Self-Involved Blog Post That Achieves Very Little For Anyone (working title)
Nonfiction. I guess. It's like.. it's fine. They can't all be winners, you know?
‘I think we are well advised to keep nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4am of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.’
Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem
I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid. Didn’t seem too ambitious at the time—I’d been repeatedly told (by adults I trusted) that I could be whatever I wanted when I grew up. And what I wanted was to float. To shoot phasers. To go in a rocket, see stars, and boldly go where only a few hundred humans and some Russian dogs have gone before. The Astronaut Phase lasted about three months.
Then I wanted to be a cowboy. It didn’t seem far-fetched at all because, again, I’d been told many times by trusted adults that I could be literally whatever I wanted to be. Exactly who would pay me to be a cowboy in twenty-first century suburban Sydney was unclear but, well, Yeehaw! Though a lifelong fear of cows (not a joke) would make bull riding, chasing, rearing or fighting absolutely out of the question—and though I’d probably also be limited, as a cowboy, by my medium reflexes, zero experience with firearms, general pacifism and squeamishness, abnormally high-arched feet, inability to grow a visible moustache, and an overall lack of courage—I liked the boots. The Cowboy Phase lasted probably not even two weeks.
Other phases of various lengths and seriousness included but are not limited to: doctor, teacher, Olympic swimmer, archaeologist, ventriloquist, photojournalist, pilot, professional magician, actual wizard, and World’s Best Roller Blader. I was a fickle and delusional child. And even though there were thousands of things I wanted to be when I grew up, I am somehow none of them.
Why did I let Kid Me down? Why did I let his dreams peter out and die slow, horrible deaths? Why did I give up on roller blading when it’s such a rapid and cool mode of transportation? Plus, what’s to stop Future Me from running amok of my current set of hopes and dreams in the exact same way? And with this series of rhetorical questions we arrive at the crux of the problem: Why do I constantly disappoint myself, and what is there to do about it?
The Theory of Evolution describes a world that is in a constant state of transformation; the material universe is subjected to a complex and supermassive process of change, and adaptation to that change, and change because of that adaptation, and so on and so forth. Nothing in our universe is permanent, no matter how permanent it looks.
Take a star, for example. It comes from nothing. The galaxy is full of great expanses of dusts and gasses that swill around in a humongous molecular cloud for millions of years. Over time, heavy clumps of molecules start coming together, thereby creating their own gravity and attracting more clumps, and the cloud of molecules collapses into a disk. Over tens of thousands of years the core of the disk contracts, getting more and more dense, full of more and more gas and dust, getting hotter and hotter, and starting to spin. It changes and adapts. Then it explodes. And grows. And shines. It then progresses through the various stages of star-life (main sequence, red-giant, supernova, black hole, etc) over the course of many millions of years, so that it seems to us a pretty stable thing. Our sun is reliable. It burns me every Summer (and the other seasons too). At some point, though, it will stop existing.
And look, the point of all this space mumbo jumbo is:
To show that, you know, maybe I could have been an astronaut? Provided it doesn’t get any more complicated than the Space: For Kids website I visited to get this information.
To show that a star’s birth, life and death progresses very slowly through a series of clear, delineated stages, and that its current state is both the consequence of its past state and the cause of its future state, which in turn maybe demonstrates the universality of evolution (change, and adaptation to change, and on and on) and that hey, woah, the sun you are now is probably completely unrecognisable from the molecular cloud disk that you once were and the black hole you will become. And this is a weak astronomical metaphor to say, essentially, that past and future versions of myself are in fact so shockingly different from who I am right now that they’re actually entirely different people with entirely different minds. Which is the core of the problem.
This is why I disappoint myself so often. Every day I’m a slightly different person, such that over a period of years I’m almost unrecognisable. Like, Kid Me was deathly afraid of the dark. These days I prefer the dark (for sunburn reasons), and I’m instead scared of what I will become. And scared of making a mistake on like official government documents and accidentally committing some kind of tax fraud. And spiders, I guess. Not a big fan of needles. Failure in general. Horror movies. Enclosed spaces. Things touching my eyes, eughk. Environmental disaster. Finance capitalism. Cows, still. That I’m actually in The Truman Show. That my bad posture will lead to crippling scoliosis in later life. That’s it’s really vain and narcissistic to be afraid that I might be in The Truman Show. Jurassic Park. Melting in general. A fear that I’m afraid of too many things. You know, the usual stuff. I don’t know what will spook Future Me—will our dystopian, post-apocalyptic future even have cows to be afraid of? Will our minds be uploaded to an eternally blissful digital cloud? Will we be blown apart by an asteroid anyway so none of this matters?
But this is just the big picture stuff. I’m also a different person from day-to-day. For instance, Yesterday Me had big, serious plans for Today Me—he’d even written down a list of tasks with little boxes to tick and expletive, ‘motivating’ threats and admonishments to make me do them. He wanted me to go for a run, write that essay, do some push-ups, buy and master a challenging instrument, meditate, learn German, generally self-actualise, clean my room, and conduct an overwhelming volume of do-gooding busywork that Yesterday Me (that fucking bastard) should have done yesterday. And, well, I’m not going to let Yesterday Me boss Today Me around. I’ve got stuff to do, TV to watch. So I do none of it. I pass the buck to Tomorrow Me, and write out tasks with little boxes for him to tick and threats to make him do them. But that guy’s a chump and he gets what he deserves.
I’m losing the thread a bit. What I’m trying to say is that I disappoint myself all the time because I think of past and future versions of myself as kind of enemies instead of what they really are, which is reluctant team mates. I suppose we’re all working together to achieve the same life goal—even if what that goal actually is remains a mystery. And everyone else in the world is on their own team, maybe even playing different sports, trying to score their own goal. And what’s really happening in human society is that we’re all trying to shoot, throw, hit, slamdunk, forehand or front-foot-cover-drive a different ball, using a great variety of sports apparel, all at the same time in pretty much the same place, and there’s no referee.
Jeez. I’ve lost the thread again. I guess I’m saying that as time passes, I think of different me’s as different people. And once I’m a different person, I’m all too easy to disappoint. I disappoint other people all the time.
This is very self-involved isn’t it?
Heraclitus (not a joke—he was an Ancient Greek philosopher) said that no person ever steps into the same river twice. The flow of water is always reshaping the river bed and, also, when you step back in, even a few seconds later, you will be different. Biologically, you’ll have new cells. Intellectually, you’ll have new ideas. This is because, Heraclitus says, you are a process. Everything is a process.
The sun beams down skin-burning ultraviolet rays upon us as it slowly, slowly dies. The Earth turns beneath our feet, carving an orbital path around the sun that is increasingly more circular. Glaciers melt glacially. Tectonic plates shift slightly and push tall mountains imperceptibly higher. Winter marches into Spring and April marches into May. We change too. And we’re not special or unique for changing, but we humans are really the only natural phenomena in the known universe able to write self-involved blog posts that achieve very little for anyone. Seriously, what am I doing here? Is this really the best I could produce in a whole two weeks?
So I guess that if you, like me, want to stop disappointing yourself, maybe the trick is to remember that you’re a process, ever changing. You’re not really different people from day-to-day, but instead a continuous, evolving thread. A process. And a process can’t be disappointing because it isn’t done yet—just like you can’t know for sure that a cake is going to be bad until it’s out of the oven. Maybe we should think of ourselves as a star, or a bad cake, slowly cooking our way through the different stages of life while ultimately remaining the same thing, with the same ultimate goal. Whatever that goal may be.
My goal has something to do with cows, I think. I’m not entirely sure. But that’s probably a self-involved blog post for another day.