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No, I’m not talking about re-incarnation.
That’s definitely a conversation for another time, though.
I’m talking about this incarnation.
You, here right now.
In this predicament.
You, with pixelated epiphanies flooding your eyes at this very moment.
Well, calling them epiphanies might be a bit presumptuous of me seeing as how I haven’t really said anything yet, but we’re getting there. Sounded cool, though…
When I say the “predicament of your incarnation,” I’m talking about our tendency to project ourselves into the lives of other people and how it distracts us from being fully immersed in our own.
We all do this all the time; imagine ourselves living different lives, knowing different people, having more or less of this or that than we currently have.
We project ourselves into the realities of others in an attempt to understand what it must be like to be them, or to imagine that we’re anyone but ourselves, if only for a moment.
After doing this, sometimes we feel grateful to be who are, or perhaps discouraged that we’re not someone else who’s doing “better.” Depending on your perception of where you stand in comparison to others in your surrounding society at large, there’s a myriad number of emotional responses one could have in relation to any different person.
The Good and Bad of it
It can be a fun escape when you do it at the movies. It can be a harmless distraction when you’re reading a book. But it can also be a detriment to living a healthy and contented life when you spend all of your time dreaming, wishing, craving that you were someone else.
It’s a fact that every single person experiences life at the center of their own reality. We may not be the center of our universe, but we all sure as hell experience it from the inside out.
Why then, do we insist on distracting ourselves from ourselves by pretending to be someone else? Is it a fear of acceptance? A denial of fate? Is it really all just for fun?
We’re a social species.
We’ve needed each other to survive for millions of years. So, it’s not surprising that we spend a good amount of time worrying about our social status and comparing our lives to the lives of those around us.
We have an unconscious need to socially regulate ourselves so we aren’t cast out of the tribe to fend for ourselves. We don’t necessarily need to be on the highest ends of social admiration, as long as we’re not on the lowest. Generally, for the most part, people are content falling somewhere in the middle as long their basic needs are met.
Still, it’s no wonder why we’d all have such an ingrained habit of projecting ourselves outward onto a world of countless other possibilities beyond the confines of our personal predicaments.
When we do this, when we project our awareness outside of who we currently are out of desire and distraction, we’re depriving ourselves of developing the faculties necessary for navigating our own world.
We end up spending so much time thinking about how someone else lives their life, we neglect living our own. The exceptions to this being compassion, empathy, or perhaps if you’re training for some sort of feat of physicality and need to study your opponent and/or influence. Compassion for others or studying someone else’s actions as a means of making progress is normally nothing but beneficial. I wouldn’t say that those would be detriments to living a healthy life unless they began to border on the obsessive, like the people who spend too much of their time worried about how they think they “should” be doing something instead of doing it in their own unique way.
We have tendency to neglect our inherent gifts in favor of imagining ourselves to be in possession of another’s. We fantasize about being heroes and athletes and rockstars and experiencing the lives of living gods instead of noticing our own skills, our own talents. So many people spend their lives completely ignoring what they’re truly capable of because they’re more concerned with the skills of someone they’ve never met.
The thing is, that athlete, rockstar, literary or scientific genius, or legend in some other sense, is merely living their own incarnation to its fullest. The life they are experiencing is the one they were born into.
Whether through geographical luck, fostered skill, innate talent or an insane work ethic, they’ve managed to reach the heights you see them at now, but those things are all besides the point.
They didn’t choose to be born as they were, they just were. Their minds and bodies are only as they are because they are. They couldn’t have been born any other way at any other moment in time.
There are no “what ifs” or “if only’s.”
There is only “they are” and “I am.”
“Modern people tend to talk about things that are useful to them without realizing that the most useful thing in the world is to know who you are at the core of your life and what you are intended to serve in this world.” — Michael Meade
You were born into your own predicament of mind, body, and location. There isn’t any reason to damn the drawer of eternity’s raffle when your particular ticket was called, because there was never any raffle. You couldn’t have come into existence in any other variation than the incarnation which you are currently experiencing. If your mother happened to conceive in the second before or after she did, you wouldn’t exist at all.
