As much as I really am my very harshest critic (seriously -- the trash you talk about me will never surpass the voices in my head) there are some things I like about myself too. For instance, I have better-than-average taste in music and a sense of responsibility to other people and the world at large. I understand how to competently merge on the highway. I make a kickass grilled cheese sandwich and I do not purchase cheap beer.
But when it comes down to the very awkward -- for me, anyway -- question of what I love about myself, I think the most important thing is something that I can only describe as my constant engagement with life, and a commitment to learning and experiencing new things as much as I can until I die.
That sounds wrong, and vaguely awkward. I can't really sum it up.
EXCUSE ME WHO CAME UP WITH THESE PROMPTS ANYWAY?
But all I know is that my willingness to try new things -- to learn them or go to them or hang out with them or eat them or purchase them -- has made a profound and positive difference in my life.
It hasn't always felt like it was so great at the time. I climbed a rock wall once, for instance, and that pretty much sucked. I am a terrible rock climber. I don't have an extreme sports bone in my body, and I fear the destruction of years of reconstructive surgery and invasive orthodontia, to tell the truth. But when a (cute!) man with very serious looking climbing gear and an earnest expression handed me the little shoes and the helmet, at some point over the past decade I learned not to cry about it, but to put it on and try it until I either accomplished the goal or failed.
In this case I almost achieved the goal before I nearly stroked out -- major anxiety attack -- at the top. But the point is, I tried.
Over the past ten years, especially, I've had several opportunities to respond to negative situations -- heartbreak, depression, the impossible grief that comes with the deaths of some of the most important people in my life. And although some days it felt like swimming against every imaginable current just to meet the basic demands of my life as I was going through those things, I really never stopped living. I caved in all but the most basic, essential of ways. I raged and drank and babbled to my friends, but I never stopped, in very small and some very big ways, reaching for better.
I miraculously never stopped trying, even when the last possible thing I wanted to do was try anything. Even when the last thing I felt capable of was another activity or thought or plan.
This is the characteristic that led me to take a trip almost every month in 2005, the year the supposed love of my life left to follow his me-less dreams. I cried my way through the American Southwest for the first time, and ended up in California for the first time the following year. I also signed up for my first photography class in the deepest throes of depression following that breakup, and it would take an entire blog to describe the effect that has had on my life.
This is what led me to blogging and the rack of great friends I got from that, and back to school and across the world to take a cab across Hanoi alone and sit with kids who couldn't hear or speak, which was only one of the reasons that it didn't matter that our languages were different.
My rolling stone brain gives me my stories, by virtue of the hands and feet it sends on various travels and the mouth that goes along. And although my life may lack some of the fundamental things I still kind of believe I ultimately need to think it was what I wanted it to be, in the meantime I live it every day.
Because the alternative is horrifying. Because when I'm idle I'm insane. Because there is so much to do -- can't you see it all out there?
I don't wait for anyone to go with me, because I can't afford to.
Even when I'm sitting still, I'm planning. I'm dreaming and imagining and knowing that no matter how many years I have left, it will not be enough to do all of the things that I have the capacity both to rock and to fail on the face of this planet. And as much as that could be overwhelming, I'm just glad I still think that way.
I want to go everywhere.
I want to learn languages.
I want to see so much more live music.
I want to be the writer I've always wanted to be, in every way that I can possibly make that real.
I want to be part of a community -- a real one, one that is physical and that I can feel around me in my house or on my street.
I want to take your picture.
I want to understand major political conflicts and economics and learn sign language and how to change my own oil.
And they're not all big things, either, the things I pick up. This fall I made chicken soup from scratch for the first time. It was a pain in the ass, but it was completely rewarding and now I know how and I can do it again.
As long as I'm alive and capable, I won't ever stop learning. I won't ever stop doing stuff or going places or trying things. And I kind of love that about me.
Following are the writing prompts for 30 Days of Truth, should you be interested in doing so yourself.
Day 01 → Something you hate about yourself.
Day 02 → Something you love about yourself.
Day 03 → Something you have to forgive yourself for.
Day 04 → Something you have to forgive someone for.
Day 05 → Something you hope to do in your life.
Day 06 → Something you hope you never have to do.
Day 07 → Someone who has made your life worth living for.
Day 08 → Someone who made your life hell, or treated you like shit.
Day 09 → Someone you didn’t want to let go, but just drifted.
Day 10 → Someone you need to let go, or wish you didn’t know.
Day 11 → Something people seem to compliment you the most on.
Day 12 → Something you never get compliments on.
Day 13 → A band or artist that has gotten you through some tough ass days. (write a letter.)
Day 14 → A hero that has let you down. (letter)
Day 15 → Something or someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it.
Day 16 → Someone or something you definitely could live without.
Day 17 → A book you’ve read that changed your views on something.
Day 18 → Your views on gay marriage.
Day 19 → What do you think of religion? Or what do you think of politics?
Day 20 → Your views on drugs and alcohol.
Day 21 → (scenario) Your best friend is in a car accident and you two got into a fight an hour before. What do you do?
Day 22 → Something you wish you hadn’t done in your life.
Day 23 → Something you wish you had done in your life.
Day 24 → Make a playlist to someone, and explain why you chose all the songs. (Just post the titles and artists and letter)
Day 25 → The reason you believe you’re still alive today.
Day 26 → Have you ever thought about giving up on life? If so, when and why?
Day 27 → What’s the best thing going for you right now?
Day 28 → What if you were pregnant or got someone pregnant, what would you do?
Day 29 → Something you hope to change about yourself. And why.
Day 30 → A letter to yourself, tell yourself EVERYTHING you love about yourself