Once again, the hours have ticked by while I wasn’t looking and now the darkness outside my windows is complete with a huge partial moon hanging high in the sky and the clock preparing to announce the new day. I have completely and utterly failed to stick to my desired bedtime but at the moment, I can’t bring myself care.
My evening was hijacked by an epic tale of radiant knights who wield fantastical blades and armor as they charge into battle. Their glorious deeds are chronicled in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series. I have fewer than 50 pages left to read of Book 1, The Way of Kings, which is considerably less than the 250 remaining pages that I started with when I sat down to read after a short afternoon jog through the neighborhood.
The book, a brand new copy before this read, has been well loved. The spine is cracked in several places, the glossy cover creased and scratched, the corners of its crinkling pages just starting to turn up from use. Digging my nose out of it long enough to serve up dinner was extremely difficult. My food almost went cold as I ate with a fork in my right hand and the heavy novel held open in my left.
I’m sure I’ll be writing about this book again but amid the most recent excitement, one phrase stuck out to me.
“Somebody has to step forward and do what is right, because it is right.”
How many times have you caught yourself granting a favor in the hope of reciprocation at a later date? Or maybe you find yourself lending a hand because it’s the polite thing to do. It’s what you’re supposed to do. I know I’m guilty of it.
When was the last time you did something good for no other reward than the smile that it brought someone’s face? That is the kind of person I want to be.
Sometimes the best action is an overreaction. Speak your mind. Do what you have to do. Don’t stifle your heart, mind or soul for fear of appearing overdramatic. Sometimes the people we love, even the ones we don’t know yet, need a loud and decisive nudge in the right direction.
To the polite perfectionist types like myself, such measures usually feel like a trainwreck waiting to happen; thoughtless, messy ordeals that are bound to end in chaos and tears. To some, spontaneity comes as easily as breathing, one experience naturally flowing into another without hesitation. It’s risky and uncomfortable but a skill that must be mastered even among the most meticulous planners of the world.
Life is messy. If you spend all your time thinking you won’t have any left for doing. If you go to your grave never having made a scene I doubt your service will be well attended. Of course be polite, be kind, be gracious. But live boldly. Say what you mean when you mean it and don’t let life’s big moments pass you by. The perfect time won’t arrive until you choose it.
Some people spend their lives waiting for their moments. Others dedicate themselves to creating theirs. Which one will you be?
I couldn’t decide on a favorite quote today so instead, below are my key takeaways from the last three books I read this year. Sometimes the best advice comes from the imagination of a stranger, captured and seeded into the pages of a good book as glimmering jewels of wisdom left by the author for us to find.
“When a guy really loves a woman, she doesn’t have to plead with him to commit. He’d commit to her if she lived on the moon.” – How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul by Jason & Crystalina Evert
“You will not only find, but also give, the love you have been created for.” – How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul by Jason & Crystalina Evert
“The nicest thing you can do for someone is be happy to see them.” – The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal
“Clothing doesn’t really change a man, but it changes how others react to him… The trick is convincing yourself that you deserve the reactions you get… Don’t worry that you aren’t giving people what they want. Give them who you are, and let that be enough.” – Elend Venture, The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
“A man can only stumble for so long before he either falls or stands up straight.” – Tindwyl, The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
Today’s a new day! Let it be a fresh start for whatever trials life is throwing your way. You are capable of anything you set your mind to. Today is Day 1 of the rest of your life. What will you make it?
Life is an incredible balancing act. Everything in moderation. As the hardened Alastor Moody was known to say, in order to succeed one must maintain “constant vigilance!” However, being acutely aware of yourself and others at all hours of the day is an exhausting endeavor and one that can easily drive a person insane. Here are some of life’s great contradictions that send me up the wall.
Ask questions, but be able to figure it out on your own.
Have a great time, but be responsible and don’t do anything you’ll regret.
Don’t limit yourself, but don’t overdo it.
Be open to making new friends, but bring your pepper spray.
Fall in love, but wait for the right guy.
Don’t waste your time on toxic people, but give everyone the benefit of the doubt.
Always be kind to all, but don’t let others use you as a doormat.
