I find my fists clenched when I think about my future, what it looks like, playing out scenarios in my head. It’s when I feel my fingernails dig into the inside of my hands that I realize I am trying hard to grasp onto something that is not, and may not ever be real. Holding onto this pretentious reality does give me the feeling of hope, and I keep my fists clenched. I think I want it, I like the feeling of it. I feel a part of this far off reality, and I am doing all I can to stay in it. But soon, I notice the hold in my thighs, the curl of my toes, and the clench of my jaw. I begin to feel my tense muscles ease as I become aware of them. I let out a breath as all my muscles relax and I sink back into the bed I am lying on, the fan vibrates the wood floor, the heating unit hums with the music that is playing softly from my speaker across the room. I lie in my real reality as my daydreams fade out of my mind like smoke. As it clears, doubt stands before me, even as I close my eyes. He stands there like a brick wall, tall and strong. It’s when I try to shove him away that I notice he is more like rubber, strong and sturdy, he sways slightly but bounces back into his place. Hope and doubt live in the same room, and I feel like I need to get out of there. It’s in the corner of my eye where I see a way out, away from doubt, away from hope. They both present me with questions that I don’t know how to answer. It’s in that corner that I find the truth, or what I think it should be. I walk around doubt and make sure I don’t raise my gaze too high in fear I’ll catch a glimpse of hope and get lost in it like a plane in the clouds. Walking forward toward what is, now, is the only thing left I can think of doing. I find the place where I can live far enough away from the two that I almost forget they’re there. It’s in the now, that’s where I choose to be.
I read this article that was part of a pre-interview process for a tutoring program I’m interested in getting into. It contained research findings pertaining to learning specifically for children and the youth, but it got me thinking about adulthood and the lack of learning there is. When we attend school we are constantly working our brain which is actively adding to our intelligence. The main point in the article was that IQ is not a static position, it can grow. It showed that learning mindsets affect the progress and success of learning. So, for example, when one says “I’m just bad at math,” it is viewed as a static statement implying that one has always been and will always be bad at math. There is no perspective of improvement, thus creating an excuse for continuing to be bad at math. It was proven that students who were taught growth learning got higher scores than students who were taught study skills. The mindset is what makes the difference. With growth learning, students are taught that learning is a process and can improve with effort and dedication. Thinking, “I may be bad at math now, but I can improve” is the mindset that is set forth. Understanding that the brain is a muscle and needs to be worked to get stronger is a key step in growth learning. Also, understanding that there is time and room for improvement helps students view themselves as successful.
There are goals set forth. Goals specifically pertaining to learning. When I think about adulthood I see a lot of hoops that we have to jump through. Whether it be the job search process, acclimating to a new career, or gaining experience, we lose the mindset of growth learning. We forget to actively learn, and it’s because society has made it easy. It has set certain goals that we think we have to meet and gives us a satisfaction that isn’t necessarily productive for our learning. Make this number of calls, send these emails, make this amount in sales, memorize tonight’s menu offerings, etc…But do these actions contribute to the growth of our IQ? I’m not saying that people don’t learn from these experiences because we do, and they are important. But it’s the kind of learning and the mindset that we accustom ourselves with that will make a bigger difference.
The first year after I graduated from college, I felt this void that I contribute to my lack of learning. I focused on finding a career and enjoying life as it was thrown at me. I never thought about expanding my mind more by continuing to educate myself. My mindset was, “ok I graduated, I know a lot now and got through the hoops I needed to get through to get to the next step in my life.” But I found myself missing studying for tests, I found myself missing learning new things and having the mindset to improve my brain. I got lost in improving the social and emotional aspects of my life, which are just as important, but realizing now that my lack of intentional brain growth may have been the foundation of my struggles. We find satisfaction in watching documentaries, watching the news, or reading articles because we think it makes us knowledgeable. And it does, and it keeps us relevant. But, often we get lost in our relevance as we are filling our brains with information rather than setting goals for ourselves to improve the strength of our mind. It’s like when Einstein was asked what his phone number was and instead he grabbed the directory and said, “why should I memorize something that I can find in a book?” It’s the idea that clutter takes up our mind power. It creates deceiving learning growth and contributes to the excuses we make as to why we aren’t at a certain point or level. It’s part of why we end up settling.
Now, this is me dissecting the article and kind of running away with it. The focus was on youth learning growth and the positive impact it has on overall success and IQ. But being an adult, I can feel how this is true throughout life. Once you give up on the idea of actively learning, your brain, as a muscle, will not get stronger. Now, I’m not saying you get dumber, but to get smarter you have to have the perspective and understanding of learning, of working out your brain, and what is entailed to grow.
It hit me like a slingshot to the neck. It has been something sitting in the back of my mind along with the other maybes. Occasionalally I’ll pluck one of those ideas up like a claw machine. But, often like a claw machine does, the idea is dropped as soon as it is picked up.
The aim of this slingshot was so particular that I couldn’t help but look at it with intrigue. As I delved more into the idea, I found my interest rising as if I was on a hike and getting closer to the summit. I found this idea offered a purpose worthy of being more than just a thought.
When this happens, intuition had found its way up through your guts. You have a decision to make. You allow your guts to lead you to a place you don’t know yet, or you let the feeling subside, just as you do when overcoming a hangover. As you ignore this new vision, the idea will loom with you, making you uncomfortable and even sick. But, it will pass, and the intuition that once held you lets go. But take a drink again. Intuition has a possibility of rising up and being there. You just have to drink the right juice, play that claw machine enough, and turn your head when something hits you in the neck.
