Friday, February 12, 2016

Commitment is Freedom

I haven't written about Pixie in a while. But I spent yesterday evening with her, pigging out on brussel sprouts and tacos, and it made me realize something.

It's vital that I have things in my life that I love and value.

For a large part of my life, I was obsessed with the idea of personal freedom. Of being able to do whatever I wanted without being tied down by any obligations. I thought freedom meant not having something I valued so much that I'd feel beholden to it.

I was wrong.

A person living on the street is totally "free". But they're not happy. Being free is not enough. And it doesn't automatically fill your life with joy and fulfillment. What I really want is spiritual freedom. The freedom to constantly push myself to ever greater levels of happiness and personal success. But this requires hard work. It requires responsibility. It requires personal accountability.

All of those things sound like the opposite of being free. But honestly, what I thought of as freedom was actually fear. Because once you commit yourself to something - or someone - and start holding yourself accountable, you introduce the risk of failure.

"I don't know the meaning of the word failure.
No. Literally, I don't know what it means."

Failure is scary. Failure makes you feel like less of a person. But failure is an unavoidable part of life. Without failure, you can't have success. Without failure, you can't have growth. If you never fail, it means you're sitting in one place. And you will die in that place. That, to me, sounds actually like a trap. A trap of complacency and risk aversion.

Many people are trapped. They may think they're free, but they spend that freedom watching television and eating potato chips. The thought of pushing themselves past their comfort zones is terrifying. The world is truly immense, beyond any of our comprehensions. And opening yourself up to it is overwhelming. It's easier to just close the blinds and convince yourself that you've got everything figured out and that there's nothing else left.

But there is so much.

You don't need to explore everything. You don't need to learn everything. You don't need to do everything. You only have to pick one thing that you value more than anything else in your life. And that one thing will bring a great deal of purpose and meaning to your life.

I consider myself truly blessed, for I have many things in my life that I love and value that give me a massive sense of meaning and pride. I have many things that constantly push me - through pain and hardship - to continue growing into a healthier, happier, and more successful individual.

I run.

I lift.

I write.

I teach.

I create art.

And I have Pixie.

My brother, silently judging us.
Also, that's how her face really looks.

 There's still a part of me that wants to escape. Every day it nags at me.

"Exercise sucks up so much of your time and energy. You're always exhausted. Just stop doing it and you can do literally whatever you want."

"Stop writing. Nobody reads what you write. It's just vanity. You're spewing arrogant nonsense. Just watch Netflix instead."

"Why are you shooting photos? Why are you drawing? Nobody appreciates it except for you. You're stupid."

"Relationships are hard. They always end in pain. You don't deserve Pixie. You would both be better off if you left. Why are you wasting her time with your bullshit?"

Abandoning all the things I cherish wouldn't make me more free. It would make me a coward. It would make me weak. It would mean giving up on my dream of a better life. It would mean giving up on all my goals.

I have to accept the challenges. The pain. The insecurity. The failure. Because when I conquer them, I become stronger. And when I become stronger, I can take on more challenges. It's a hyperbolic curve that leads to an amazing life. But hyperbolic curves start flat and stay nearly flat for a long time before they hit that huge upswing.

A hyperbolic curve, in case you're not a math magician.

Thankfully I've gotten used to that cowardly whiny voice in my head that just wants to give up. Every morning, when I drag my exhausted body out of bed while it's still dark out, I tell that voice to quit its bitching and I go lift. Every time I look at the weather before I run and that voice says, "you will literally die if you go outside!" I punch it in the face and go outside. Every time it tells me not to waste my time and energy with whatever I'm about to do, I kick it off a cliff and get to work.

That voice is especially vocal when it comes to Pixie. Running is one thing. I run and then I'm done and I can eat cheesecake. But I can't hang out with Pixie for an hour and say, "whelp, that was good times. Bye." She is somebody I plan on keeping in my life for a long time. Is that selfish? Probably. But love is inherently selfish. You want love in your life because it makes you feel good. But you don't get it for free. You earn it.

Being free to do whatever you please isn't inherently empowering. Sure I can drink whiskey whenever I darn please. But that doesn't do anything for me other than turn my liver into kimchi. Conquering fear is empowering. Defeating challenges is empowering. Doing something you never thought you'd be able to do is empowering. That's freedom. Anyone can drink whiskey. But very few folks can run a 3 hour marathon. Or deadlift 500 pounds. Or have an amazing relationship with an amazing individual that brings joy to both of you.

I'm going to have an amazing
relationship with this beer.

A lot of folks don't know how amazing their lives can truly be. It doesn't make sense to them to put a lot of hard work into something when they don't know what the rewards are. In the beginning, you have to take a leap of faith. You have to trust that those folks who choose to beat themselves up and drench the floor in sweat every day are on to something. Or maybe they're just crazy.

I definitely seem crazy to a lot of people. If you can't appreciate the rewards, the pride, and the kind of success you can find by constantly pushing yourself, it just looks like masochism. And it's true, a lot of my blog suggests that I'm unhappy with myself, or that if I even hate myself. But it's how I trick myself into punishing myself every day. Because I'm at a point where I've accomplished a lot and have had many successes. So I know how much more it's possible for me to achieve! And when I compare the now me to the future me, then of course I fall short!

But that future-me is just waiting for now-me to catch up to him. And that's exciting. And hopefully, if I'm not too much of an asshole, Pixie will be waiting for me there too.

Ending the post with some pretty shit.

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