It is not that I believe my mistakes should be forgotten, it is that I find worrying about them to be a waste of time. I propose to myself that instead of beating myself into oblivion over my mistakes I use them to understand what areas of my life need work. I can reflect on my day, count up my mistakes and mine alone, and find areas that need improvement. In order to gain the most fulfillment from this I must remember that the next day ought to be filled with action and more action. Improving oneself does not come by looking off into the sky and wishing it to be so – it originates from the very simple idea that tomorrow will be used to repair the damage I have caused today while recognizing that my path towards happiness & fulfillment is becoming smoother.
I had a conversation with a woman tonight about her resistance to reflect on her day. She told me that she really disliked having to be honest with herself about any mistake she had made and didn’t quite see the point in having to examine “How shitty I was today.”
The more I listened to her I realized that she was experiencing a very common mistake in perception of herself and the value that her flaws have. To listen to her speak about herself was easy because I wholly understood how she felt – I believe I understand both sides of many things because I have lived 2 different lives. I have been the character who repeatedly beat himself over the head, wallowed in self-pity and doubt, lacked any semblance of real confidence and at the same time had an intolerably massive ego. I have also become someone that tries my best to act with sincere and intense conviction concerning positive action, remaining useful to others and building my self-worth from actual achievements as opposed to false pride.
So, as a person who knows a few things about poor perception I felt that I could share with her what I find to be helpful. I told her that reflection has nothing to do with realizing how terrible we are, instead it has everything to do with understanding how incredible we can be. When I count up my follies I try to look under every stone – I have to find the ones hidden deep inside. There is effort to be sure but after recognizing the positive impact it has on my outlook and my behavior I find it to be worth any pain I may endure along the way – the pain in recounting my mistakes is minimal when understanding the immense potential that is unlocked once I begin improving myself.
“Is there something in particular that you do?” she asked me. “You seem really calm.” Maybe she misread me – perhaps I was just tired this evening and gave off the energy of a sleepy person! But in reality, I am calm and positive throughout my day and for good reason. I told her that I believe each one of us has a good measure of mistakes and character defects that we are often too afraid to look into. The problem with this avoidance is that these issues do not go anywhere. When I pretend that I have not been selfish, the quality of selfishness does not leave me. Instead, it grows within me, behind the curtain. When I resist being completely honest with myself, I begin to let certain areas of my life go untended. With this careless attitude, I start seeing those character defects lash out into my life in unpredictable ways. Without a period of honest reflection, I can start to let unattractive behaviors come back into my life. With regards to her claim that honest reflection only gives her insight into how terrible she had behaved that day I pressed on and told her that in my life there are two options: Look into my mistakes and begin working on improving myself or push them deep into my memory in the hopes that they will disappear.
This belief that our issues and character flaws will vanish is both a mystery to me and a life I know very well. However, I stressed to her that refusing to look into my day was like pretending I don’t have to pay rent; I can trick myself into believing it to be true but at some point, sooner than later, the landlord is going to knock on my door. And having to face that reality is much more difficult than reflecting on my day, locating any areas that need addressing and beginning the next day knowing that I have a sincere interest in correcting and improving my behavior and thought.
I paused for a moment to gather my thoughts and then it dawned on me – a life like mine was once so unbearable to look upon because I had the full knowledge that I was going to make no effort to better myself. When I am entirely ashamed of myself and my life with no plans to change there is little cause to reflect on my behavior, for I am not planning to change so why take the time to look at how useless I am?
But, I began to tell her, that life is dead. In this life we have the knowledge that we are going out of our way to become better people, sons, brothers, daughters, students, teachers etcetera each day. This type of reflection is the only way I know how to improve myself. I do not investigate my day so that I can use it to tell myself what a poor job I made of the day. Rather I have no fear in admitting my shortcomings because I am armed with the knowledge and the enthusiasm that I will do everything in my power to improve myself.
I closed our conversation by attempting to explain how I stay positive: I told her that I try my best not to compare myself to others, that someone else’s success or failure has nothing to do with me. I told her that when I speak about improving myself, there are no specific terms, no status to be found What is found is someone who insists on becoming better. When faced with a person who only wishes to improve themselves you will be hard pressed to find fault in his or her behavior. While there is fault, there is also an accountability that this person possesses, and that type of responsibility gives that person a much clearer conscience.
My path to positivity and fulfillment isn’t found in forcing things; rather I allow life to come to me. This means that I have to be patient with life, I have to practice humility or my pride will get the better of me and I will again try to force things and attempt to control the show. I cede control, but this does not limit my work ethic. I have been told that my demeanor does not fit life in New York City. I am too calm, and I am not the type of person to claw my way to the top. Perhaps that is the culture here, but this claim could be a misunderstanding of my calm demeanor. I have an intensity and vigor that at times shock me – however, my energy is focused on other things. I believe I am clawing my way to the top each day; only my course doesn’t need competition with others. I am in competition with myself, focused on becoming better today than I was yesterday.
My energy is focused on finding happiness and fulfillment, no matter what form it comes in. I am calm because I have faith in my action, I do not worry about reaching any particular status. I live with an unyielding passion for life – I live with intense joy and intense sincerity. It is constant work, and it is what I consider living to be. I take this seriously for a reason. I have been asked when are you going to start living your life!? But this is me enjoying life – fulfillment looks differently for everybody. I know that my life today allows me to be a part of my family. It allows others to depend on me. I have the ability to be an impactful member of society – I have the freedom to become whoever I hope to become.
The passion I put out into the world is returned to me. The brightness I see in other people is the same shade as the light that others see in me. For the first time, I am a positive presence. It has nothing to do with finding a high paying job, finding a companion or forcing anything. It has everything to do with having an answer for the question Who are you? My job title can’t answer that and neither can a girlfriend. When the right job and the right girl comes along I’ll have an answer for that as well – I will be ready because I have found happiness within myself. I know a peace that is mine and mine alone. I have found a spirit that only I can take away from myself – and this is my life.