This post is perhaps a little bit sentimental, but I think I have a valid point to make, coming from a recent realization. Some realizations are terrible because they are often things that you only understand superficially and assent to, yet you don’t understand them deeply until you’ve had some mildly traumatic experience that forces you to understand. This realization is of that nature, something I thought I understood but later experience shows that I really didn’t. Even now, I am sure there are aspects of this that I do not yet understand and probably won’t for many years yet.
I have decided that my New Year’s Resolution is going to be this: stop trying to achieve my Platonic conception of myself; it is fundamentally deceitful and also impossible. I am simply going to be who I actually am, despite all my mistakes, weirdness, and the painful things that will inevitably happen. This may sound like a trite version of “be yourself,” but there is a lot more to it than simply that. I’ve only just begun to realize that even trite phrases like “be yourself” and “love yourself for you who are” can be rooted in genuine wisdom. What they lack is proper development.
So, essentially my resolution is some version of “be yourself.” But it must be qualified. This does not mean that I cease striving to be a better person, because that is not at all what I mean. It simply means that I need to change my focus, and spend less time on the petty deceits of my existence and more time in what is realistically achievable.
I tend to focus more on whether I appear a certain way, or whether I do things that are consistent with my (occasionally) Quixotic notion of who I want to be. (For instance, I may want to be Sherlock, which is of course impossible, but I still find myself wishing to achieve some aspect of Sherlock-ness and actually trying to achieve it, and then being disappointed when I inevitably fail). That takes attention away from where it is most needed: determining whether am I living well and uprightly, and affecting other people in a positive way…etc.
One of the things that 2014 taught me is the value of “being real.” And also how rare and difficult it is to find someone who is actually relatively comfortable with who they are. In some sense, everybody is striving to achieve their Platonic conception of themselves, which involves a lot of pretending and self-deception, often for a completely unrealistic goal. The more I think about it, the more deceitful it seems, and the more I realize that I have been trying for years to deceive others. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have necessarily seen it that way, but again, experience has forced me to see it for what it really is. We are like actors on another’s stage, acting out another’s story, but constantly trying to rewrite the script after how we think it should go. The irony is that we can’t change the script we have been given, we can’t act parts other than those we have been given, but we expend so much effort trying to do exactly that.
I will probably fail to succeed even marginally for a long time, but it is worth striving for, I think. It’s easier to live by realizations rather than mere resolutions, because realizations enlighten the road ahead in a way that pure resolutions cannot.
In light of that, I believe my first step is to quit caring so much about how I appear to others, especially by realizing that I do and will continue to do a lot of silly/stupid things, and that no resolution is going to change inborn awkwardness. As human beings, we tend to fall into more awkwardness in our attempt to avoid awkwardness, and cause ourselves a lot of needless pain. Whereas if we expect the awkwardness, we are not as angry and disappointed with ourselves when it happens. Making peace with that concept is difficult, but I envision life being slightly less disappointing if I operate on that premise. Even if I only partly succeed, not only will it decrease the amount of unnecessary pain I put myself through, but it will benefit others as well, which is a lot more important in the long run.