Sunday, June 16, 2013

Live from the Tightrope

October 12, 2012
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
-Albert Einstein
What it's like...
Throughout my life, I’ve always struggled to maintain balance. Not in the literal sense, as both my physical equilibrium and mental stability have remained intact. Rather, I’m typically swayed towards the two extremes: either overdoing something or not doing it at all.
For example, as a member of the Nintendo generation, I was obsessed with video games as a child and often becamely overly fixated on one particular game (Super Mario 3, I’m looking at you). I would literally be glued to my controller, trying – sometimes in vain – to outwit Bowser and his minion of flying turtles and walking mushrooms (sidenote: how trippy are those games??). This would inevitably cause my parents to threaten to take away my Nintendo access when I would misbehave.
Ultimately, this would implant in me a sense of guilt whenever I would be wasting time playing games when I should be nourishing my young mind. So, every once in a while, I would swear off video games (to the point where my old Nintendo system still has sticky remnants of a piece of scotch tape across its lid, ensuring that I wouldn’t relapse). Of course, this never lasted, and I soon found my fingers once again wrapped around the rectangular control of that mustachioed plumber.
This anecdotal-filled backstory – long-winded, as it may be – is aimed purely at establishing the focus of this post. While a LOT about me has changed in the two decades or so since my Nintendo obsession has ebbed (though I do occasionally like to get my Wii on), I still encounter difficulty finding that ideal equilibrium necessary to make time for everything I need and want to do in everyday life. Perhaps this is why I haven’t made the time to compose a blog post in months.
The inherent problem with this all-or-nothing approach to life is that, as time goes by, our collective to-do list becomes filled with more responsibilities – personal, professional, financial – that cannot be shirked aside in favor of the instant gratification offered by more frivolous pursuits. Rather, these chores demand that we devote time to them, come boredom or, y’know, actual productivity. Growing up, I’ve found, consists largely of the epiphany that procrastination is no longer a valid excuse. Time is passing by every day, and every day, a new assignment awaits us.
Along with this mounting responsibility to do what we must, sadly, comes the increasingly sharp deterioration of free time. This is especially trying for creative-minded people, like myself, who possess ambitions that don’t yet provide the stability (and, honestly, the paycheck) of our “day jobs.” So, the more obligations we have to satisfy, the further our creative whims plummet down our list of priorities. And, as a result, the more emptiness we feel when we’re not fully adhering to that need to get things done.
When I think about what my parents, my jaw drops in wonder and astonishment at all that they managed to do while my brother and I were wrapped up simply being kids. Day in and day out, they both held down full-time jobs, maintained a household (and anyone who’s done that, with its limitless stacks of dirty dishes and unfolded laundry, knows how frustrating that is in and of itself) and raised their two sons to be the hard-working, upstanding men we have become. I shudder to think what my future holds in regards to the sheer number of tasks I will be forced to confront, and yet, at the same time, I know that when the time comes, I will raise to the occasion.
Come to think of it, it’s ironic how we spend all our lives wishing we didn’t have so much to do, but simultaneously, some of us (myself included) keep wishing we could get more and more done. Perhaps, it’s my eternally ambitious soul or just my creative aspirations run wild. Whatever the case may be, I’ve discovered that the more impossible it seems to fulfill all my goals – regardless of whether they are borne of necessity or desire – the more I know I must step up and the more driven I am to keep going. In the immortal words of Barney Stinson, “Challenge accepted.”
The message here, of course, is that life is a war that we’ve all been unwittingly drafted into. Every morning, we suit ourselves up for battle and head out into the world to conquer the day. The details of the mission vary from individual to individual. Passing a test, getting the kids to school on time, even publishing a blog post on this very topic (wink)… But what matters is that the end result of that mission informs the satisfaction we feel in our hearts and how far we feel we’ve come in life. When we accomplish all that we aspire to, we emerge victorious. If not, we are condemned to shuffle off to bed with the sting of defeat piercing our heart.
As human beings, we crave the ability to feel useful, to accomplish something and to make a difference. For some, this is the common (yet no less remarkable) task of holding down a household. For others, the aim is to progress along a career path or to make that first million. No matter what the particulars involved, we all seek to carve our own niche in this world, a place where we can finally (and truly) belong.
Life sure as hell doesn’t make it easy, but that’s the beauty of it all. Without effort, there can be no satisfaction. Without climbing up that hill, you can’t gain the relief of reaching the top and the self-respect to know that you finally made it. Perspective is only gained through suffering, and while maintaining balance is the ongoing conflict in all our lives, it is also what makes life worth living.
So, greet every morning not as a burden but as another chance to prove that you are worthy of achieving your life goals and earning your victory. I’ll see you in the trenches.

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