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I am Giving Up on Being Nice

Because life isn’t about living up to someone else’s expectation…

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I am giving up on being nice. It may sound weird to hear but I have decided that I am giving up on being nice. I’m going to explain why I’m doing this but this I want to state that I realize some of you reading this may not think I was nice to begin with and that’s OK, assess me all you want.

Expectations – most people live their whole lives by them. It’s such an ingrained part of the fabric of our thought processes that we don’t even realize that we base our thoughts, decisions, and actions off of what is expected of us. Here are just some examples of who I am that carry expectation: father, husband, son, brother, friend, step-son, cousin, male, human. The problem with expectations, to me, is that they are almost exclusively from outside sources. Not only do other people expect certain things from me, but I expect certain things from myself but the catch is I was taught those things from outside sources. It was not my innate moral fabric that brought to this idea of how I should act as a father, but my socialization that taught me how I should act. And here’s my main concern about expectations from either outside or inside yourself: are we really being who we are as people if we conform to what’s expected of us? Am I being the most me I can be if I act, think, or feel in a way that’s expected of me, because it’s expected of me? Well the only real way to know is to stop letting expectations rule over your mind. In fact the opposite, I feel I must find a way to train myself to think without expectations and I’m not sure that A) it’s even possible or B) I’ll like who I am if I succeed.

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One of the biggest reasons I want to rid myself of expectations is because I don’t want to place expectations on my kids. I want them to grow up to be who they are or to be whoever they want to be if they want to change themselves. I didn’t always think that way though and switch was recent. Here’s a ‘quick’ story: I was at work one morning working with a woman I have a ton of respect for, her name is Autumn. Autumn has a couple kids of her own and we were talking about raising our kids and our philosophies on one topic or another. I feel like I had a lot in common with her to begin with, so talking about raising our kids felt more like we were just echoing each other’s already established parenting style. Anyways, the topic came to who our parents wanted us to be while we were growing up and how we don’t necessarily hold the same views for our own kids. I summarized my thoughts like this: “I don’t care what my kids are or want to be. They can do or be anything, as long as they’re just good people”. That’s a thought I had several times previous to that conversation and then Autumn dropped a bomb on me. I’m fuzzy on the exact words but she said something along the lines of “That’s an expectation. Not all people are good naturally”.

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So it’s been a couple months and I think I’m finally realizing the gravity behind the truth of that statement. Some people are just not good people. Some go around lying and cheating other people and taking advantage of them and they like it. It’s taken me some time to think that through and realize one or all of my kids could grow up and be like that, and if that happens I’m not going to stop loving them, I’m not even going to be disappointed. If being that way makes them happy, then I’m going to be happy for them, even if it means the only time I get to see them will be with 3-inch bulletproof glass between us and armed guards close by. Because life isn’t about living up to someone else’s expectations and certainly not your parents’ expectations. If my dad currently saw every single thing I did in a given month, I guarantee he would say that’s not how he “hoped” or “wanted” or “expected” or (big one coming) “prayed” I would turn out. And I’m pretty sure my dad either reads this blog or someone tells him about the things I say, but I’m not hiding anything. My dad is a smart guy and I’m sure he realizes some important things about putting expectations on to people, namely that it’s pretty often people will do the opposite of what you expect of them. He’s also known me for 32 years almost and I’m sure he knows that doing something just because someone told you to do otherwise is right up my alley. And to be brutally honest, if I imagine myself in 30 years, I don’t know if I want my kids to be thinking the things that I’m thinking and saying right now. I just don’t imagine it would feel good, but at the same time at least they would be thinking. Lots of people just do what’s expected of them because that’s what they were trained to do, they don’t seek out making life a better place to be.

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So what does being nice have to do with any of this? Well, I feel like all the expectations put on me so far in life have, at least in part, included the base ideal that I should be a nice person. There’s a lot of manifestations of what a ‘nice person’ is and I can say for sure that I’ve felt a lot of them, and I feel like I’ve lived a lot of my life that way. I recently read something about Libras, which I am, and it said that Libras tend to focus on other people’s problems, giving a lot of themselves, so they don’t have to look at or deal with their own problems. I never really thought about that before, and I’m not saying I’m some great person, I know I have a bunch of flaws. I know that some people would laugh at the fact that anyone else would consider me to be ‘nice’. But regardless of that I feel like I’ve let these pressures take control of decision-making process too much and I’m done. I’m not going to be nice anymore. I am going to make an effort to stop making an effort. To just be me, whether me is nice or not.

