I have often wondered about who I am, what my purpose is, how I should live my life and whether I'm doing it "right". I've made a lot of mistakes, and will likely continue to make a lot of mistakes. I judge myself harshly for things that are beyond my control. And I feel time slip away that I will never get back.
I've always been a fan of language. I like learning new languages, appreciating how cultures are shaped by the language they speak, and seeing both the similarities and differences between them. It's pretty cool stuff for a nerd like me.
When I was in my 20's I wanted to learn a new language. I couldn't decide which one I should start with, so I ended up spinning my wheels and doing nothing. Finally I realized I was just making excuses and that there was no "best" language to start with, so I just picked Japanese. Useless? Maybe. Probably. But I liked it.
I studied it for a couple years, mostly through audio lessons on my work commutes. I did some other languages too, although not quite to the same extent. But I stopped about a year ago. I got frustrated that I never would get to practice with native language speakers, and that I was forgetting more than I was learning. I didn't know when or where I would get to travel.
What's my point with the story? It was neither right nor wrong that I started to study languages. And it was neither right nor wrong that I stopped. The only wrong thing was in judging myself. Should I do it? Which one? Why am I doing it? Was it wrong that I quit? Should I go back to it?
|We all struggle with these thoughts...|
Those are all stupid questions. They make me feel guilty. Either I squandered my life learning languages I'll never use, or I'm squandering my life not learning languages. It doesn't matter. What matters is whether I'm happy. Whether I feel like my life is moving in a generally positive direction. Whether I'm proud of myself.
I train for the same reason. Plenty would say it's a waste of time, that I should be focusing on my career, or that I should be making babies or something. I train far more than is necessary to be fit and healthy. And I'm never going to get rich or famous as an athlete. And I struggle sometimes, both physically if I get hurt or sick, and emotionally if I feel disappointed in my performance. Some of my friends say I should chill out, have some whisky, and reacquaint myself with a social life.
Ultimately, it's arbitrary. It doesn't really matter what we do. We all will die some day. But I can't afford to second guess myself. In the modern age, most of us have near a infinite number of options available to us! Should I learn to play guitar? Should I go back to school? Should I write a novel? Should I take Crossfit? Should I get into monster trucks?
|Should I just eat this box of donuts?|
The real problem is fear. It's easy to get paralyzed by the sheer number of options available and to end up doing nothing. Or to keep jumping from thing to thing without ever developing any mastery. Or to be riddled with guilt for not doing the "right" thing. And ultimately it becomes an escape. An escape from being forced to look deeply inwards and to figure out who you really are.
Because who the F@#k knows? Nobody. It's impossible to know. You spend your whole life learning and die knowing nothing. The only thing you have any control over is how you feel. Do you feel happy and successful? Or do you feel miserable and unsatisfied.
Exercising makes me feel good. Writing makes me feel good. I don't need to painstakingly analyze these choices. I might make adjustments as I learn and grow. But I'm not going to let doubt or fear effect my mood or decisions. It accomplishes nothing, except to make me feel sh!tty.
|That's a lot of weight. Maybe I should second guess it...|
There is one exception, one thing we should all pursue because it undeniably makes life much richer and more amazing: Love. We all know that and we all want love. And yet many of us - most of us - struggle with it endlessly. And it often causes more pain and drama than joy. Love has to come from a position of strength and self-respect.
If you are insecure about your decisions, or feel guilty that you haven't made any, or worry that you're on the wrong path, you're going to project that. It's going to tarnish every relationship you have. If you are proud of who you are, and confident that you are on a path of joy and success, then you will exude that as well. But that is a choice.
Discover a thing, your thing. Whether it's running, painting, knitting, or scuba diving. Do that thing. Love it. And love yourself because of it. And then when you love yourself, you will have no trouble giving and receiving love. It will reverberate from and towards you, ever increasing in strength. And when that happens, you won't doubt yourself anymore. You won't question your decisions. Your life will be full. And it will be joyful.
|Almost as joyful as eating this cupcake.|