So, where are you from? Where do you work? I like doing that too; what else do you like to do?

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Why Impossible is Overrated

One of the trickiest hurdles to navigate these days is so often planted there by others. With good but misguided intentions, friends and strangers alike may attempt to nudge you along certain paths in life… but if those paths aren’t right for you, you shouldn’t take them.

Let me introduce Mr. Turtle, who will serve as our exemplar throughout this post. Mr. Turtle is your average green-skinned hard-shelled turtle. Not long after emerging from his egg, Mr. Turtle realized he had a dream, a dream that he wanted to achieve more than anything else in the entire world. The dream? Why, to complete a marathon! Mr. Turtle envisioned working diligently day after day to reach his goal, to have his four legs bringing his tired yet dignified body across the finish line and towards personal glory. He wanted it with every fiber of his reptilian body. The catch? His family and friends took great pride in their more traditional ways, and the Turtle society would never condone such a thing. Just think, they scoff, a turtle competing in a marathon! How preposterous!

What does Mr. Turtle do?

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Where Our Shoes Take Us

The clothes we wear tell a story. They tell our story.

Let’s take shoes as an example.

For those of us who tend to find ourselves in a shoe-clad state, we busily go about living our daily lives, balancing our work and play, while below us our indefatigable shoes roam the earth, striding where we stride, stumbling where we stumble, idling where we idle. They hang out on our feet, waiting to uphold our next bidding, as we wait in line at the store, or take our twenty-minute walk to work, or run our first 10k.

The soles of our shoes meet the rainy ground on the day we hurry through the streets, our minds elsewhere. Or the gravelly hiking path on the day we linger at the breathtakingly majestic view. Or even the carpeted floor where we proudly ace the challenging interview that really gets our career going.

All those times, our shoes are there with us.

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Time Worked ≠ Success

“I worked for 50 hours last week,” said someone.

“Actually, I worked a 60-hour week,” said another.

“Well, I haven’t taken a lunch break in a month and more often than not I am the last one to leave work,” said the last.

There was silence by the someone and the another, and in the end, the last was the self-proclaimed “winner.”

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What is it about some countries’ cultures where long hours are praised, where marathon weeks are seen as a reason to brag?

There is so much more to it than that.

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Real World, New Rules

“After I finally learned the ropes, they changed all the rules.”

This statement, from this Humans of New York post, is a no-frills, boldly honest declaration that defines so many life experiences. It sits there and bides its time, waiting patiently as you struggle to adapt to the circumstances you’re in. At some point you do adapt, and then, and only then, does it pick its moment – and bam. The old rules no longer apply, and new ones sneakily take their place.

As I am currently coming to terms with the results of such a transition-filled experience, this quote resonates with me in an especially relevant way. Let me explain why…

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No Excuses

I am a huge advocate of the phrase, “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way.” If you know me well enough, you’ve heard me say this at least once.

Do you remember those self-assessments that you may have taken when you were younger, which asked, “Would you get up at 5 in the morning for the fill-in-the-blank activity?” If you answered no, you were said not to care for it enough. If you answered yes, you had found something you loved. When I thought the question through, I came to the conclusion that I loved my sport, but was burned out of playing my musical instrument. It is by no means a perfect test, but I think it gets at an important point.

What you would get up for really goes a long way to defining something you deeply care about, and by extension, this feeds into who you are.

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Self-Regret

Have you ever felt so incredibly self-guilty that you wanted nothing more than to just curl into a ball and never brave the world again? So regretful that you wish you could go back in time and hastily scrub away what happened, permanently change the event or action or decision that led you to this precise moment?

Well, I have been there.  As it turns out, I am there right now. In general, yes, depending on the relative gravity of this incident, there are most probably worse things that we can recall or imagine, and we should be grateful. I have been telling myself this. Repeatedly. And yet, as much as I try, I just can’t seem to shake the feeling that is hanging over me like a dirty, indignant cloud making me want to do something, anything, just to exfoliate and find a way to make it all magically better.

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Why does this happen to us, really? Why can’t we, as the human race, reasonably and therapeutically just let all of our mistakes go, have them last as ephemerally as a puff of smoke? I see a world where everyone involved simply twirls his or her hands, yells “Alas!” like an expletive, and then accepts the new slate with a good-natured nod. Why is the weight of self-regret so heavy?

An answer? Because the world wouldn’t work any other way. The consequences of certain decisions are too substantial. Too heavy and impactful to allow decisions, actions, events, to go unpunished.

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Change

Have you ever had something you loved and couldn’t live without turn into something that just…wasn’t? Maybe your environment changed. Maybe your life changed. Maybe you changed. You’re not really sure. What you do know is that something changed, and it makes you sad. Because that thing you used to do – a hobby, a passion, an activity – has lost some or all of its fire, and you feel lost without the spark. You can’t even find the drive to locate the match and strike it. So you let life go on, wondering what happened and reflecting about what could have been. Because that, and the dreams, and the living present and the laden past and the empty future, are all you have. So life goes on, and you think in passing about what changed. And then that, too, you forget about, because time dampens memory, and people change and adapt. That thing is gone, only a part of the past you, and it hurts. But, slowly, that pain goes away too.

And then you move on.

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Ah, change. Some people love it, some people hate it. As for me, I am definitely in the inertia crowd, but I make a huge effort to recognize that. I think that being aware of our weaker tendencies, so to say, is a good thing. Continue reading “Change”

Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a sneaky beast. All it takes is one smell, one song, one sight… and those tied-up memories yank free from their constraints and stream full force to the present. They clamp to the insides of your brain like the most insistent goo, the most stubborn shoe-clinging gum. The memories. Remember me? they murmur. And they attack. Your eyes flash, the familiar ache returns, and you squeeze your eyes shut, feeling the onrush of sensations temporarily overwhelm your senses. You give in and let them through, feeling the richness and the sincerity and the sentiments. Oh, those times… What ever is more powerful than the “what was”? Perhaps, you think inexorably, the “what if”. And you are engulfed with more memories, each just as strong as the last. Helpless, you swim in them for awhile.

Time passes.

At some point you find it possible to open your eyes, having remembered why these were memories in the first place. You stare off into space, pressing your lips together absentmindedly, willing yourself to forget. Eventually you succeed. You run off into your world today, seizing it with a passion that is only slightly more forceful than usual. As you do, you cannot help but discern a mocking little voice in the back of your head as it snickers slightly and then whispers, “Just wait until the next time…”

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This was written in a time of, believe it or not, intense nostalgia. The aforementioned memories were of a good time, but the key word is “were”. Sometimes I want nothing more than to be able to relive certain vibrant parts of the past, but here we all are, in the present and without a way to get back.

How do you deal with such things? Continue reading “Nostalgia”