I woke up this morning to an intense debate in my head about forgiving oneself.
We’re supposed to right? I think so. That’s what everyone says. I feel healthier when I do.
But what no one says outright is, “Don’t forgive yourself right away!”
If you do, you are considered a psychopath: “You hurt these people and yet you show no signs of guilt, shame, or remorse!”
So we are expected to mope and wallow, then get a big talking to about forgiving ourselves, then we can move on.
I don’t have a solution for this problem, I just find it an interesting one. What is the appropriate amount of time before we are allowed to forgive ourselves?
Now what about the times when we didn’t willfully do something wrong, but accidentally, and the pain comes upon ourselves? Like when I accidentally left my car unlocked and it was “broken into” (by which I mean they opened the door) and my long-zoom lens and backpack were stolen?
Should I gripe and complain and be upset? No. In this case I don’t think so. I have lost, broken, or had stolen, so many things that I have adopted a zen policy of, “Oh. I guess I don’t have that now.”
But I then get asked, “How can you be so casual and cavalier about this?!”
Society expects me to pitch a fit. But I learned early on (and really not that early…) that no amount of tantrum will bring my lost thing back.
But for some reason it is just not ok to accept misfortune in your life, or to forgive yourself quickly for wrongdoing.
So I’ve made two (what I would once call BIG purchases, but now…) medium sized purchases the past two days. I bought new glasses and signed up for the GRE, but now that I am about $375 poorer, I kinda wished I had asked advice. I just wanted to be a big kid.
I’ve already lost my glasses case.
My parents were married at this point in their lives. Surely they were smarter than I am now.
I don’t know which is more frightening… that I am so much dumber than my parents, or that they were as dumb as me when they planned to have me…
For a long time, I hated having to go back the way I came. If I missed a turn while driving, I would keep going until I found a new way. I’m not entirely sure why. I think a big reason was that I was so afraid of wasting time. Life is short. This is all we get. Time wasted is time lost. Forever.
While I think I knew this line of reasoning was flawed, I continued to live this way until I was hiking with my friend David.
If I remember correctly, we were trying to find Eagle’s Nest at Red River Gorge. We started on a trail that kept getting thicker and thicker with fallen trees and brambles, but I was determined to find a way through. David (who has show immense patience with me throughout our friendship) said, “Andrew! I know you hate to go backward, but sometimes you have to. You have to go back before we can go forward. I know you don’t want to waste time, but this is wasting more time trying to go this way.”
So we went back. And he was right. And I still think about that moment often.
I told David this recently and a couple days ago David texted me this quote:
"A step backward after a step in the wrong direction is a step in the right direction." -Paul Proteus
The influences that WKU and Gatton have had on me are innumerable. My dad often talks of what it takes for a caterpillar to become a butterfly. The caterpillar eats and eats the way that we consume information. At some point of consumption, the caterpillar must enter this dark and isolated cocoon. The key is though, that the caterpillar must break through the cocoon to become a butterfly. The painful process of breaking through is what forces the wings to be extruded. This is how a butterfly is born.
WKU facilitated each step in the process. I ate and ate info about differential equations and supernovae, about social inequities and social justice, and about doing laundry and making Ramen. I ate info about how to deal with superiors you disagree with, how to handle “failing” at things (in some cases for the first time), how to balance work and play, and how to handle friends growing and myself growing and us not always growing in the same direction. And I ate info about life and religion and meaning and purpose.
And then I entered my dark place. I entered my existential cocoon. And no family member or friend could cut me out of it because I would not gain my wings. But they were there, steadying the branch, and blocking the wind, and waiting and wishing and willing me through. I’m not saying that I discovered the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything (because every Gatton student knows it’s 42), but I made it out.
And the whole time there was WKU. There was Dr. Strolger with my astronomy research job. There was Molly with Americans for Informed Democracy. There was ORAC with excellent trips to the outdoors. And there was Feel Good, and the Astrolab, and my cousin and my other roommates, and there was my family, and there was Khaldoun with Arabic, and my rock climbing crew, and Greentoppers, and Dr. Andrew determined to help me graduate, and more cousins and more friends and…
And after all the ands in this story, I have my wings. And… my time in Bowling Green played a huge role in that.
You said it, Dr. Seuss.
When I was in 1st grade, my friends and I were talking when we weren’t supposed to.
Ms. Mitchell asked who was talking. I didn’t want to get in trouble, so I said nothing. My best friend Kerry, however, slowly raised his hand.
"Well, Kerry…thanks for being honest. You may go get a treat."
I’ve had ideas floating around my head for a series of posts, but I never had the time to sit down and collect enough to post regularly. I have decided to make them a once-in-a-whenever-I-feel-like-it series.
On gottsthoughts I will have a Comedy out of Context series
And on my personal tumblr littmus-lozenge I will run a series called How I Came to Be