Do what you love, but make sure you can pay the bills.
There’s a perfect happy medium to all of these. It’s just so frighteningly easy to slip to one side or the other. How do you find that sweet spot when faced with tricky situations in your life?
I don’t know why my brain refuses to retain this lesson, opting instead to slip back into lackadaisical habits in a vicious cycle that feels like a big game of ‘why are you hitting yourself.’ I think most people can relate to this, the experience of being stuck in a rut. I’ve written about it before but it’s worth revisiting in my opinion, especially during these times of social distancing.
A lot of people forget to forgive themselves. Everyone has felt stuck at some point in their lives. This seeming lack of meaningful progress leads them to question every insignificant decision that life throws at them and suddenly everything is an uphill battle. Repeatedly finding yourself unable to gain momentum on big picture goals, maybe a project at work or a personal relationship, can strip you of motivation to accomplish even the simplest tasks.
It’s moments like these when my confidence tends to hit its lowest points. It’s very difficult to feel secure in a decision when it seems like none of the most recent ones are panning out the way they were supposed to. The spiral of self doubt inevitably continues in an exhausting downward pattern until something or someone (myself included) slaps me out of it, reminding me of my worth and my obligation to flaunt it.
You owe it to yourself and the world to be the most authentic, unapologetic version yourself that you can possibly be. You are going to make mistakes. That’s a given. Allow those setbacks to wake you up instead of shut you down. Take responsibility for your blunders and move on. Dwelling and overthinking accomplish nothing but to shatter your trust in yourself. Just be you and let that be enough.
There is a common backwards logic associated with advice which comes from the lips of successful friends. There seems to be a point in one’s career when people start listening with only half an ear because “it all worked out.” People assume that because things are going well now, you must not have much worthwhile experience to share on the subjects of adversity, hardship or determination. To those people I ask this: How do you think I got here?
It’s safe to say that my life has been a series of well calculated risks. But the opportunity for crushing failure was always there, nipping at my heels, often far too close for comfort. While success does occasionally stem from a convenient cocktail of undeserved handouts, nepotism and sheer luck, it certainly is no guarantee of an easy life, past, present or future. It’s so easy to write off the experiences of successful people, even our closest friends, simply because we weren’t there the day they moved mountains.
Averted crises have a habit of raising uncomfortable questions. Things that never mattered before now become unsettling what if’s that make your stomach do back flips and not the fun kind. What if catastrophe had struck someone else, somewhere else? What if it happened when no one was around? What if it happened to you, alone in your apartment, three states away from your entire family? Who would know? Who would call your mom if you couldn’t?
These are not questions that anyone ever wants an answer to but having a plan for your worst case scenarios is a bit like packing an umbrella on a sunny day. You’re not planning on using it but if it rains, you’ll be dry and warm. Instead of asking ‘what if’ maybe make that doctor’s appointment that you’ve been procrastinating for months. Best to be safe.
I used to be a very socially cautious person. Every word and action was planned and calculated, strategically placed to minimize embarrassment. I was absolutely petrified of embarrassing myself and others. It’s one of the reasons that no one has ever described me as spontaneous, not that I was trying to be. I flitted around other people, afraid of making too much noise or stepping on anyone’s toes. I have also been known to be far too apologetic.
At the risk of sounding incredibly cliche, life is nothing more than a dance. If you ever wish to participate fully you must accept the fact that toes will be stepped on, including yours. It’s simply the nature of the thing. I’m not saying that you should go around offending people without a thought or a care. Always be kind and compassionate and do your best not to bring harm to others.
But have you ever noticed how the best people are the biggest geeks? They are passionate and animated and opinionated. They don’t drift whichever direction the wind is blowing at the time. They take a stance and defend it with enthusiasm, knowing full well that there will be plenty of people who disagree.
That is what I strive for everyday, to be completely, genuinely and unapologetically myself. I hope to never sugar coat any aspect of myself to accommodate the comfort of someone else. Besides, a life without a little discomfort is hardly one worth talking about. There will always be things for which you should apologize but being yourself is not one of them. Sing it loud and proud because there’s nothing wrong with making a little noise.