So, this is the game. This is the predicament.
It’s useless to worry about the games being played by others. They’ve had their own set of circumstances and obstacles to traverse that have nothing to with you. Another player could be envying your game right now and you’d have no idea. You’d be too busy wishing you were playing someone else’s, anyways.
This is your incarnation, and most likely the only one you’re going to get. You were blessed with gifts particular to you, and you alone. It’s up to each of us to find out what our specific gifts are and to share them with the world.
A calling is named as such because that’s what it does, it calls to you.
It calls beyond the veil of distraction and temptation, beyond the disillusionment of “what could have been” if only you were born as someone else, had the same opportunities as someone else, were someone else. It’s through this acceptance of who we are at our core that we can finally start seeing ourselves as we are and see the gifts with which we were born.
It’s through this love of ourselves that we can proudly open up our most heavily guarded instincts and evolve into what we were always meant to be.
“Nature loves a mystery and each soul born is a mystery waiting to be revealed, a meaningful story waiting to unfold.” — Michael Meade
The Ease of Slipping into Hypocrisy
What a good example I turned out to be.
There really is nothing like being taught your own lesson during the same day you just expounded upon the meaningfulness of focusing on your own path.
I wrote the first half of this article this morning.
Then, I watched some YouTube and went on a run. During my run I thought about what I had just watched.
It was an interview with Mark Manson on Impact Theory, a show on Tom Bilyeu’s channel where he interviews different influential people from every sort of industry you could think of. From tech giants to motivational speakers to media moguls and more. Any sort of person you that, after watching them speak about their life, makes you think, Oh, I’m doing this life thing all wrong.
For those of you who don’t know, Mark Manson is the author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, a New York Times Bestseller and fantastic read about how and why we choose to spend our time and energy on what spend it on. He was on the show to promote his second book Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope, another great book for the que for anyone interested.
As I’m listening to this interview, Mark goes on to talk about how sometimes the thing we think we’re passionate about may not be where we should actually be putting our energy.
He spoke of his 20’s, when he was pursuing a career as a musician. He was in music school and working on the craft 6+ hours a day. According to him, he hated it. He didn’t enjoy the process of sitting down and practicing songs and having to work at it every day. To him, it felt like job that he had to do, not something he was compelled to do.
He talks about a day when he approached another student who was far out-pacing everyone around him to ask for advice on how he was able to practice so much and not feel burnt out, or how he stayed motivated to get through the work.
He said the guy looked at him like he was crazy. He didn’t understand what Mark meant. For him, it wasn’t a struggle. For him, it was just something he did because he wanted to. It wasn’t some hard slog for him to get through the work because to him, it wasn’t work.
Mark said it was then he realized he should quit trying to be a musician.
Then, he talks about years later when he was starting to get recognized for his writing. Fans of his work would come up to him and ask the same kinds of questions he had once asked his musician friend. Things like “What’s your writing regiment like?” and “How do you stay motivated?” Mark said he’d look at them in the same way the musician had looked at him. He didn’t understand what they meant because to him, it wasn’t hard work or something he really had to think about. He just wrote. It was just something he did. He didn’t have to struggle and grind his way through it all.
His point was that our passions aren’t always the thing that we think they are. That sometimes the thing we should be doing is the thing we do without even realizing it. The thing we don’t think is exciting or glamorous because it’s just the thing we’d do regardless of how it’s perceived.
That part in the interview starts at 22:45, but here’s a link to the entire thing because it’s a great interview. All very helpful and interesting.
The whole thing got me wondering, am I doing with writing the same thing Mark was doing with music? Am I breaking my back trying to grind out a path forward learning this craft because of my idea of what or who I think a writer is?
Am I more attached to the idea of being a writer than the actual writing itself?
I asked myself this because if I was being honest, there are definitely times when this is not fun. There are times when it does feel like something I have to do, rather than something I want to do.
