Continuing a trend of being very cerebral recently, lets kick it up a notch and take a close inspection of myself.
While I’m certainly not ever going to be a great philosopher (we reserve titles like that for Ian Tewid) I have definitely been trying to understand the components of myself and my life. I do this to try and figure out how I got where I am. Sounds like a simple question. I grew up, I went to college, I got jobs. I was me- how hard can that be to figure out?
Those don’t hold up to scrutiny when I look back in my life. I got good grades in school because I would get into trouble if I didn’t. I went and graduated college because I grew up my entire life being corn. I got a job when I was younger because my parents pushed me to do it. I learned to drive and develop skills because it was expected of me.
So lets ask the golden question: was I really in control of my life? Did I do those things because I wanted to?
I would argue in most cases that no, I didn’t really want to do those things. My mom, like many who want the absolute best for their child, tried to get me to do so much stuff when I was younger. I remember being in tee ball, baseball (I think), soccer, taekwondo, and learning the violin. Middle school it was basketball, drafting and guitar. In high school it was polo shirts and blue jeans. She had this vision for me of being the varsity jacket wearing prep boy.
I’ll make diamonds of her hopes and drams.
I feel bad because if you remember anything about me from high school, that must’ve been a huge fishnet shirt wearing surprise.
And I just remember not wanting to do that stuff. I wanted to play video games and watch anime. So much of my time was doing things I didn’t want to do, but I had to do them. They became chores.
And that has definitely spilled over into adulthood. I hate making plans even today because I feel like I’m a kid again who has to go do something because my parents want me to.
The only thing I was really into was girls and sex. Wisconsin Sex Ed. totally did not prepare me for this shit. So when girls started having hormones like me, and even more surprising, started having sex with me- it’s all I cared about. Having a girlfriend became the one locus of my identity that I chose.
I’m still not sure what the banana was for but boy was my girlfriend surprised.
So from high school forward, I spent most of my time and energy figuring out how to spend as little time and energy doing the things I didn’t want to do. In school I only took classes that I was already naturally good at. I’d switch out of classes that I wasn’t already familiar with. Same thing in college. For my classes I picked the ones I had essentially already taken before (I.E. Basic physics and math).
I didn’t want to spend time and energy doing other stuff. I never tried to challenge myself. I never really explored other opportunities because I didn’t want to put forth the effort.
And now I sit before my work desk feeling like I’ve made a mistake.
While I enjoy doing 3D rendering work in theory- I feel like all this internal exploring has stifled my desire to do this. I feel so bored now. Its the same thing over and over. My days drag on forever. Am I really doing what I want to do?
A while back I was hanging with my buddies Dan, Kyle, and Fry. Yes from Futurama. They had the newer season of BattleBots on the TV. We all got sucked into it.
I really got sucked into it. Especially the behind the scenes stuff where you see the teams repairing their robots. The metal working tools and electronics looked so interesting. I’ve always wished that I had more aptitude for this stuff.
I started thinking. Why don’t I learn how to do this? It’s actually something that’s always fascinated me. I love metal working shops, 3D printers, and laser cutters. Those crazy kits my cousin used to get that let him build remote controlled arms and shit. Why did I never learn how to use them? Those Principles of Technology classes in high school were awesome. Why didn’t I do more and learn how to solder circuit boards? Create rigs? Learn scripting and coding?
Because I’ve never done it before. Because it would be hard. And hard things are like chores.
For an internship I had to do for high school I shadowed a biomedical engineer at the local hospital. She showed me how to fix various break downs. We also got to replace the ceramic container inside a refrigerated centrifuge. Holy crap it was cool getting all the wires reconnected and watching it slowly come back to life.
Similarly, in college I remember hearing about the earliest versions of prosthetic limbs made in 3D printers. I remember 3D printing my first abstract shape in college and thinking to myself, “I am a polymer God!”
So why am I not doing that either?
Why not do both and make robotic prosthetic limbs?
Would I feel more satisfied with my work? Less confused about my path? More passionate?
Speaking of passion- I see so many of my friends be like head over heels in love with their hobbies. I don’t feel that. I haven’t really played a game or read a book that had my chomping at the bit to get home and do again. Not since I was younger. I would straight up run home from the bus and kick on the PS2 to play Kingdom Hearts or Megaman Legends.
Where is that passion now?
I greatly enjoy comics, books, and video games; but it’s been a long time since I felt that keening adrenaline in my chest. I used to feel that when I would go play Pump It Up back in the day. Finding a parking spot felt like an eternity because all I wanted to do was get on that dance pad.
I by no means am sad or bored with life. But I do feel like a key component of myself went missing. I was reading some really old Facebook conversations a few months ago. Old friends, classmates, ex-girlfriends and family. I used to be so different. So lively. I used to be fucking hilarious. When did that shift?
The obvious point is that there was a pretty significant shift early in 2013. My girlfriend at the time dumped me and that signaled an “end of an era” for me. It was a pretty brutal breakup for me and it demanded that I grow a “self respect.”
It wasn’t a sword in my heart, but paychecks that I got to keep.
What a wonderful thing to have in my back pocket. Self respect is pretty cool. Now when people disrespect me I get mad! And that’s important!
It probably was the very start of me evaluating who I had become. It was the end of my locus being external and rooted in my current lover. I became very selfish (in a healthy way). I was doing things I wanted to do instead of always worrying about the wants and needs of another.
But then it went too far. I didn’t want to be selfish, impulsive, or a dick. I spent a lot of time re-applying my self evaluations of me. Dismantling the motivations for my actions, dismantling the actions of others. Trying to peer behind the curtains. Trying to find out why people acted the way they did. Why I acted the way I did.
And now that’s become what I do. In my quiet moments, in my free time ; constantly trying to make sure that I make no assumptions, that I make fewer mistakes, that I piss off less people. Still trying to keep myself on a path I care about, but now I spend my energy trying desperately not to be like the people that irritate me.
Is that causing me to forget who I am or used to be? When I was younger I felt like I was funnier, more present, and definitely more concentrated in my personality.
Now that I’m constantly walking on eggshells so that I don’t become someone I don’t like- I feel like I have essentially stifled the ability to become someone.
I am a person trying really hard not to become a person.
Sounds confusing but its a pretty profound thought for me. By essentially spending too much time trying not to be someone I hate- I have prevented myself from being someone. Quirks, mistakes, and impulses are what make the people we love people and all I’ve tried to do is suppress that in myself. Who am I? I am the result of making my personality more digestible for people around me.
So who the fuck am I? Am I anyone? What defines me as me if being me is dependent on those around me.
So the existential statement that almost literally occurred to me in a dream:
I have spent most of my life trying not to do things.
Not doing anything new or hard because it required effort, and not being a person because I’m afraid of who I might become.
So whats the solution?
I’m doing my damnedest to just be, instead of evaluating what being me is.
And I’m going to build a motherfucking robot someday.
And boy howdy it will suck if I find this profound answer in my life and then I’m like, “God fucking damnit building robots suuuuuuucks.”
Or it’ll be fucking awesome.