“You don’t know anyone at the party, so you don’t want to go. You don’t like cottage cheese, so you haven’t eaten it in years. This is your choice, of course, but don’t kid yourself: it’s also the flinch. Your personality is not set in stone. You may think a morning coffee is the most enjoyable thing in the world, but it’s really just a habit. Thirty days without it, and you would be fine. You think you have a soul mate, but in fact you could have had any number of spouses. You would have evolved differently, but been just as happy. You can change what you want about yourself at any time. You see yourself as someone who can’t write or play an instrument, who gives in to temptation or makes bad decisions, but that’s really not you. It’s not ingrained. It’s not your personality. Your personality is something else, something deeper than just preferences, and these details on the surface, you can change anytime you like. If it is useful to do so, you must abandon your identity and start again. Sometimes, it’s the only way. Set fire to your old self. It’s not needed here. It’s too busy shopping, gossiping about others, and watching days go by and asking why you haven’t gotten as far as you’d like. This old self will die and be forgotten by all but family, and replaced by someone who makes a difference. Your new self is not like that. Your new self is the Great Chicago Fire—overwhelming, overpowering, and destroying everything that isn’t necessary.”- Julien Smith, The Flinch
Absolutely LOVE this quote. Wonderful outlook to embrace as I am about to graduate and be hurled into the Great Unknown that is adulthood.
^ I wrote that line above over 2 years ago at this point. I smile and wince a bit reading it knowing what’s transpired between then and now. In the same way you return to places you’ve been before and can feel how you’ve changed since the last time you stepped foot there, I feel the same way about quotes or books I read a second time around. Reading this quote over again, I can feel deep within me that the Truths within it still apply and need to be heard by my little brain and heart. I let myself believe things about myself the last couple of years that I am now working to shake off. Aspects of myself like how I pride myself on holding onto people. As a result, I’m great at keeping in touch and awful at knowing when to cut ties. There are two sides to every coin.
A couple of friends and I were recently talking about how we’re trying to say “yes” to more things. Going out to that bar that terrifies us, catching a baseball game with people we don’t know that well, taking a roadtrip to Asheville just because, going to trivia night even though we suck at trivia, etc. Letting ourselves have fun basically. I realized recently how little I let myself do just that. It sounds silly and ridiculous but looking back over my life I can see countless times where I made the “better/safer/more responsible” decision. At what cost though? What is it that I work so hard for? It’s almost as if I don’t ascribe enough meaning to having fun. There’s still some level of anxiety lying beneath the surface if what I’m doing doesn’t actively contribute to my development as a person. I don’t put “fun” in that camp for some reason and I’m not entirely sure why. It’s part of why I value suffering like I do. Overvaluing anything though isn’t healthy.
“Your personality is something else, something deeper than just preferences, and these details on the surface, you can change anytime you like.”
As I look to the future, I’m starting to sort through those details on the surface. In the same way I recently sorted through my belongings deciding which shirt absolutely HAD to come with me on my nomadic trips, I’m starting to do the same with my automatic responses to situations placed before me. It’s an interesting exercise to re-evaluate your assumptions about others. It’s an even harder one to re-evaluate your assumptions about yourself because you start building a life around these assumptions. Our assumptions about ourselves lead us to create deep behavior patterns. We fall into these patterns and are lulled into the security/control these patterns offer whether it’s related to pain or pleasure. I’ve been talking about this idea of “comfortable pain” recently as it explains why I find myself in similar situations time and time again. Comfortable pain is safer and more predictable than cutting ties and seeking out some unknowable future happiness.
Before my grandfather died, he said to me “don’t work so hard. You’ll look back and wonder where the time went.” I want to cry thinking about it because I know how hard he worked and how he must have seen me doing the same. I was rigidly focused and intent on making something of myself – getting into a good college, graduating in 3 years, getting an excellent job, proving myself within the company, being a good friend, etc. I have mastered the art of making the long term smart decision in most areas of my life. It’s not my personality though – that’s deeper. These are are just shallow details on the surface. Looking at these details spread out in front of me, it’s empowering to work through which to keep and which to leave behind.
The Great Unknown is still just that for me even 2 years later. The picture with this post is a prime example of details really – it’s of me before graduation drinking a redbull as I was known to do. My hair is down which is actually very unusual.I don’t have makeup on which is typical. I have my contacts in which was normal for that time as well (I wore my glasses WAY more than I ever have in the last 2 years because the people closest to me “liked how I looked in glasses”). I’m wearing a bright pink shirt which I like to wear just to mess with people who placed me firmly in the tomboy category. I’m not doing anything over the top in this picture though – it’s very “me” on the surface casually yet intensely throwing back some swigs of redbull not posing next to any major monument on campus. It’s amazing how even in snapshots of one’s life you can see your personality and details on the surface all at once.