As someone who has a collection of cousins younger than me, it’s seems that every year I am watching someone give us good weather for the Junior and Leaving Cert. Every August brings a CAO day and a every September, another freshers week begins the cycle all over again.
I’m twenty-three now. A fledging adult, I hesitate to call myself. Yet at eighteen, when I sat the Leaving, I would have probably called myself the a full-blown adult with the confidence of Pinocchio calling himself a real boy.
Saying something is true makes it so. Right?
When we’re young we reject the patronising way which we’re told that when you’re youthful you think you know it all. While possibly true it hurts to have your opinions disregarded just because of your age.
Simultaneously we are handed these are the best years of your life and but you don’t know anything about ‘real life’. Apparently we should be able to swallow both pills at the same time.
Now, however grudgingly, I am starting to acknowledge that there is some truth to the notion that with age you learn more and more and with this, the younger you are less experience you have gained to know these thingsm. I feel no small amount of bitterness towards my Mom for this.
I am less sure of my opinions than I was at eighteen.
I am less forceful, more thoughtful. I have less corners now. Most were not just knocked off me but utterly obliterated.
In the five years that have passed I realised that I have lived long enough to see all of my opinions change – and change again.
At eighteen, I saw one of my favourite movies for the first time, Dead Poet’s Society. In the scene where the teacher, our beloved Robin Williams, suddenly stands atop his classroom desk, much to the horror of the well-reared private school boys, I remember thinking that I was watching something special. Something important and lasting.
Some moments have more ‘stick’ power than others and this was one of them.
The teacher wanted to teach the boys that their information about a situation was only informed by the perspective with which they looked at it. Change perspective, change your information – and possibly, change your entire opinion.
I have tried to live by that rule as I aim to be palpably less judgemental and more adaptable to the world around me. I used to fear growing up timid. Now I fear growing up critical. At times I wonder if a critical nature indicates an inner bitterness and that means that the world has won in curbing your nature that began as anything but cruel.
If someone is rude to me, I will stand up for myself, while trying to acknowledge that they have a mindset I don’t, because of experiences I haven’t had. I try to be grateful for that.
My knee-jerk reaction is still to be harsh and sometimes even bitchy. To make comments, even if only to myself – that Love Island contestant seems a bit vapid, Jesus, her hair looks absolutely daft.
That is how I have learned to live. By habit. But it’s no longer how I choose.
My goal now is to reduce how long it takes my mind to override the narrow-minded viewpoint. I want to reduce the time it takes for my brain to say I only know a fraction of that person, not even a chapter of a whole book.
In essence, I am always trying to stand on top my own desk to look at situations differently.
But how does that work when you cannot simply stand on a desk and see yourself differently? It doesn’t ever seem that easy to override the criticisms I hand myself by the bucket.
We all have our vices.
Addiction, fear, jealousy, cruelty.
Mine is insecurity borne from an inner cruelty that questions everything about my self-worth on a near-constant basis. And this is the perspective I have struggled to change because, thankfully, I have never lost the belief that I could see myself differently. Perhaps even brilliantly.
I was eight when I first considered myself fat, ten when I questioned my academic intelligence for the first time, twelve when I wondered, am I a friend worth having?
Like any disease, these thoughts spread and corroded some of the good. In my memories, I am more likely to remember a time when I was tense with worry about my behaviour or looks than I am to remember just how much I laughed that day or how many freckles I got from sitting in the sun.
Am I skinny enough for skinny jeans? Do my grades make me stupid? Are my friends tired of me?
The words and questions whirred in my mind like a ceiling fan . There was no getting off, only adjustment. Amidst the whirring, I tried to see the good in the world. The endless moments my friends made my laugh or my family made me smile. The moments I forgot my insecurity – my vice.
That begs today’s question. What would happen if I lost this insecurity altogether? If I chose to release my only vice, that my habit-driven brain has fought to hold on to. Essentially, what would happen if I had nothing left to hold me back.
There is safety in what we know, even if what we know is stunting our growth.
So, what would happen if we lost our vices – chose to seek help, change our mindsets or simply move away from what aches us? There would be no shackles left, only lightness.
By accepting what we cannot change and using our mental strength to alter what we can, we would become truly weightless.
Then, we could not name one thing in the way of us and our goals. Money, location, education would fall away and stairs would appear that made climbing as easy as breathing.
We would crack and expand out of our mind-made cages, taller, stronger. Achievements would flow towards us, one after the other and laughter would be a default, rather than an exception.
Staying where we are in semi-pain if not outright anguish is the easiest act we can take. Passive, mindless. We would die drones.
It is pulling the thorns from our skin, one by one, that gives the poison in our lives room to exit.
For me, this means that I must do what scares me and excel all the same. I must stand tall, attend conferences, make hard phone calls and seek help – with the absolute promise that the viceless dawn that we could have is so much brighter than the dusk we settle for. And that definitely bares thinking about.