Life is a spectrum. This is a phrase I tend to use a lot. Another version that I might say more often is “It depends”. To some people this answer is rather frustrating, especially when trying to understand who I am. Which I find funny, because I’m me and I still don’t always understand who I am. For some people, there are very clear defining moments and defining features and defining attributes about who they are. I’m not one of those people. I tend to be one of the people searching for meaning or purpose or passion or whatever it is that life is supposed to be about.
One of the reasons I started writing again was to help me process exactly what it is that I’m looking for. But before we can go forward, I think it is important to go backwards. Lately my life has changed a bit, and whenever life tends to change I like to reflect on life a bit. And because one of my goals is to fail more, I thought I’d give myself a chance to see if I can explain who I am to those of you who are reading this. For some of you this might make sense, for some of you it’ll just be completely confusing, and for others you might learn a lot about who I might be. Yet as I explain this, it is important that life is a spectrum, so while this definition of my life holds for today, it changes in various forms every moment of every day in every situation with every single person. Also, this might get a little long, it also might be fairly short, I don’t plan on editing it tonight because as I said, part of this is about trying to open myself up to being vulnerable and that means being raw. So if I offend you, or bore you, or anything else, here is your opportunity to make it out easily.
According to Google, the definition of synthesis is “the combination of ideas to form a theory or system.” I like definitions. It gives a great starting point for jumping off this journey. While I could have started with a word like genesis for beginning, this story actually isn’t going to start at the beginning. Rather it is important to understand that at this point in time, my life probably like yours is a synthesis of experience, feelings, memories, thoughts, etc. It is especially important to keep this in mind as I love theories and systems as a whole. In fact the easiest way to understand my life might be to understand some of the theories, or systems, or ideas I’ve used to guide my life.
One of the easiest ideas to understand a definition of my life is the idea of me being an ambivert. For those who don’t have a degree in psychology, or who haven’t taken a few personality tests, an ambivert is a person who tends to have a balance of extrovert and introvert characteristics. Again if those definitions don’t make sense, an extrovert is someone who tends to be more out going or expressive compared to an introvert who tends to be more shy or closed off. What this means for me as an ambivert, is that I tend to be someone who in some situations can talk quite a bit and being expressive and open and in other situations shy and close off. For example, if I was to go to a party or a public place I’ll probably tend to be more guarded and only talk to a handful of people I know. Where if I’m with people I know or in an environment such as this where I have a little more freedom, I can talk and talk (or write depending on the form of expression). The reason I bring this up, is that while I can talk to most people if I have to, I don’t always open up to people. In fact while the majority of people who read this are probably close friends or family, there are probably many things about my life and my views that I keep closed off. There might be multiple reasons for this, but the truth of the matter is usually the less I share the less I have to worry about getting hurt or having things used against me, or even of having people know what I truly care about.
To some the idea of becoming numb or dispassionate or things like that sounds like a cry for help. Which I promise, I’m doing just fine, in fact I’m better now than I have been in quite some time. In fact if you ask me if something is wrong chances are this question will make me unhappy and will actually cause something to be wrong. I don’t actually have a problem being open about things, but over time I’ve built systems to process a lot of things in my life. For example, there was a time in my life where I had a lot of things going on. Between school, sports, and anything else that goes on in the life of a teenager I was completely burnt out. I was emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally exhausted, but being a teenager it just appeared to be normal. Yet it was in this time of utter chaos that I found myself creating two of the most important systems that I still use in my life today. The first was I began to question my life with 3 simple questions. What am I doing? What should I be doing? How do I make am into should? The second system was that of learning to simplify and remove things from my life. Now obviously I’m human so these systems don’t always work.
These systems though started to help me organize some things in my life. I started to understand things that I’ve only recently been able to really put into words. As the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown states “I can do anything, but I can’t do everything.” During certain points in my life I’ve always been good but not great at many different things. Even within certain domains such as sports I’ve been really good at certain aspects but not great. Yet it was this over generalization that in a way could be responsible for holding me back. As I learned to let go of some of the things that I wasn’t getting as much out of or wasn’t enjoying the experience, I found myself being able to succeed or find more pleasure in other areas. An example of this is that as I started to give up other sports I found myself improving and enjoying the sports I was still sticking with. I found that as I started to ignore people or “friends” who weren’t as important to me, I was able to hang out with and appreciate those who I still surrounded myself with. Another phrase from Essentialism that could describe this phenomenon is “Less but better”.
