Prompt: Write about never and always.
Funeral of an Old Self
There are fundamentals of character that I've always assumed I have. No…assumed is too weak a word. Known…but that implies too much consciousness. These are fundamentals, and fundamentals are intrinsic, not constructed by knowing; fundamentals are facts of being, so inseparable from the host that knowing about them would somehow mean that they had not always been so.
Perhaps the phrase "unspoken truths" rings better.
These have always been my unspoken truths:
I always do my best.
I always land on top.
I never fail at anything I set my mind to.
I never quit…not when it matters.
But life…life has a way of dealing with such pesky words as "always" and "never". Life has very little respect for unspoken truths, and fundamentals—structural though they may be to us mere mortals—are just the bones that life casts to foretell the future.
These are the unspoken truths of life:
You will not always be on top.
Your best may never be good enough.
Your success or failure is never dependent on just you.
You may not always be allowed to continue…whether you want to quit or not.
I was fired, one sunny morning in Hawaii, a place where those who don't live here assume could never be a depressing, unpleasant, or dull place. The fact that I sometimes found—and find—it to be so may just be a reflection on me. Either way, the sun was shining, the clouds were high and fluffy, the waves were perfectly crystal blue against the golden beaches…and I was suddenly, shockingly unemployed.
I smiled though my entire body shook in the grip of terror and disappointment caused from my structural unspoken truths being ripped from my guts. I was collapsing into myself, a great void opening up that said "this could never happen" in pathetic defiance against the horrible truth that it just had.
I smiled and threw up my chin, spitting out gaily that I would be just fine, that this wouldn't even break my stride. It never could, because it had nothing to do with me…it was just a strange hiccup in the smooth flow of life, and someone would realize that the pipes were clogged—sooner or later—and return it to its regular course.
But life never self-corrects. Life never admits to the mistakes or injustices that it might commit in its relentless drive forward in the minutiae of seconds, minutes, and hours, and therefore has no guilt to drive it to such behavior.
And in waiting for life to correct itself, I have not done anything to myself.
I have quit. In tumbling so abruptly to the bottom, I have neglected to perform the few operations I still need to perform at my best. The days fill up with endless fluff: internet jokes, movies, TV shows, things that are all right in moderation, but rot the soul in large concentrations, day after day. I fill my heart with this cotton candy fare because I am deeply afraid that if I should try to claw my way back to the top…
that I will fail again.
I have failed before. Projects not done to perfection, miswritten papers, months stuck in dead-end, minimum-wage jobs. Those were all failings of self, instances where—from laziness, apathy, or misunderstanding—I had not given my best. Failures like those have hurt, have crushed me like a seed under a pestle, but in overcoming them I have grown strong…and overconfident?
Leaving that aside, I can confidently say that being fired was the first completely involuntary failure I have ever known. I was a good employee; better than many. I worked hard, took risks, tried to climb higher. By every objective standard I know, I should not have been fired.
But I was. Reconciling what is and what should have been is incredibly difficult, and if I didn't understand the concept of "cognitive dissonance" before, by God, I know what it means now!
So…in the face of new circumstances, new fundamentals must be learned and incorporated into this weak flesh, to shore up the sagging remains left behind:
I will always try my best.
I will never forget that life has been difficult, is difficult, and will continue to be difficult.
I will never let this knowledge interfere with living life to the best of my abilities.
I will always try to see the possibilities for improvement and development in every situation.
I will never beat myself up over situations that are beyond my control.
I will always remember that there are circumstances beyond my control.
I will always try to be open to new experiences.
I will always hang on…because tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that could be just fantastic.
These will be my new fundamentals, my new "spoken truths". Let's see how easy it will be to live by them.