13 July 2011

And What Have I Learned?

[NOTE: Originally published on Facebook on 1/18/2011.]

On the eve of my thirty-sixth birthday, I am reminded of the immortal words of Marsellus Wallace:

"Night of the fight, you might feel a slight sting. That's pride fuckin' with you. Fuck pride! Pride only hurts, it never helps. You fight through that shit."
The past year has been interesting. Wonderful, fulfilling, devastating, frustrating and ultimately triumphant. Life is a learning process. Here are a few things I've learned:

1) Jump feet first into the horrible. Dirt washes off and scars add character. Living with anxiety and indecision in the face of the great unknown is not a life worth living. It's better to rip the band-aid off; to roll-up your sleeves and dive into the stinky. It's the only way to get to the root of what's ailing you. Deferring judgment only works so long -- and ultimately doesn't work at all!

2) Tried and true "got your back" friends are priceless. Taking the time to work at creating those relationships is incredibly important. Having a cohort. "Cohort" derives from Latin and means "from the same garden." The people you grow up with define you, challenge you, make you a better person. I could not be happier with the garden I'm in (and I look forward to growing old with you people.)

3) Again I am reminded of what should be the obvious: Communicate. Compare notes. Don't let someone convince you of another's guilt without verifying it for yourself. Don't jump to conclusions without extending the same benefit of a doubt you'd hope people would extend to you. Count to ten. Breathe. Communicate.

4) It is TOO DAMN EASY to hide from what you KNOW you're supposed to be doing. It's easy to find yourself in a cul de sac, driving in circles, kidding yourself that you're getting somewhere while the scenery never changes. "Cul de sac" is French. It means "bottom of the bag," and refers to a literal dead end. You (and by "you" I mean "I") have to to assess where you are, where you've been, and (perhaps most importantly) where the hell you're planning on going. You know that old Lennon quote, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans?" Well, there's "making" plans, and there's following through on the execution of those plans.

When I first got my license, I thought it was a funny joke to occasionally "freak out" behind the wheel and scream, "WHAT AM I DOING?!?" As if I had suddenly forgotten how to drive. Every now and then, I think it's important to freak out a little and scream to yourself, "WHAT AM I DOING?!?" If you wake yourself up to discover you're doing donuts in a dead end, it's time to change direction.

5) I miss my dog. A lot. Life is precious, memories are important, and it's okay to be hurt. Being hurt means you felt something to begin with.

6) FUCK PRIDE. Like Mr. Wallace says, it only hurts, never helps. I'm not saying don't be proud of your accomplishments, I'm saying don't be obstinate. Or to quote someone who doesn't drop the f-bomb:

Arjuna is to do the best he knows
In order to pass beyond that best to better.
How can we prescribe our neighbors to be perfect
When it is so hard to know our own heart?
The pacifist must respect Arjuna
Arjuna must respect the pacifist.
Both are going toward the same goal
If they are really sincere.
There's an underlying solidarity between them
Which can be expressed:
Each one follows without compromise the path upon which he finds himself.
For we can only help others to do their duty
By doing what we ourselves believe to be right.
It is the one supremely social act.
[-- "Sojourn of Arjuna," by Future Man of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.]

Concentrate on your work, do your best, and bend like the reed, grasshopper.

7) My greatest strength is my relationship with Pamela. She's the "got your back friend" to end all. She's a strong, determined woman who inspires me to get off my ass and do what I do. I'm a lucky guy.

So there you go. Thirty-five years in the bag! I can't wait to see what thirty-six has in store ...