Different ways of thinking about the past and writing.

Hardangerjøkulen | Source

Different ways of thinking about the past and writing.

I don’t remember when it started, but I’ve come to the realization I live a life of frustrating contradictions. How lazy I feel, after being tired from working all day. Or how the pressure of optimism feels harsher than giving in to cynicism. Or how I feel like a child at heart in spite of having a wandering mind that often feels brittle and faded.

There’s also the occasional pang of regret, which seems more eye-rolling and silly than a contradiction, at my age — of course we do stupid things in our youth, that’s what our youth is for. There are often times where I’ll search up terms like “Things I wish I could have said to my 20-year-old” which are usually written by someone a decade or two older.

While I definitely believe there is wisdom in listening to the advice of those older than you, most of these articles are — sadly — just variously repeated cheesy lines and clichéd advice. Spend less time on Facebook, travel around the world. Okay, cool. How does that make me a better person, though?

playground, nighttime. | Source

The most obvious lesson that I’ve actually retained, so far, is that it’s really impossible to stop yourself from making stupid mistakes. There are those of us too head-strong and stubborn to take the words of others, or our future selves, and instead enthusiastically headbutt our way through our regrettable actions instead.

There’s an odd inner-peace that rises when you realize this. To walk the middle road and be able to no longer have shame over your scars — and also not display them as badges of honor, either. They’re just there, in the same way they are for every other person.

So, instead of ruefully thinking of ways I could have prevented myself from being an idiot, or hopelessly research the mechanics of time-travelling, I’m trying something else.

Rather than rumination, or simply accepting and moving on, why not try the third alternative instead? Look at your past with fresh eyes, figure out a way you can do something now that would affect your future.

Untitled | Source

Blank Page Syndrome

A personal example of this would be looking at the calendar and seeing how many days were zero days. Which I would describe as days where I didn’t write, or do anything else productive for that matter.

I have to say — and I stress this — that there’s pressure within writing culture to write daily.

I understand the idea and the motivation behind not breaking the chain, but at the same time, the longer the lack of a chain you have is as equally dis-motivating. When I weeks, or even months where I’ve become so caught up in life that I’ve forgotten to journal, it can become daunting to try and start up again.

Of course, this self-doubt has nothing to do with what other people think on the subject, rather it has to do with the fact that I let it bother me. And whenever I look back and see a slew of blank days, I always do end up wishing that I would just have written something at least once or twice. But it seems dangerously simple to separate thoughts about the past to doing actions in the present.

Self-forgiveness is the most important part of improvement. It’s about not being hard on yourself for slipping up on your principles, because that itself is just regret.

You just have to move on, and maybe become more aware of what you’re actually capable of doing right now. Take smaller steps — baby steps.

For me, that’s accepting that in order not burn out, I should probably write less frequently. Specifically, aim for the goal of writing once a week, anytime of the week.

As Anne Frank once wrote, paper has more patience than people. You can go to it whenever. It’s too easy for me to instead think of my journal as a friend — as though I would feel guilty about only coming to it when I felt emotional, and ranted ceaselessly without much sense. But you can do that. You should do that.

But, that’s just one example. The point is that you have to use the future as a tool to fight against the past. Think of creative ways to re-imagine your blunders, and then go do just that. Find ways to take advantage of the life and opportunities you still have — no matter how hopeless things may seem right now.

It’s about as close to time-traveling as we’re going to get.