The only magic 8 ball that matters, as far as I’m concerned.
“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” — Will Rogers
In 2001, I had a Samsung flip phone, a 5G iPod nano, and a Dell Inspiron laptop running a Windows XP operating system. That was all I could ask for, and as a struggling college student, it made more sense to hold onto what I had until it either snapped in half or melted enough AC adaptors to render it useless.
Soon after graduation, however, smart devices were experiencing a massive boom, so I decided to move onto something new. I totally could have got another flip phone, as they were and are still being manufactured. But for me, it was time for me to join the new and ultra-improved tech stream the whole world had found itself thrust into. And so I did, essentially trading three devices for one.
Now, new tech is one of those things that — while increasing exponentially — is at most everyone’s fingertips in the form of a smartphone. With constant release of new products, updates, and features, it can a challenge to keep up — but either you do, or you don’t. The choice, relatively, is yours.
This can apply to anything you can think of, from a film or music genre to a sex position. It’s great to know what you like — but being so sure runs the all-too real risk of being frozen in time. And not in a classic, timeless sense, either. More like a primitive relic.
I’ve been feeling this lately and have been making an effort to implement simple strategies to be more in tune with the outside world instead of humming along, ignorantly blissful within mine:
1. Listening to new music. This has probably has been the easiest and most accessible way to keep stay in the now, because — while I may question some of the latest trends in popular music — it gives me some insight into what is “hot” or “fresh”, therefore leaving me feeling somewhat hot and fresh. It’s also given me more insight into how my parents and other adults felt about Top 40 music when I was a teen during the late nineties. (Sorry, Mom and Pop.)
Today I stumbled upon Julia Michaels while reading an article from BBC that piqued my interest. A songwriter-turned-pop-artist, she reminded me a bit of Tove Lo, who I can’t get enough of. So I figured, why not give her a chance? Michaels’ debut mini-album “Nervous System” was released just this past Friday, and if you like pop music with a little twist, you’ll probably like this. (Saucy types, stick around for “Pink”.)
2. Reading articles from start to finish. Like, actually reading them and not merely reacting to a headline.
Cool story: I came across a Vanity Fair article on tonight’s Game of Thrones episode (look out for spoilers) and I had geared up to tell them off via Twitter based on my strong reaction to the headline via Google search. (I actually did, but deleted the tweet once I actually read the article. Oops.)
Just saying, we’re all guilty of falling into sticky af clickbait and we should know better by now but, you know, we don’t.
3. Hanging out with people. Whether online or in-person (ideally the latter), social engagement is where the magic happens. Having turned 32 this year, I feel very “old” sometimes, and yeah, while not a teenager, my mind feels like me, which is as only old as I feel. And now the cliche phrase makes sense, whereas it used to be just words.
Sharing ideas, interests, coming to a common ground, etc. keeps the blood flowing to the appendages, as it were. Keeps the neurons alight and all that jazz. Going where people are may take a little effort, but more often than not, it’s worth it.
Don’t get me wrong: having that comfort feeling that makes you feel how you felt the first time doing anything is one of the best things out there. Like that cozy sleeping-in feeling on a rainy day, being comfortable is absolutely needed. Just remember that being too comfortable can run the risk of mental and emotional atrophy from staying in the same place for too long.
Besides, new experiences are always out there, waiting for that first time feeling to be uncovered. Rarely will they be where you’ve been a million times before.
So get moving.
“There is no starting or stopping — only doing.”
I used to think that the most important part of my life was that I was happy. Then I realized that being happy, like any other emotion, is a temporary state of mind. And yet, sometimes I still find myself saying, “I just want to be happy.”
But just take a look at the synonyms for the word “happy”:
cheerful, cheery, merry, joyful, jovial, jolly, jocular, gleeful, carefree, untroubled, delighted, smiling, beaming, grinning … lighthearted, pleased, contented, content, satisfied, gratified, buoyant, radiant, sunny, blithe, joyous, beatific; thrilled, elated, exhilarated, ecstatic, blissful, euphoric, overjoyed, exultant …
The list actually goes on.
Personally, as much of a good idea as it sounds, I don’t think it’s humanly possible to be happy all of the time.
Call me a cynic, but just think: much like anger and sadness (and all variants thereof), these are emotions that occur as a product of environment. In addition, no matter how much success one experiences, emotions across the board — especially the not-so-good ones — will be felt, and felt hard. No one is exempt from falling down from cloud nine — we’re not designed to live in the stratosphere.
So what should be the goal one for oneself, if not merely to be happy?
I propose the idea of contentment.
Before you Google the definition and say “A-ha! You can’t have contentment without happiness”, I would like to point out the difference between being happy (an emotion), and happiness (a state of being that requires constant motion in order to get there).
For illustrative purposes, let’s imagine that happiness is wherever you rest your head at the end of the day. You reside there, but will, without fail, leave it multiple times a day — whether for work, to walk your dog, get the mail, go to the grocery store, gym, on a trip, etc. That said, you can still generally make your way back home, even when there’s a traffic jam or detour.
Sure, it’s entirely possible to lose your way back, for a number of reasons within and out of control. And perhaps, by choice or force, you’ll find that you may have to live in another place entirely.
But no matter what, you always have some idea where home is. Some days it’ll be easier to get there, while other days, it’ll be more of a challenge to do so — but even the vague idea can either lead you back to it, or create it wherever you happen to be. And usually, it’s where you want to be anyway.
To sum it up: like every emotion we experience, happy is a temporary feeling. To strive to be happy 100% is an unrealistic ideal that will always within then quickly out of reach. It’s too much work to grasp at something only to barely touch it for seconds at a time.
Contendedness, on the other hand, is the state of being that comprises satisfaction on a foundation of happiness. Although it requires constant motion, the ability to achieve and maintain balanc is much more possible. Put your energies here and experience more stability, even when life’s curveballs come a-flying.
What do you think? Is there any weight to this viewpoint? Or is it all just BS?
Feel free to @ me on Twitter; I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the subject.
Imagine you’re the new person at work, at school, on a kickball team, in a writing circle, acting class, whatever. Trying to fit in is one of those things that always seems to happen, and being the new kid on the block isn’t always fun.
But then I had the realization that not everyone had to like me, and I didn’t have to like them either — and that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
In any sort of group, there is a main objective. At work, it’s work, and at school, it’s education. In a creative workshop or on a sports team, it’s creating something or developing a strategy to win the game — and most of the time, that’s what people are focusing on, not whether or not they otherwise get along.
Sure, it helps to get along with people — but getting along is a lot more different than being liked. You don’t have to be friends with everyone in order to be able to come together and with the aim of reaching a common goal.
The thing is, people have boundaries, no matter how well you know them. You may have certain boundaries as well. But within those general boundaries are the common objective (whatever it is) and that can be enough. In fact, that is all that should be expected.
I mention this because often I feel that I go out of my way to be personable when I’m not in the general mood to do so. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that performing my role all that is expected of me, and that it is absolutely enough. While I genuinely like working with others, to collaborate, brainstorm, and communicate ideas — that doesn’t equate “being liked”. My worth and contribution isn’t based on anyone liking me. It’s based on what the function of my role and how well I perform it.
The energy I put into making sure people like me — the over-smiling, the over-laughing, the over-assurance — can be exhausting. It comes from somewhere natural at first, but causes internal strain and detracts from my true intentions. It is a habit I’m learning to break, my goal being to “work hard in silence, let success be the noise,” as the saying goes.
Long story short, as long as I work and behave with integrity, I am perfectly fine with not being liked.
If ever you feel the undue, self-born pressure to be liked, don’t. Not everyone’s going to like you — and that’s okay.