While this seems to be a great thing to see improvement in life, it also lead to some consequences. As I found that I could do better in school by focusing in certain areas, it somewhat hurt my performance in other areas. As I focused on certain friends or opportunities it closed me off to some new experiences or opportunities to meet new people. This realization may be the reason that I ultimately started to work on what I consider to be one of the bigger theories of my life, the theory of life. Now I’m not claiming to have solved all of life’s questions or have an explanation or even remotely understand why this happened. Rather it is in chasing this theory that I began to discover some things about myself and about life that have truly shaped who I am, where I’ve been, and I hope where I am going.
It was the search for the theory of life or my purpose in life that I ultimately have been working on since I started college. It was motivational theories that led me into studying psychology. It was working on self-improvement and trying to understand the way I was and how I could possibly use that to help others that led me further down the rabbit hole. It was looking into system development and theories of explanation such as Dynamic System Theories that I became passionate about creating systems of change. It was also during this time of doing research and looking into theories and systems and other ideas that I began to see patterns and ideas working together. While research papers are a great example of synthesis, it was just a beginning of seeing how all of these things fit together that really got me started. In reading a book I would trigger more questions and more ideas that would lead to more books and more questions and more ideas. These in return led me to seek out others and to collaborate and to create more and more until an original idea had become something different. Not necessarily better just different. It is this synthesis that started me on this journey of trying to find out exactly who it is that I am.
As I learned more about others and what made others great, I started looking for ways I could improve myself. I began to see more and more of the systems and patterns within the world. This is what ended up leading me to studying computer software development. The more I could understand and create within the logic of computers and within the infrastructure of the internet the easier it would be to connect and identify and interact within a more complex system.
Yet throughout all of these systems and within all of this other development, along the way I also started to lose sight of other things. The very nature of less but better. By creating more and more questions and thoughts I started to think in ways that removed me from my own life. I added all these plans and things that haven’t really turned into anything. Yet because of the spawning off all of these thoughts this blog has come about. From this blog more self realization such as that I need to focus more on certain things and get back to what is important.
It is within the chaos that we sometimes find the greatest order and understanding. One of my favorite documentaries is 180° South. It’s the story of a man who sets out on a once in a lifetime journey to find himself after getting inspiration from those before him. In the movie there is a very powerful quote, “It’s easy for us to blindly consume, when we dont see the effects it has on other places. The hardest thing in the world is to simplify your life, it’s so easy to make it complex. What’s important is leading an examined life because most of the damaged caused by humans is caused unintentionally, I think. And in response to people saying,’You can’t go back.’ and I say, ‘Well what happens when you get to the edge of the cliff. Do you take one step forward or do 180° turn and take one step forward? Which way you goin? Which is progress?’ The solution to many of the world’s problems maybe to turn around and to take a forward step. You can’t just keep trying to make a flawed system work.” The reason I bring this up is because there are times when I find myself going backwards. Yet as I’m finding out sometimes it is better to go in a new direction than to continue to do what is broken.
For me one of the biggest things that I found that was broken inside of my life was a lack of relationships. It’s not that I don’t have people I can talk to or family, it was rather that I wasn’t using them. I struggle to truly let people know who I am, to know what I’m thinking or feeling or what I care about. In the past when I’ve tried to be open and honest I’ve been hurt. When I’ve tried to work with others I’ve been rejected. When I’ve tried to help or ask for help I’ve been turned away. Yet as one of my favorite sayings says, “The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.” I am only as strong as those I surround myself with. Which is a large part of what I’m really trying to work on. It is in the hurt that I learn just how deep emotions can run inside of me. It is in the confusion that I understand just how amazing the human brain can be. It is in the joy of life and the community that we build that legacy is truly built. For what is the point of creating a legacy if there is no one to share it with or anyone to remember it?
I don’t have life figured out, not by a long shot. But I try to get better every day. Sometimes it requires me going backwards or starting fresh. Sometimes it means working to combine things that I’ve learned previously into something new. Whatever life may bring, I understand that while I can do anything I can’t do everything, so that means I need others to help me. To this point this may have been a definition of my life’s story, but in the end the true story is something more than that. In the end it’s our story, a true synthesis.