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So I feel like there are pros and cons to being that way. I’m 100% positive that I will still do nice things, and the best thing about that is that when I do those things, it’ll be genuine. It’s not like I haven’t been genuine before but now I can abandon any ulterior motives, or or least leave the accusations of ulterior motives behind me. My friend group has a phrase we say when someone wants to do something on their own or when a single person has a particular point of view no one else agrees with and it’s mostly said being facetious but there’s truth behind it each time it’s said and there’s a lot of truth applying it to someone’s life in general. It’s ‘you do you, booboo’. I feel that this little revelation that I’ve had, this ignoring expectations frame of thinking, this ceasing to be nice, is a great way for me to do me… booboo.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Ben

Passion

I realized something. Sitting on some grass at a concert, with friends who were there because I wanted to see a pop band and they were gracious enough to join me, I had an important revelation about myself. I wondered why I liked this particular band when I’m not a big fan of the genre in general and they weren’t particularly special when compared to other groups in that genre. What I realized is that the lead singer held conviction in his voice while he sang. He wrote and sang the lyrics of his songs with noticeable passion. I thought about a couple of other things in my life and realized that what I’m drawn to is the passion that other people have. I wonder if that’s something most people are drawn to or if I’m particularly drawn to it because of who I am. 

People can have passion for lots of different things – that’s nothing new. I know people who are passionate about: music, children, teaching, photography, other people, writing, religion, and various other things. To me, it’s interesting to see people pour themselves into something they love so much. A thing they feel rewarded by, feel like they can escape to, something they feel is worth all the effort they put into it, something that makes them feel really happy or full. There’s a lot of evidence, at least to me, when someone is passionate about something. It’s easy to see that they love an activity or love a process or whatever the case may be. It isn’t always easy to go out and do the same thing all the time, I’m not saying it should be. But I can tell when people feel the hard work is worth the outcome. The process may not be always the best part, but when it’s your passion, then it’s easy to see that you feel your investment is worthwhile. 

Thinking about passion, my own personality and who I am – I think I know why I’m drawn to it. The reason is that I don’t have passion for really anything. I don’t have anything in my life I feel like I could live without, there’s nothing in life that feels so good that I want to focus all my energy on that one single thing. I find small bits of happiness in a multitude of things but if I was forced to choose one thing to focus all my energy on or die, I would probably choose death. I’m not sure why I’m that way because the results of not being able to focus that attention are pretty bad. I’ve jumped from career to career and consequently have always stayed in low-paying positions, I’ve never been able to get really good at one hobby or sport – I’m just pretty mediocre at several different ones which means I don’t stand out in any activity and I really like standing out. 

I’m not really sure of the relationship between passion and purpose. I don’t think they are the same but I feel like some would argue that point. Maybe they are the same for some people and not for others. I hope so because not having purpose seems more discouraging than not being passionate. Right now, my purpose seems pretty clear – ensure the little humans I’m responsible for do not die. Essentially that’s it. I have lots more than I can be doing but I think that’s true for 99% of people living in a developed country. I’m not sure what to think about myself and a passion. Do I have to learn to accept that some people just aren’t like that? Do I simply just have to stop being so lazy and just decide on one thing and put everything I have into that? I really don’t know. I’m not sure if that trait is an attractive one or not but I know I don’t care – I am what I am and I don’t want to be anything else. I just want to enhance myself as much as possible without losing any authenticity. I wonder about that whole premise as well: do people have to make an effort to be who they really are? Thinking about who I am and what I do is just something that I do. It feels as though other people just let their reflexes rule themselves, that’s who they are, nothing deeper is going on. That seems like a less complicated way to go through life. That’s not me though – I analyze my reflexes after they are used. It’s not a choice I get to make, that’s just a function of the way my brain works and believe me, if I could switch it off, I would. 


I can tell you this. Having revelations about yourself is such a gratifying moment. It was one of those times that something just clicked. So much of how I think and so many parts of my historical story made more sense. I was dumbfounded that I hadn’t realized this before because it was so obvious to me after. But I know that’s another part of who I am, I have a hard time seeing my own self. Another thing I’m forced to think about. 


-Ben

More on Happiness

Being as happy as possible is pretty hard in our society. There’s too many expectations on us, too many people to explain their judgement of another’s behaviour, too many whispered comments into people’s ears at family reunions and brunches with friends.

I’ve come to realize that I have the potential to be really powerful and that’s not in the least bit unique. Everyone is capable of being powerful. Just as powerful as I can be. Each person with an intelligent mind controls how they look at things. They make choices. They can choose to use their power or not. Just like I can choose to use my power or not. The power I’m talking about is the power over ourselves. Controlling our own happiness, our outlooks, our frame of reference. I used to think those things weren’t in my control. I used to think I had no choice over those things in my life.