I never stopped to ask myself, if I took writing away from my life, would I be okay with who I was without it? Am I letting the idea of being a writer take up too much of my sense of who I am? Or is this something I do truly enjoy?
Of course, there are definitely times when I get lost in my work and the thrill of creating something new. There’re absolutely times when I’m grateful for what I’ve been able to work through and discover about myself and what I’m capable of strictly through writing, but all that being said, was he right? Was I allocating my time improperly by pursuing something I had no real passion for?
After all, I wasn’t like him. I wasn’t already writing 10–20 page articles with references and citations multiple times a week for fun. I wasn’t unconsciously creating new work at all times without being fully aware of what I was trying to accomplish. I’ve always been aware of what I was doing and a lot of times it’s been really hard to get through it. I know that a lot of this can be chalked up to the growing pains anyone might feel when they’re trying to get better at something, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe he was onto something regarding my own life and perhaps it was time to reevaluate my priorities.
Alright, so I said I wrote the first half of this article in the morning, watched that interview, then went on a run. As I was running I was having the thoughts I just laid out.
I also had another thought.
That is, that I was being an absolute hypocrite about the thing I had just written about earlier. The entire point of the beginning of this article. That is, to not focus on the lives of other people as a guidepost for how I should feel about my own life.
Mark Manson is an amazing writer and someone with a life one could envy. Especially anyone who wants to make a living writing and traveling. He lived an exciting life of experiences and travel and now makes a living writing about all of the things I like to write about myself. The difference is he’s lightyears ahead of me as far as skill and the industry itself. He even has a writing voice I’m envious of and could only hope to imitate. As far as having an idea in my head of being a successful and irreverent writer, he’s as close to that ideal as I could imagine.
I had to consciously think to myself, Yes, but you are not him. You are you. He was born as Mark Manson and you were not. Your incarnation was entirely different and therefore your paths will be as well.
I had to remember to take my own advice to not get stuck in the loop of thinking I’m somehow behind in life, or not as capable, or not as worthy of a person in some way. I had to call out my own hypocrisy for just spewing words about living fully as yourself without paying mind to those around you, while also falling directly into that exact trap immediately after.
You could call it a coincidence, or maybe you think the two things are completely unrelated.
I call it a sign. A sign meant to test whether or not I truly believed in my own words.
Was I merely someone who preached without practicing? Or, was I going to live as the person I claim to want to be?
Was I going to allow any influential passerby to guide my thoughts and pull my focus into their particular lane of life? Or, was I going to allow those feelings of uncertainty to teach me something about myself?
Was I going to languish? Or learn?
Fortunately, I think I took the latter.
We can only trust our own instincts when it comes to our own lives. When faced with the opinions or advice of other people, we always have to be able to step back from our initial reactions and see things from multiple angles.
I’m glad watching that interview made me feel how it did. I wouldn’t have gained the deeper perspective on my own train of thought. I would have had another half-baked piece of writing with no real resonance. Now, thanks to my idea of who I am being challenged, I was given the opportunity to either dismiss my own advice or truly get behind it.
I choose to get behind it. To lean in. To practice what I seem hellbent on preaching.
So, for that, I thank Mark.
No, I don’t love writing every day. Sometimes, this shit sucks and feels like a chore. Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop, though.
No, I don’t have a best-selling book or absentmindedly write 20-page diatribes that sway the minds of thousands, but my stories make me laugh and I’m getting better every day. (Anyone want to read a story about a guy who marries a blow-up doll? Accidentally showing up at a nude beach? Existential poem perhaps??)
I didn’t already live the origin story of a now world-famous writer, and that’s okay, because that’s just not how shit happened. For now, at least…
And until we can prove it otherwise, I’m pretty sure shit only happens the one time.
I am, however, my own incarnation of a singular being, made and fostered to be the person sitting in this exact spot in this exact moment.
I am no one but myself, and I’m doing pretty damn well for anyone who knows what it’s like to be who I am.
Which, as far as I know, is only me.
Who are you?