This is a paper that I had to write for a psychology class that I’m currently taking. I had fun in writing it, so I figured that I would share it with more than just my professor. Without further adieu…
There was a time in my life where I was totally and utterly careless about everything and everyone in my world. I was sailing through life without any direction or purpose in mind. There was nothing that I could do that would give me a true feeling of emotion or happiness. Those moments in your life that seem to define who you are, those precious situations that are vividly imprinted on your mind, for no apparent reason, did not seem to occur. It’s almost as if I just stopped making memories. Years of my life were spent waiting, watching, and wilting away. Looking back, that period seems so dull, so drab, so utterly gray in contrast with the rest of my life. Breaking that monotonous and rhythmic routine was the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life.
It’s a strange thing, how your life can seem to set it’s own course and simply start running away. Once something has been set in motion (by your actions or someone else’s), you lose a bit of control. Your hand slips a bit from the steering wheel to which you’ve always held so tightly, and suddenly you’re pointed down a road that is entirely unrecognizable. At first, it can be strange, even frightening, this loss of control. Then, it happens again, and it begins to feel acceptable. Acceptance grows into familiarity, and familiarity grows into comfort. Time and time again, you let it slip away from you, and you fall into a mold; a mold that someone had cast for you long ago. This increasingly appealing and comfortable mold awaits only your acceptance. Then, it truly takes hold of you. Now that you’re in this mold, life occurs only in your tunnel-vision. You wait, you watch, and you wilt away.
This is how I lost control of my life. Slowly and subtly, little pieces of my consciousness seemed to go into “auto-pilot.” For a long time, I started to care less and less about myself, about my friends, and about my family. At first, it was something small; I would reject a friend’s offer to do something because I simply didn’t feel like doing anything at all. I would pass up dinner at my parent’s house because I didn’t want to drive anywhere. These little inactions were nothing to balk at individually, but in their sum, they were dangerously negligent. I lost touch with friends, stopped talking to my family, and stopped caring about myself. To me, at the time, it was entirely acceptable. I knew there were problems, and I knew that maybe I should be doing something else, but that was in the future. Everything, all the positive changes, all of my goals, would occur in the “future.” After all, this life is all about “me,” right?
Looking back on this time of my life, I now realize that I was not being a truly complete person. The parts of my mind that were on “auto-pilot” neglected to desire anything at all. Without desire, there can be no emotion. I couldn’t desire what I didn’t have, and I didn’t appreciate all the things I did have. My true desires were somehow buried and ignored under an uncaring exterior. Abraham Maslow describes this desire as a hierarchy of needs, ranging from the basic physiological needs all the way up to needs of love, belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization. I realize now that I was only pursuing my most basic of needs, while neglecting all others. In that state of mind, it’s hard to appreciate anything at all. I was merely waiting for some change to miraculously appear before my eyes, rather than acting to create the change that I truly desired. I watched television and movies, I played games, and I passed the time. I worked occasionally (just enough to get by), and the rest of the time I merely waited. It was very easy to wait. Waiting required no effort, and everything passed just as expected. I was very comfortable with this waiting routine, and any attempt to alter it would probably have been met with a fervent defense.
I think it’s important to point out that I did not feel depressed during this time. Mentally, I felt entirely happy, but yet somehow unfulfilled. In my mind, there was something just around the corner waiting for me, but it always seemed to elude me. There was something gnawing at the back of my conscience, but I couldn’t quite pin it down. I knew there was more to accomplish in life, but my problem was that I felt like it had to be given to me. I think early in life, because so many things are given to you, it’s easy to assume that you will always be pointed in the right direction. If you deviate, someone will correct you and send you on your merry little way. What you don’t realize (or what you don’t want to realize) is that your life is merely the cumulative result of your own actions. The only thing that separates you and the most profound characters of our world’s history is ambition and diligence. History has proven time and time again that there is simply nothing that any one person can’t do. The only thing you have to realize is that you can’t do it unless you resolve to do it right now. Not in the “future,” not tomorrow, but now.
So here I am, a young man with the world on my horizon, with only myself between me and my goals. So, what do I choose to do with this great opportunity? I wait. I watch. I wilt. I haven’t yet realized my own potential. I’m waiting for someone to correct me and point me in the right direction. I’m still waiting on the “future” to arrive. This is a fundamental flaw of human nature in action. As a society, we will always do what is absolutely easiest to do. It’s easier to drive than to carpool. It’s easier to discard than to recycle. It’s easier to fall into the mold than to break the mold. For me, it was easier to wait than it was to achieve.
Thus was my dilemma, yet it was not plain to see. There are so many people in this world, and together we have so much potential, but many of us do not seek to reach that potential, or even to reach a fraction of it. We fall into the rhythm of life and begin to forget the things that we want the most. Losing sight of the things you really want is all too easy to do. In many cases, it takes a drastic or even traumatic change to shed light on what really matters. For me, it was the loss of my grandparents. All within a year’s time, both of my mother’s parents died and left behind experience and memories held by all who knew them. When they died, I heard my family tell stories about how ambitious and hard-working my grandfather was in life. We laughed about their light-hearted nature, and we cried for their loss. I heard stories of their travels around the world, their greatest triumphs, and most of all, about the love that they had for one another for so many years. The sobering reality of their lives touched me in a way that I can never truly describe in words. Their story forced me to compare their lives to my very own, to look back in retrospect at what I had built for myself in life. It changed my mind, the way I think, and it gave me a whole new perspective on life. I realized at that very moment that my life was, above all else, mine to control.
With a most sudden and persistent ferocity, I felt the pangs of desire once more. I desired esteem, achievement, belongingness, happiness (true happiness), and even love. This is a grocery list of goals that every person wants to achieve, but they don’t truly desire. Desire is a powerful emotion that you cannot help but act upon. It’s an emotion that makes people change their lives, to take those drastic steps that fill you with fear and anticipation all at once. It’s a feeling that keeps you awake at night, forcing you to think about your goals and exactly how you will achieve them. Maslow’s road to self-actualization was suddenly lit before my eyes with the burning torchlight of true desire. I could not help but change.
After that, it all happened very fast. I realized my goals and pursued them immediately. I tended broken relationships and spent more time with my family. I took control of everything because at that moment, I finally knew that it was all mine to control. My grandparents had so much in their lives, and they made me realize what I wanted in my own. Since that time, my life has changed drastically. I have realized that the elusive fulfillment that had always seemed to scatter just beyond my grasp wasn’t a goal at all, but rather the pursuit of goals, itself. To acknowledge your goals is to acknowledge the existence of a better place for yourself. Trying to reach that better place is one of the most rewarding (and perhaps one of the most challenging) experiences you will ever face.