The deplorable expectation met my gaze and kept it there as I sat thinking about what move to make next. Anything that could make this moment divert from its usual course would fill me with excitement, relief. Because the casualness of it all has started making me so discontent, so unconnected, so indifferent to the outcome that the numbness of it all is scaring me to the point of desertion.
To be somewhere else, to feel something else has become a dream I wake up from as the unfortunate morning realization of my surroundings comes to focus—the reality I have surrendered to.
To be content is less than being happy, it lies just above the buzz ones feels before the body goes into a complete numbness of senses and instincts as alcohol saturates the veins.
The typical “of course,” “saw that coming,” “shit, yup I deserve that,” stutters of the mind come to face the truth in the spotlight of a moment.
Run away from that, run from the hands reaching from the muddy ground trying to keep you there stuck in that moment. We learn to expect the pulling, the grabbing grasps from what was. But we develop calf muscles and we jump, hell, as we leap onto higher ground.
When we reach that spot, we look down at the muddy footprint we leave as we walk forward. With each step that footprint fades to a point of clarity that is almost unrecognizable, one that we aren’t running from, but running with—you can tell by the length of the strides, they get shorter.
I swear the air smells funny. It really does. People say the air up there smells crisp, fresh and clean, but I get something a bit different. When I first took a whiff of mountain air it reminded me of a strange and distant memory—the smell of the sheep eyeball we watched get dissected in 1st grade. I’m serious, I can see myself and 4 other classmates sitting around a small round table in the project area, sitting in tiny multicolored chairs, watching in horror and amazement as Mrs. Wile took apart a single eyeball in a clear Tupperware as it sat in a water-like liquid. That memory sits on the edge of thought as I breath in the cold air of the mountains. And, for some reason, it’s still a pleasant thing—the scent of the mountains. Very strange, I know. The unexpected placement of that memory continues to boggle me.
The mountains do strange things to the mind, and honestly we all could use some mountain time. Mountains, they let your mind wander. They remind you of lives you once lived, the feelings you once felt. All in such an unexpected way. But they don’t punish you like doubt or regret does, they just sit there, massive and magnificent in front of you. And you don’t expect anything else from them except that. There’s such a peace in it.
Sometimes you need something strong, something being all that it can and all that it ever needs to be. Because, sometimes you feel like string raveling undone off the spool onto the floor. You feel like the roadrunner losing the ground you’re standing on waiting for that plunge that you all too well expect and know. Having something like a mountain in front of you, it does something. It stays strong for you.
In elementary school, I was one of those kids who would sit on top of the monkey bars during recess. We were like trapeze acrobats swinging down off of them. I was pretty good at it too, but one time I overextended my swing and found myself landing on my back onto the wood chips. I remember laying there gasping for air that wasn’t there, terrified at this dying-like feeling, but then I found my gaze up to the sky. It was bright blue with bright white fluffy clouds, and it was then that I found my breath. This was the first memory I have of getting the breath knocked out of me, and when shit hits the fan I can feel those wood chips digging into my back with that same burning in my chest. I discovered it then, I and still know it now, I need something like mountains. Because when I stand in front of something so huge, so entirely large, I don’t have to think about inhaling. It comes easy. I get to feel small. The aching of my longings, the worries of my discontent, the pain from disappointment, it all somehow gets blown away by the air up in the mountains, and I’m able to breath.
The weird air up there, the unexpected scent of it, there’s something funny about it, I swear.
I was living in a house of white walls. I would get lost in them, staring at them for what felt like hours. My thoughts would go nowhere and everywhere at the same time—around and around in circles they went. It wasn’t until I put up some art, something to look at, that my thoughts found direction.
When you’re searching for something, it helps to have something in front of you… because something is better than nothing. Something will take you somewhere.
I looked up at the stars tonight, something I used to do everyday, but lately, everyday my nights are black skies–I forgot about the stars.
I forgot they were there because I haven’t looked up in awhile. I’ve held a narrow gaze with life, one which once you step into becomes bigger, vast like. So, I’ve gotten lost in this thought universe of mine, and it’s taken me awhile to realize that I should see it more as a solar system. Meaning, there are other systems out there in a bigger universe, I just have to look out for them.
Seeing the stars tonight I was reminded of the other solar systems. This solar system of mine is sludgy and jaded. We all have those kinds. We all have the easy kind too, like rollerblading on a smooth road, some solar systems feel better. But getting stuck in either is like forgetting about the stars. We limit ourselves to inside opportunities, the ones currently covered in the sludge.
In my universe, I’ve lived in some of the other solar systems–some good and some bad. They are a part of my universe and they’ll always be there if I look out to see them. But the only ones I can visit are ones I haven’t been to before. Because that’s how life works. Our past, present, and future live together in the compilation of our life, but none of them can overlap. Good thing there’s an infinite number of solar systems to visit.
Sometimes we get lost in our past. The “what ifs” and “back thens” make us question our present which makes our future hazy.
Sometimes we get lost in the future. We become so obsessed “knowing” or “not knowing” how things are going to turn out it prevents us from focusing on our present, which leads us to pessimistic views of our daily lives because we’re always wanting more.
The present is the only place where both the past and future can live, and it’s the only place you can see the stars.
Thinking that living in the present has been my problem, I have come to realize that living in the present is not what I’m even doing. The past and future are deceiving that way, they disguise themselves to seem like the present. But in reality, it’s us overthinking and analyzing, when we should be enjoying what is in front of us.
Living in the moment, feeling what you feel. That is the only way to get to a future, a solar system, that you want to live in.
…go look at the stars tonight.