This is your life. And it’s ending one minute at a time. –Fight Club
There is unfortunately no pause button while you figure life out. it keeps happening whether you are ready or not. So as a result things often happen at very inconvenient times. Things that might have worked out had they happened later, but we don’t get that kind of control. And while we’re waiting for the right time, the time we do have is passing us by. Then we suddenly wake up to the reality that one year, or five years, or ten years has passed us by. At least that’s the story we’ve all been told. The truth is we see that time pass minute by minute. But we pretend not to. We know that it’s swiftly flying into the abyss of the past but we close our eyes to the reality only to play to the illusion of opening them when enough time has escaped our grasp to give us the chance for a dramatic realization. We have our epiphany, see the error of our ways, vow to see each day for the miracle that it is, and go back to scrolling through Facebook 40 hours a week. The most effective drugs are the ones we don’t notice we’re being fed.
I want to say to just let go and jump in. Whatever it is you’re hesitating on. It’s as simple as saying yes. But that would be hypocritical of me. I don’t do that. I can say I do it more than I used to, but there are times when I hesitate for nothing other than some vague feeling that it’s not the right time. But there is no right time. We exist now and at no other place or time. I’m not disregarding the importance of planning for some things. But in most cases “planning” is just an excuse to not deal with something difficult or even something simple that is mentally taxing because of our own situation. And saying what should be an easy thing for someone to do is not as straightforward as it seems. Everyone has their own past and present. We are each a unique combination of physical and mental events culminating in our current state that has never before existed and never will again. So (within reason) I try not to make assumptions about what any one person should or shouldn’t do. I don’t know their backstory in its entirety. Even the people I know best in this world, I will never know as much about them as they do about themselves. So when I say to jump in it’s with the implied grain of salt that I don’t know most things about anyone, even about myself sometimes for that matter. As a general rule though I think it would serve us all better than hesitation.
I spend a lot of time inside my own thoughts. Too much so. I overthink. Often this overthinking leads to paralysis. I do what I eventually come to realize is the wrong thing by omission. Rather than taking the chance, even a simple one, I do nothing and therefore make a decision through inaction. It’s something I’m working on and I’d like to think I’ve made progress, but it’s difficult to analyze one’s own behavior on a micro level. Taking the choice of positively engaging with a thing I’m considering is almost always going to point me in the right direction though. It’s a good habit to build and it’s usually better to have done something than not to have done it.
I think of the amazing concerts and shows I went to on a weeknight because I decided being tired the next day was worth it. I remember the shows, I don’t remember being tired. Being tired is one penny in a jar full of identical and forgettable pennies. The experiences I had though are unique and memorable. Our brains seem to want to keep us in a steady, safe, static place. Probably a self-preservation technique. Our brain knows the current environment, so better to encourage us to stay where it’s safe than venture somewhere new and potentially dangerous. It’s a great trick evolution developed for keeping us viable so we can reproduce and birth the next generation of humans. It’s not great for living a satisfying, purposeful life. Alternately there seems to be a drive for novelty and newness (with the unknown always having some element of danger) that is at odds with the part of us that wants us to stay alive long enough to simply make more humans. There’s definitely a conflict between the two desires. But the self-preservation drive seems to be so much more overactive than the drive for novelty or a sense of being fulfilled. Most of the decisions we fret over have no bearing on our self-preservation whatsoever though. We can often buy those experiences very cheaply for the cost of some mild discomfort. And usually the problems we imagine are exactly that, imaginary.
The simplistic Nike tagline is in this case very relevant. Just do it. There’s never going to be enough time, or enough money, or enough planning, or enough emotional protection, or enough control. Those are all just excuses. And excuses are too easy to find. Rather look for a reason to do it. Something as simple as “because I want to” will do. I’m not advocating for hedonism or recklessness. I’m advocating for a fully lived life. And retreating into a safe cave is not it. Especially when that cave can collapse at any minute, shattering illusions of safety and your skull at the same time. There are going to be bumps along the way, but none of us have the control of time and space that would be necessary to prevent any possible disruptions. No one ever will. Time is short. Make the most of it.