Been giving a lot of thought to values, lately. Most people just give lip service to the idea, if even, and most of the time they define their “values” strictly by other people’s definitions (their religion, their parents, their culture, etc..).
Lately I’m growing a little sick of aspiring to goals and ambitions without really understanding what I’m doing it all for, and that means really looking at what I value in my life. So I took out a journal today an hour before my shift at the store and scratched out answers to the question WHAT DO YOU REALLY VALUE IN LIFE? Here’s what I came up with:
Authentic Expression: Still working on a firm definition of this, but it’s mostly self-evident.
The Ascension of Imperfection: I’ve said this before: I’m tired of aspiring to some ideal vision of a perfect diet, perfect body, perfect attitude, perfect home in order to be a success. Imperfection is what creates character, and I don’t think it’s a choice between successful bland conformity and being an interesting failure on two legs, as personal growth teachings seem to indicate. Some of the most successful people have the most tremendous vices and character flaws. Everyone’s a sinner to some degree. I say, own it, do what you love, make it functional, and do the best you can on a daily basis to not piss on someone else’s rug. You’ll be fine.
Simple Creature Comforts: I’m through with daydreaming about mansions and condos: the truth is I think I aped those “wants” as an effort to fit in with the self-help crowd. Give me a safe, clean, bug-free bachelor apartment that faces the sunrise, stays warm in the winter, and some nice furniture, I’ll be content, and retain the option to upgrade to a palace later on if I change my mind.
Ambiversion: My social time is fun and energetic 90% of the time, but when I drop off the planet to scribble or just veg, you may as well pretend I don’t exist on those kinds of days. I want to retain that freedom.
Distinction: Whatever I need to do to keep my distinctiveness while remaining awesome, I’ll do. The danger in personal development is that you start resembling every other person doing personal development: you shout the same bumper sticker wisdoms, you eat the same foods, you just end up turning to vanilla, if you’re not careful. Again, I don’t see why I can’t be myself, warts and all, and still be someone who can mentor others.
Positive Freedoms: I want to be free to express myself in writing, to have time, to travel, to indulge in food and drink, to enjoy art and music, to see my friends and family, to move around or not move around, to believe what I want, to be able to buy what I want when I want.
Negative Freedoms: I want to be free from orthodox thinking, be it intellectual, religious, or political, from being someone else’s lackey for life, from debt, from persecution for my views…you get the
Service: Not necessarily just giving money to charities, but I feel my calling is in helping individuals. I had this crazy idea that I could sustain a prosperous income from doing the other things I love, but then do one on one coaching with particular clients for absolutely free, maybe even barter (especially if they can cook….I have a weakness for pecan pies and Vietnamese food). That would be my way of giving back. I dunno, I’ll come back to that.
Love, Sex, Romance, Passion: Do I really need to spell this one out? All right, maybe a little. For starters, I’m not interested in getting “married” anymore. That’s not to say I’m not game for a long term relationship, but I don’t see the need for the ceremony and the expense. I’ve had that experience and it was fun. Next time around, the girl and I never have to have the ritual in order to stay together. And that’s even if long-term is still my game: I’ve had a lot of changes in the past few months, so we’ll see where it goes, but I’m definitely ruling out this particular state/religious sanctioned expectation in my life once again.
Friends: Friendships are the most resilient human relationships you can have. You don’t choose what families you’re born into and when those interactions are destructive, you can end up walking through life damaged. Romantic relationships can last a lifetime, but often they also end, and the people you once let into your heart (and bed) suddenly go back to being strangers one day.
Friends, at least the closest ones that I define as being in my soul group, endure: you can fight and forgive and reconcile, you can share deep secrets, and you can have great times, challenge each other, console each other, and support each other as family. Friendships are flexible and strong enough to last a lifetime. Friends outlast family feuds. Friends outlast romances. Friends, true friends, are there for each other for the long haul.
Kids and Stuff
Honestly, when it comes to material things, I don’t need much to be happy. Most of my money would go towards creating great experiences, like travelling the world or hosting great parties like the one my Wordslingers did in February, rather than buying stuff. Chuck Palahniuk said it best: “the things that you own start owning you”, and I value my freedom. I know too many people killing themselves at jobs they hate to pay for houses that they barely live in, yet call themselves “successful”. Nuh-uh, not for me.
That being said….if I ever did have a family of my own, of course I’d want to bring in more income to support my kid or kids, but even then, I wouldn’t want to raise them according to that suburban, white picket fences ideal. There has to be a model of parenting that’s good for the child that also reflects my own positive values, as well as giving enough space for the kids to come into their own over time. I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Aspiring to the money goals is meaningless on its own. Aspiring to any definition of “success” that isn’t true to your own values is also doomed to failure because that little “something” that holds you back may just be the thing or bundle of things that you really do care about, even if you don’t really know it.
And as I find out what really is important to me, what I really do want out of life, it turns out that I’m way more of a Bohemian than I ever thought I would be at 32 and a half years old. I think I’m okay with that.