Friday, September 11, 2015

On Adulthood, and Finding "I"

The thrill of sneaking around is epitomized in a child's mind as the height of sophistication. Whether sneaking out a window late at night, reading in the bed after lights out, taking a cookie from the jar before dinner, we just lived for that shit--moments of rebellion.  As kids, a lot of us weren't given many choices we could make for ourselves ( either that or I grew up on a vastly more strict household than the average). When we wanted to make choices for ourselves, the most satisfying kind was the kind we made privately-- clandestine operations.

Adulthood is all about choices. Work, friends, car, bills, right, wrong... the list goes on eternally, and with too many little, annoying details to want to think about it any closer than skimming the reality we face daily. I consider how eager I was as a kid to sneak around, how many things felt so exciting to do when I knew there was no adult supervision. The thrill of being caught (with a desire to not be). Yes please.

I've gotten all caught up in adulthood. In this mundane process of making decisions based on some construct of right or wrong. What is "good" for me? I look closely at my options over the last few years, and my decision making. Choices everywhere. How often did I "sneek out" to enjoy something for myself? How often did I take time to breathe and consider the needs of self (my self, that is)?

Alright, at the onset maybe I sound like some egocentric maniac trying to convince others to only think of themselves (hyperbolic rendition of the above, but I see how it could be misconstrued as such). So let me clarify. My point is not to encourage people to make bad choices, be dishonest, or over indulge themselves. Let me give an example.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine came from out of state to visit for the weekend. The trip was last minute, and my friend didn't give me much notice before coming to see me (the day before). When I  found out the trip had been booked, I wanted to do my best to make sure that the trip was something engaging, exciting, something to be remembered. If you are going to bother flying to another state to visit me, I'm going to do my best to make the experience rival others in your lifetime. This was my mind set. I went about planning an entire day of activities, everything from graffiti parks to good places to eat. I prepped maps, food, car music, the works.

The morning of, as I packed the car with all my well prepped extravagances, I paused, between loading an ice bag of snacks and a bottle of sunscreen. Already I'd worn myself out, just getting things together, and in order to make someone else happy. Awesome, good friend 101, right? Treat others the way you would want to be treated? Then something dawned on me: I don't ever treat myself this good. And what I mean is, I don't set aside an entire day to myself. Consider in preparation what I love to do, map out where I can do those things, and then spend a day alone, enjoying the things I enjoy for myself. I don't ever sneak out anymore.

Sure, I'll work hard to earn things, hang out with friends, go do all kinds of activities. But I have never planned a date for myself. They say that in order to be loved we first have to love ourselves. I consider the way I want to treat other people, the type of friend I want to be to other people, and then realize that I never stop to consider myself in that same light. Sure, I am alone a lot of the time lately, but I don't consciously gift myself with time alone. I don't stop and say, "hey, just myself and I, we are going to enjoy each other, get to know each other, pamper each other."

Maybe there is a host of people out there who have already figured out that they need to dedicate time to themselves; not time in which they are trying to gain, to work harder or learn more, but to just appreciate oneself. And maybe there are some people out there who can honestly say that they have never gifted themselves with themslelf. Shit, if you have friends, I am certain you have enjoyable qualities, do you ever enjoy your own qualities, for no reason other than yourself? Sneak out the window when noone is watching; stay up late reading after lights out; eat the damn cookie before dinner?!

God, we get so caught up in the wake-up-on-time-for-work, party-on-the-weekend, work-out-tomorrow, lifestyle.  When do we take time to be self aware, and to enjoy it?!

And here I think about the difference between my native culture, and my new one--old self, and new. I consider that the lifestyle I was raised in, my surroundings, advertisements, entertainment, all catered to one very consuming, loss of self, loss of mind, lifestyle. Constantly going, never slowing down, never looking. Appreciation of anything starts with appreciation of yourself. Just like the ability to love starts with how you love yourself.

Late at night, outside of huge living developments, hundreds of elderly women gathered to dance together in the darkness. Men would sit by, holding babies and rounding up children playing in the streets, while the grandma's of the community did nothing but dance. I sat and watched for hours one night, just amazed at how graceful these women were, and how totally alive in the moment they were. Not necessarily connected to each other, but connected with themselves, and in turn, they functioned fluidly as a group.

We have this mentality in America, "I can't do X because I have to take care of Z." When does this way of thinking become a trap to ourselves, a lie? Is it just an excuse we have been taught, hindering us from having what will make us truly happy inside? Freedom. Not even public freedom, but private freedom-- a freedom of the mind, of self. I've got it now, though, the idea that self exists.

I know, you're thinking Descartes already figured this shit out. But what one man has figured out, another takes for granted. Ayn Rand wrote about in her book, Anthem: humanity had become one conglomerate identity, and individuals forgot what it was to have an individual identity-- they lost "I." On a less surface playing field, have we done the same thing? Have we lost the "I" inside of each one of us?

I hear people say all the time that my generation is a "me" generation, only thinking of themselves. Chances are, you've heard this said also, although perhaps not in the exact same phrasing. But I don't see individuals truly thinking of themselves, I see them acting on a group identity, and surrendering themselves entirely to something else... something indistinguishable. If I could say anything about my generation, it is that we are a generation who has lost ourselves.

What I am really trying to get at though, is that you can. That's all. You just can. And we should all start reminding ourselves that we can. I'm going sneak some time away from everything, just to be with me. I'm going to plan it out, make it worth my time, make it unforgettable, and enjoy it, every moment. I'm going to take this opportunity in life to get to know myself a little better, make sure I can stand to be with myself before expecting others to, and then I'll brave everything that comes after. I'm going to eat the damn cookie while noone is watching, and when I do, I'm going to remind myself that I'm doing it for me.

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