Thursday, July 22, 2010

Same Ol’ Same Ol’

I'm sitting in my regular spot, tucked in the corner near the entrance of my local Starbucks. The music is far too loud and blares from the speaker above me. Some days it's difficult to write, especially if I'm working on my novel, as I find the music intrusive. I've never complained. Today is no different. I watch the masses pass by, as always impressed by how Starbucks has managed to market itself to so many different types. Business people, students, cops, factory workers, single moms. The list is endless. The people however, are largely the same ones I see every morning when I come. They come for their morning coffee, much like they'll probably visit the same place for lunch, and take the same route home from work. People are creatures of habit, and in a world that is constantly changing, there's something tremendously reassuring about visiting the same places and having the same associations. Unfortunately, in an increasingly open market of possibilities, there's a tendency to hold a bit too tightly to our daily routines. The real problem however, is not our routines or where we get our coffee, but the self talk that accompanies it. So today then, the challenge is simple. Listen to your self-talk. What are you saying about yourself when you get up in the morning? What are you saying about your life? What are you saying about your relationship, and about people in general?

It's surprising, but a lot of people don't realize how angry they are, how much they're sacrificing to protect their routines, to avoid listening to their self-talk. And they do it by burying it in "social code." ("How are you?" "Can't complain, no one will listen anyway.") I've heard people say that this type of thinking somehow implies maturity, that work is well, work, and that 'sucking it up' is the way an 'real' adult faces life. Bull. Yes, there are times when you have to do things you don't like, times when you have to put aside your own dreams and passions to serve people around you. However, if your life consists mostly of 'sucking it up', then you are being used and you need to change something. If you don't, you're on the path to becoming one of those bitter people who never have a kind word for anyone and do nothing but complain.

They key here, is not to blame someone else for the reason your life is dull and gray, because you've probably spent too much time conceding control of your life to others already. Take responsibility for yourself, and start by asking some hard questions. If there was one thing you could change about you or your life, what would it be? What do you hear in the few minutes before you fall asleep at night, or when you're stuck in traffic? Or have you so trained yourself that you don't hear anything at all?

I spent six years working at a job that was slowly eroding my soul. It wasn't the young people I was working with, they were redemptive part of my job. Most of the people I worked with, however, tended to be complainers, always griping about how they were getting screwed one way or another. After a couple of years, I was complaining too. It was hard to be hopeful and optimistic in such a toxic environment. Pushed by my friends, I went back to grad school, took a job making 9$/hour with supervisors too young to order a beer at a restaurant, and grabbed a tiny room in a house with nine other people. Leaving aside the fact that I met wife here, it was still the best thing I could have done. These days, I still miss the young people, still miss my old city, but everything has changed now. My friends encouraged me to challenge myself, and the results have been life changing.

There's no excuse for being miserable. I know that some of us are stuck, that we've made decisions that we regret and now must bear that responsibility. It doesn't mean however, that it must control our life. Listen to your self talk and change it. Plan for the future. Give yourself something to work towards. Whatever you do, don't take the easy way out. Listen to your heart, and follow it. Trust me, you won't regret it…

-Steve