When it comes to retrospect, I am obsessively introspective. I also have zero interest in foresight. It’s why I’m happy not in spite, but because of the experiential gauntlet through which I’ve dragged myself. And stopping dead and pivoting 180 degrees to examine the crooked hallway that’s led to where I currently stand, I’ve unearthed some valuable conclusions hung on the walls of my past.
First: The necessity for forward movement is a myth. “Advancing” connotes that there is a correct way to carry out a life. There’s not. If life were a line on which I could only move in the proper or not-so-correct direction, I’d be as upside-down in my personal accomplishments as I am in my student loans. Movement is critical – the direction is not. Onward, upward, forward, backward, wayward. Who cares? I’m my own ward. The prefix isn’t important.
Second: “Should” is a dirty, dirty word.
I don’t write in my blog as much as I should. I don’t exercise as frequently or vigorously as I should. I drink beer more often than I should. And I definitely don’t drop the mic and throw both middle fingers in the air as regularly as I should.
Just like there’s no incorrect direction for personal development, there’s no correct method to move forward, either. If I want to crab scuttle, so be it. If I want to do somersaults or tap dance, that’s fine. Yes, objectively, there are choices that are better than some of those I’ve made. But I’m not an object, and subjectively, I should be doing exactly what I want. All the time.
Third: The best decisions are decisions made with very little actual deciding involved. There are a handful of defining moments that plaster the walls of my past. Among them, dropping out of high school; dropping everything and moving to California; quitting my decent job to return to school; accepting a teaching job 60 miles from home. The common thread among these changes is that I didn’t question what I was doing. I didn’t even realize what I was doing: I only observed the results a week or five after each decision happened.
This makes me irresponsible and selfish, but it also makes me honest. I don’t weigh the input of others in decisions that should be made only for myself.
Fourth: Living with a vicious appetite for risk significantly decreases the desire to waste time on regret. There are surely risks that aren’t work taking. Heroin. Justin Bieber. Skinny jeans on men over 40. But in most other cases, indulging in risky endeavors can end just one of two ways: life is better than before, or it’s not better than before.
“Worse” is a relative term that can be applied as liberally or conservatively to any situation. When I moved out to California four years ago, that risk resulted in a decidedly “better” version of my life. More money, more job satisfaction, more free time, more, more, more. When the consequent risk of leaving that job to return to school bubbled up eighteen months later, my life was certainly not “better” – I was working three times harder for less money, and my free time dwindled to a fraction of what it was before.
However, taking the risk resulted in eventual “better.” Which makes the temporary “not better” in no ways “worse.”
Finally: Blind faith isn’t such a bad thing. Neither is a complete loss of faith. I haven’t been able to explain why I left every job I ever quit; got every tattoo I ever chose; entered or abandoned every relationship I ever walked into or out of.
People, places, situations… all are capable of turning into negative influences and losing faith in something that once carried me forward isn’t a mark against my quality as a person. Conversely, I don’t consider it unrealistic to throw myself entirely into or at something without fully understanding why I’m doing so. I’ve learned to trust myself, even if I don’t realize I do until a week (or five) later.
By no means am I preaching a “correct” way to approach life decisions – I’m not perfect, nor do I have even a modest desire to be – but blithe and precarious navigation through life has brought me always to a better room along that hallway where each of these hasty choices and questionable moments of judgement is framed and crookedly hung.