Do You Remember The Day You Died?
It's about a quarter til 9 on a Sunday night, and I've spent my afternoon/evening alone for the first time in really quite a while. I used to, when I was a teenager, spend an awful lot of time alone. I enjoyed it, honestly. I think my thoughts were braver then. Time alone gave me space to dream, and imagine what I would become. Now, a few years into adulthood, I find myself, despite my best efforts, feeling rather defeated when I'm alone. Ironically, I don't think I'm alone in feeling this way.
As I grow older, I have a recurring feeling. It doesn't hit often, but it hits hard. I'll imagine myself as a child, riding my bicycle, eating ice cream with my dad, begging my parents to let me stay at friends' houses, and picking up guitar for the first time. I'll imagine myself, as if I am an older (more jaded) spectator of my younger self, wide eyed and eager to play every guitar in a music store. I can vividly see myself sprinting down the stairs to play a new song I had written to my parents to get their feedback. It's a sad feeling. It feels like mourning.
I had a conversation with my girlfriend last night about insecurities. I realized something while talking to her in that we all grow into our insecurities, not out. As children, we are, for all intents and purposes, fearless. We are very sure of our abilities to achieve. Children don't need to meditate and focus on picturing themselves as successful. They just run into the backyard, and boom! There they are. On the moon. President. In the major leagues. On stage for thousands. And it's not wishful thinking either. For children, these visions are extremely real, and intricately detailed.
I used to spend hours in my back yard pretending to be the first Major League Baseball player with a record deal and a number one single. From the outside, I was a kid throwing a baseball in the back yard. In my head, I was pitching game 7 in the World Series for the Houston Astros. I could hear the announcers saying, "He's one strike out away from being the first to win a World Series title and a Grammy award. Incredible!". To me, this wasn't imaginary, but prophecy. And here I am, confused as to why none of it happened, and sad that I don't believe it could anymore.
At a point in everyone's life, we arrive at our insecurities. Our childhood fearlessness fades, and we adopt narratives about ourselves that we will then carry with us for the rest of our lives. For some, they adopt as truth that they are the 'fat kid'. So no matter how fit they get, for the rest of their lives, they will still struggle not to see themselves as that 'fat kid'. For others, they adopt as truth that they are the product of divorce, and they carry that burden with them even after they themselves are married for decades. Whatever insecurities we grow into in our formative years, we never truly grow out of.
I grew to believe that I have a super human ability to screw up monumental opportunity. Despite my parents being unusually supportive of my dreams of being a rock star, an opportunity to sing on live television for 5 million people, and music industry veterans offering to help me left and right, I always found a way to disappoint, and fail. So, at around 16 or 17 years old, I adopted the a life long insecurity that I am unlovable because of my unfathomable ability to squander every opportunity of success or love that is offered to me.
We all have our own sort of achilles heel or hot topic, when it comes to our view of ourselves, or our fate.
Now all of this so far sounds gloomy. And in a way, it is. It's devastating that we can't just maintain or hold on to our childlike joy and wonder. But then again, didn't we all wish for it? Can't we all recall a time, as children, that an adult would say to us 'don't grow up too fast!', yet we would anxiously wait to grow up so we could call our own shots? Yeah. That came back to bite us in the a$$. But what if there were an upside to all of this gloom? What if there were a beauty to be had in our darkness that we would never be able to experience without our pain and insecurities?
As I spoke to my girlfriend about all of this last night, I found myself thinking about hardship in terms of weight lifting, something that her and I (willingly, yes willingly) do together 4 days a week. It occurred to me that our insecurities, and our ability to make light of them is just like a back squat. One day, it's damn near impossible to back squat 275 lbs. Your shoulders hurt from the weight on your back, your legs shake, and you barely make it up before collapsing on the ground and asking yourself why you're doing it in the first place. But the next time you do it, it's a little easier, and a little easier then the next time after that. Over time, a 275 lbs back squat becomes relatively easy.
Once it is easy to squat 275 lbs, we still can't treat the load without respect. If we are ill or disabled, we should rest instead of attempting to lift. When we lift, we should pay careful attention to our form, because after all, it's still a heavy weight, despite it being much easier to carry than it once was. Our insecurities should be esteemed exactly the same way. We must know when we are too weak to fight them. We must be constantly sharpening our minds to understand them and preserve our form. We must rest so that our torn emotional muscle tissue can grow.
Ultimately, when childhood dies, each one of us is given a responsibility. We are given a burden to carry. Our insecurities and our passions. Those are our loads. Our passions are our prompt to act in the world, and our insecurities are our excuse not to. It's up to us to take both head on. At the beginning, it will be hard. You will fight like hell, and lost often. You may not be able to lift it at all. But as you continue trying, you will find yourself more and more able. You will find yourself more and more capable... You'll discover a sense of self respect (yes, respect must earned, even from yourself).
Be encouraged. The load you are carrying now will not always feel as difficult to carry as it is today. You will grow in strength. No, it unfortunately will never be easy to carry. But it will get easier. And maybe that's not so unfortunate after all. Maybe carrying out a task in spite of our troubles is more meaningful than having no troubles at all. But what do do I know?