My name is Just Around The Riverbend and I have a confession to make: I strongly (gasp! an adverb) believe our lives should be in a flux. Like a river that never stops flowing, our lives should be in constant motion. Stagnation is one of the worst crimes that can be committed against human existence. If we're not moving, then we've become stagnant.
In the previous three years of my writing career (equivalent to the timeline ofwriting my novel I Killed My Friends and It Thrilled Me), I've learned a few life lessons that impacted not only my writing but also how I look at life. These lessons reshaped my mindset and philosophy. I'd grow a nose longer than Pinnochio's if I claimed I haven't changed a damn thing since the beginning of my writing journey. There are five things we need to let go and five things we need to embrace in order for our lives to be in a flux of growth.
Let Go of Perfection. Embrace Imperfection.
Fear of incorrect grammar and a limited vocabulary prevented me from penning my destiny a decade ago. I had a story to write but because I wanted to compose it in my vision on the first try, I hesitated. My retarded concept of perfection in writing blinded me to the truth that nobody is perfect. Every journey to achieve something great is not free of difficulties and imperfections.
Another retarded belief - that imperfection is something to fear - came with my stupid concept of perfection. I shied away from bad grammar and rookie storytelling, a choice did me no good in the end. Guess what. When I offered my fiction works to my editors for scrutiny, I learned that imperfection is not to be feared. My fiction stories were shit after their initial conception but through deep work they evolved. Progress is born from embracing imperfection and using it as a compass to know which things to improve upon.
Let Go of External Validation. Embrace Self-Belief.
I'm a rebel at heart. Following fads, bowing to conformity, and obeying the visions other people have for me are not ways I want to live my life. Flap those shit. But here's a mini sad story: I spent the majority of my life (so far) as a slave of those demons. Yes, my rebellious face had shown up every now and then throughout my lifetime but those demons always found their ways to get to me. On the surface, I sometimes appeared as a rebel but deep inside the fear of other people's judgment still plagued me.
And here's a mini-happy story: I got away from those demons. It took quite some time to build a self-belief strong enough to break free from the chains of external validation but I eventually (gasp! another adverb) did it.
But today's very interconnected world presents more obstacles in combatting those demons: groupthink, conformity, and the lust for mass approval. In the quest for collective adoration, some people have lost their individuality. The things they do are largely (gasp!) influenced by what others will think of them. No wonder social media is so busy. People post things they better not share in public but do in hope of getting validation from others.
Well, I hope you're not one of them.
Something brilliant happens when you break free of external validation and build yourself a strong fortress of self-belief. You begin to make life decisions with zealous confidence you finally learn what's it like to possess freedom.
Yes, baby. That's freedom.
Let Go of Answers. Embrace Questions.
We all want answers. When is the next iPhone model coming? Who hooked up with who? Does he like me? Am I good enough? What are the keys to success?
We humans are afraid of the unknown, of the dark road without any hint of illumination ahead of us. We have a tendency to boil it down to all or nothing. Unequipped with the answers we crave for, we let uncertainty paralyze us or make demons out of imps. We feel slighted and robbed of justice and privilege. We want to be the captain of the ship and also have a clear path to paradise for us to follow so we don't have to do the navigating.
Well here's another lesson I learned. If we want our lives to be in a flux, we must not be afraid of not knowing the ultimate answer. We must often question our mindset, beliefs, and actions. Why? We need to evaluate often whether the tools (i.e., mindset, beliefs) we have in the present can still push us forward. If they no longer do, it's time to make replacements. The moment we let answers become permanent instead of temporary, we become stagnant. Our desire for the ultimate answer puts a ceiling on what we can do in life. Who I was three years, two years, and one year ago isn't the same person I am now. I attribute that constant growth to keeping an open mind and being willing to question my beliefs and truths in order to welcome better ones. This leads us to...
Let Go of Criticism. Embrace Understanding.
Because I opened my mind to questions, I learned to embrace understanding. And I wasn't like this before.
During the early part of my awakening I became critical of other people and their choices. "Why are they so hooked on watching so many goddamn TV shows?", "Why aren't they into discussing their dreams and goals?", "Why aren't they a fan of Napoleon Hill?", and other more questions. Because I didn't share path with those people, I looked down upon them and became very critical.
That's the easy thing to do. What's more challenging is understanding. We all come from different genealogy, environment, and upbringing. One man's experiences in life aren't the same as another. One man's tribulation isn't a replica of millions. One man's trash is another man's treasure (cliché I know). Often when we judge other people we judge them based from where we are coming from. We criticize when we haven't walked a foot in their shoes because it's the easy thing to do.
Once upon a time, my heart got broken into pebble-sized pieces. I became consumed with hurt, anger, and revenge. What good did they do to me? Nothing. I shifted my perspective and attempted to understand why my heartbreaker drove a drill to my heart. You know what happened? I felt sad and pity for the culprit. As for myself, I healed, the bitterness washed away.
Besides, as a writer, understanding is way better than criticism. "There may be a good story there," I say now whenever I attempt to understand the psyche of another human being.
Let Go of Comfort. Embrace Challenges.
Nothing great happens inside the comfort zone. It's another cliche, we know, but is there truth to it?
If I am going to justify why I didn't start my writing career earlier, I'd say because I went for comfort. Instead of improving my skill (writing) and exposing my vulnerability (if one cares about his art), I chose comfort. I didn't want to step up to the plate and put myself in a position where I had to do things I wasn't used to doing because they were challenging.
We crave security and comfort all the time, mentally and emotionally, and miss opportunities in the process. But how long are we going to do this? Until we lay on our deathbed and it's over?
From writing a blog post to a short story, from a short story to a novel, all of these were not comfortable. They were challenging. But I knew better and chose them finally. Why? Because I got tired of being stagnant. I got so tired of standing idle watching life pass me by. I put on my swimming clothes and jumped in the river, let go of the shore and embraced the water.
And here I am today, still swimming...
I don't think I'll ever stop.