I have to admit, I’m not very good at life.
Here is my disclaimer: I’m not depressed. I’m not despondent. I’m not clinging to my last hope. I’m not writing this as a cry for help, or to reach out for the sympathy of friends or strangers. That’s not what I’m on about at all.
Now that we’re comfortably disclaimed, let me continue my thought. As I stated, I’m not very good at ‘life’. In fact, I fail pretty spectacularly at it.
By ‘life’, I mean the particular skill set people are required to have in the modern world in order to be ‘successful’. According to everything we’re taught from birth, we have to struggle and compete to earn our place in the world in order to become productive members of society. As children, we’re required to pass the tests and get the grades and play the sports so we ‘turn out well’.
Before we get a chance to grasp the barest of possibilities that the world has for us, we are told we need to choose what it is that we will be tied to for the rest of our lives. “Pick a career path,” we’re told at the age of 14, as if we really have any idea what we want to do. Sure, each of us has interests and aptitudes from an early age. But how, at the impressionable age of 14, or 17, or 22, are we to really have enough experience to make such important decisions? Why is it necessary?
In order to have ‘success’, the hurdles must be jumped. School, job, relationship, status. Money. Influence. Fancy car, fancy house, fancy friends, fancy lifestyle. Wear the right clothes, get the right connections, have the right body. There is always something lacking, everything has to be bigger, better, more.
But what about those of us who don’t follow that appointed path?
I personally have little use for money. Don’t mistake me, I understand the necessity of it in our society, and its purpose as a medium of exchange for things which are indispensable for survival, but it has never been a motivating factor for me. I enjoy my luxuries as much as the next person, but remove them from me, and I get by just fine. In this, I fail at life. I’m supposed to be consumed by the desire for money.
As a child, I had a vague idea of what I may possibly want from my life. As an adult, I have a vague idea of what I may want from my life. I don’t know if I ever will know. For this reason, I frequently move from job to job, sometimes discovering talents untapped, sometimes finding that my personal ethics prevent me from required duties even if I am good at what I’m being asked to do. In this, I fail at life. I’m supposed to have a clear end goal toward which I constantly strive and without which I feel empty and unfulfilled.
I am short, and nothing will ever change that. I’m also fat, and I’m healthy. I’m comfortable being fat. I’ve been skinny, I don’t like how I feel when I’m that way. I often dress unconventionally, and I wear my hair and makeup in any way I desire to. I am unapologetic about how I express who I am. In this, I fail at life. I’m supposed to be wracked with low self-esteem and guilt, and struggle to fit into a false societal norm.
I’m not a crusader, nor am I particularly political. I do want animal cruelty to end. I do want slavery to be a non-issue. I do want people who need jobs to have them. I do want equal rights for all people everywhere. I do want a world in which I can walk proudly as a polyamorous bisexual atheistical-agnostic without anyone getting their panties in a twist. But I know I’m not the one who will picket for these things, because I know that I personally have no power to affect change on my own. In this, I fail at life. I’m supposed to champion my causes loudly before the whole world, driven into a frenzy of ideals-bashing when confronted with anyone who does not share my leftward leanings.
I teach my sons to show respect in order to receive respect. I teach them that they don’t need to know everything to be worthy of my love. I accept their quirks and foibles. I refuse to discipline them for independent thought, failing, and acting according to their conscience. I hold them when they need to cry, laugh with them when they are filled with joy, and I refuse to minimize their impact on others and make them feel insignificant. In this, I fail at life. I’m supposed to push my children to be perfect, unquestioning automatons who follow all the rules and never step a foot outside the standardized box that they are perpetually being crammed into.
I’m just not good at all these things I’m supposed to be. Yet I don’t mind it at all.
I maintain a few Bohemian mindsets as I go day to day, and I make it through the good times and bad with my spirit unbroken by the cruelty of this world because I hold to them.
First, be kind. Everyone deserves kindness. Everyone, without exception. The Dalai Lama speaks mountains of wisdom, but the nugget I cling to most is “There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.”
Second, don’t judge. Nobody is faultless. Everyone lies, everyone cheats, everyone makes big and little mistakes. None of us is qualified to lay judgment on another, because we don’t live their life. I don’t know your truth, you don’t know mine. Psychologist Wayne Dyer puts it well: “When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.”
Third, seek out The Awesome. Beauty abounds all around us, but often we miss it because we’re just struggling through trying to live the way society has arbitrarily decided we must. There are so many, many awesome things to be found, and it doesn’t take deep searching. We just need to keep our eyes wide and observe. Confucius says “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”
Finally, be love. Love isn’t only a feeling, it is an expression of our humanity one toward another. Give it fully, without reserve. Give it to those you find deserving and those you find undeserving. It will never lessen you to share wholeheartedly, because loving is not about others, it is about you. “When I’m being love, I don’t get drained, and I don’t need people to behave a certain way in order to feel cared for or to share my magnificence with them. They’re automatically getting my love as a result of me being my true self.” – Anita Moorjani
I know, I got rather quoty. But that’s ok.
I may hold a false belief, but I believe it nonetheless; mine is the better way. I am immeasurably grateful to be so bad at life.