If there were anything I was intrigued by in 2013, it would be perception. I know it’s such a broad term, but it’s a good word to summarize what I’ve learned and what I’ve tried to learn more of without actually thinking about it.
Perception is a funny thing and something I don’t think I’ll ever become disinterested in; scholars and philosophers have argued for as long as history and everybody has an opinion on perception. My view of a piece of painting is radically different than the next person. I am not classically trained in analyzing art. I am in no way a painter or a visual artist for that matter. We all come from unique walks of life that we consume and process things differently. There are at least a million factors that play a part in the way I will analyze a piece of artwork.
Internally, the way I perceive time is radically different from the way I perceived it twenty years ago. At five years old, a whole year seemed like forever. I remember thinking Christmas and New Years were always so long, whereas the past two weeks seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. The anticipation, marked by a more intentional acknowledgement of advertisements and the “holiday spirit,” seemed to be infinitely longer than the actual events.
Our own thoughts on something as seemingly objective as time itself changes. In elementary school, work was something that had to be done to have fun. Today, those who have matured just a little since then, realize the importance of good work. Work is necessary but it’s not to be done simply for the sake of being done, but there is an importance, a beauty to good work. Outside of work, the younger me found fun in burning ants with his Darkwing Duck magnifying glass and watching Arthur on TV. Today, boredom is a sin; you don’t get to be bored and learning can actually be fun. When we were younger, we wanted to be older. Even at the young age of 25, I long to be younger; I can only imagine this longing growing deeper over the next few years I’m allowed to live (is that wording too dark?—again, perception).
Perception is crazy. For those who blog or write regularly, you can write something that you think is the greatest thing you’ve ever written but when it goes unpublished for some time and you read it over, the work no longer seems to carry voice. It is unintelligent, almost incoherent. It lacks substance and it makes you shudder. You are no longer immersed in your own work and taking a step back changes your perception of the writing and maybe even the topic itself.
What I say to another company isn’t as important as how I say it. I could mean one thing but by wording something slightly differently, the processing of the words can change the intended meaning of my statement. In the worst case, change their perception of my company.
There is a stark difference between those whose minds are not in the present day and those whose minds are. People have a natural affinity toward the phrases “Carpe diem,” “Carpe omnium,” or, in today’s translation, YOLO. Yet none of us do. The term “none” here isn’t as much of a hyperbole as it comes off. There needs to be an actual, intentional effort to stay in the present and it’s a near impossible feat to accomplish. Again, not a hyperbole here. We are worried about bills, marriage, kids, things of tomorrow. That’s the bucket most of us are in if we had to choose. We are worried about whatever detracts us from our values. These worries reveal our values and thus affect our perception on everything else.
At a close second, are those who look back into the past and live in the “good old days.” This is what I compartmentalize as the Al Bundy bucket. For those that aren’t familiar, Al Bundy was a character in the dreadful sitcom Married…With Children played by Ed O’Neill (currently the rich “traditional” father in Modern Family). Al Bundy was a drunk who sat on the couch and watched TV as the world passed him by. All he ever really discussed, aside from his bigotry, was a single high school football game in which he scored four touchdowns, which would have led to a full college football scholarship until he got injured that prevented him from playing the game ever again. There are things in the past we still hold on to and wish we still had them. We want to relive the idea of being as ecstatic as we were even when the actual emotion of joy had faded long ago. When the reality is, “the good old days” never really existed in the first place. They sucked. They don’t exist. They are gone. We fall in love with the idea and the memory of it and not the actual moment. That which we are obsessed with in the past reflect our perception of things today and moving forward.
We are a people of extremes. We swing as though a pendulum would when going from the past to the future but never staying in the middle. Sometimes we sway back and forth so much we aren’t sure whether we lie in a bucket but everything simply becomes a blur. A lot of us are uncertain about where we want to be and run from both of them, having our decisions motivated by thoughtlessness; some decisions come from the past and others in the future, which leads me to finding that delicate balance: living for the now.
Living in the present takes precision. It takes a very intentional approach to life and you know the type of person when you meet him/her. They are actually motivated to “carpe diem.” YOLO to them isn’t partying with copious amounts of alcohol but finding pleasure in their present surroundings, understanding what came before them while perceiving the future in a very unique (and often glorious) way. They actualize the term “Temet nosce,” knowing thyself because to live in the way that they do, it starts with an attempt to understand who they are, learning from their own instincts and gaining their intuition from their present surroundings and not by nostalgia or dreams. They aren’t uptight and too serious either because they know the importance of appreciating life as it is. Their scope of life isn’t determined by their day-to-day but the expansive overview of the world as it stands.
As I rambled through this post, I feel like I’ve written something that could be published in a crummy self-help book so I’ll stop here. The purpose of this reflection is that I want my perception of myself to be as closely aligned with the reality of myself as much as possible by the end of this year. The way we perceive ourselves is a lie. We like to think better of ourselves than we really are. Even if we are our own harshest critic, we still aren’t as good as we believe ourselves to be. I’ve met so many people in 2013 and the one common trait between the people whose intelligence and perception of life were almost tangible substances when I spoke with them was the way they viewed their own lives.
This is the year I want to intentionally act on this. This comes from actively knowing my strengths and weaknesses and readjusting them on a regular basis. This comes from journaling on a regular basis. This comes from meeting extremely different people and going to radically different places. This comes from seeking out things that force me out of my comfort zone. I’m having a wide variety of people hold me accountable for the next few months and asking me questions. I’m trying to limit myself in idealizing what I will look like by year’s end because, again, I don’t want to fall in love with an idea—that’s just setting myself up to be a fraud. Bill Watterson once said, “Experience is food for the brain.” I plan on having a gourmet feast this year.