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Happiness is what I want to focus on. I thought for a long time I deserved to be as happy as I could possibly be. I feel like I didn’t even realize what that actually meant for me for a large portion of my life. But being as happy as possible is pretty hard in our society. There’s too many expectations on us, too many people to explain their judgement of another’s behaviour, too many whispered comments into people’s ears at family reunions and brunches with friends. But being as happy as possible doesn’t have to be what I, or anyone else, aims for. In a lot of cases it’s impossible for some people, it’s simply not attainable. Think of someone with a celebrity obsession, a stalker. The happiest they will ever be is when they are with the object of their affection, and how many times has that ever played out? Not many, if ever. There are a lot more different situations that bar someone from being able to be the happiest they could ever be. Hence, why I feel this isn’t something I feel like I should strive to grasp. I feel like that happens for a few lucky people, I just hope those people are grateful.

Happiness is a state with a bunch of varying degrees. I was happy 10 years ago. I am happy today. Those two kinds of happy are really really different, for lots of reasons. I’m not sure if it’s better to slide to one side of the happiness scale or the other. I don’t know if one end is “more happy” and the other end is “less happy”. I just don’t know. I feel like the happiness can just be of a different type. This is where our power comes in as people. We can choose to be happy with what we can attain. Being happy doesn’t mean everything on a checklist has to be checked all at the same time. Be happy failing, be happy not reaching your goals, be happy alone, be happy with others, just choose whatever you want to be happy with.

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It’s possible, maybe even likely, that I am extremely wrong. That everyone else is just going around being elated about their life. Working 9-5, washing the car, cleaning the house, going to soccer practice, etc. (God, that all sounds awful to me). But this is me using my power. Making a choice to pursue the happiness I can attain. I’ve had a depressed outlook before. Thinking that things are shitty and I wasn’t going to be able to make them better. To see things getting much worse for myself before they got better, and not knowing if I would actually make it out of those situations alive, literally. But I can use the power I have to make choices for my own life. Recklessly move towards something and leaving behind the potential and eventual judgement of anyone around me. Just like everyone else owns this power over their own life. It feels hard to do, even impossible in some situations. Recently a friend had some relationship struggles and I found myself telling them they had power over their own life. A choice to make in their given situation. Live with or without their partner and face the shitty feelings that either situation would give them. Because both staying and going was going to hurt in their situation. I was “lucky” to be able to give them my personal perspective which was extremely similar. Knowing that leaving hurts and knowing that staying hurts too. But the power still falls in our own hands and we can choose where on the spectrum of happiness we want to move towards.

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I’m a Libra and I don’t know a lot about what that actually means but I do know the symbol that represents Libra is a set of scales. Now I think what the scales are supposed to represent is that I have a desire to see fairness and justice, and I will work towards that. I’m not really going to talk about whether or not that’s true, but what I see scales representing in my life is something different. It represents a process of decision making. Choices aren’t always ‘Option A’ and ‘Option B’, sometimes, often times, there are a bunch more options to choose from. It’s difficult to wade through different options in life and make a decision. Especially when you’re young and it seems that your whole life is decision after decision. As a Libra, as scales, I feel like I understand the many different options, and I can weigh them. I definitely don’t always make the best decisions, some people would say I rarely ever make the right one, and maybe I don’t but I see them all, I understand the impact. When it comes to happiness, it’s a weight on a scale, another kind of happiness is another size weight on another side of that scale. I won’t ever blame someone who doesn’t pick the heaviest weight, because maybe it’s the least painful, or maybe you prefer to make decisions for someone else, or maybe you don’t feel strong enough to make a particular choice. Choosing to use your power a little or to its fullest potential is a choice everyone has, and you can’t choose incorrectly.

At the end of the day, all of this is opinion. It’s a bunch of jumbled thoughts that I’ve tried to write down and find connections with real life events. What I know for sure is that life is hard, being happy is hard, shouldn’t we all just take what we can get?

-Ben

Best Friends

I find it interesting that we assign varying degrees of meaning to our friends. I think the vast majority of our western society, if asked individually will say that they have one best friend, or a small group of several best friends. I totally subscribe to this. I always have, in my head, had one or a few “best friends”. There’s a line in a song from a band I really like. It goes: “Best friends means: best friends to me”. Maybe you think that means absolutely nothing, to me it doesn’t, I’m gonna come back to this.

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I want to be a certain kind of person. I know I fail at being that person, a lot. But I still try, and I will always try to learn how I can be better at being that person. Near the top of the list of attributes of that person is being a good friend. Being a good friend to more than one person is incredibly hard because being a good friend isn’t about what you want, it’s about what your friends want/need. Being a good friend isn’t about changing yourself into something your friends want to be, that’s probably the opposite. But it does include doing things you don’t want to, putting up with small annoying things, being in places you don’t want to be, changing your own plans to accommodate someone else.

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My point of this isn’t to say that I’m a great friend and I do all those things I said above, that’s not for me to decide. These are things that people have done for me. I know that I wouldn’t be here without my friends. I am so grateful to the people who have sacrificed something for my benefit, for whatever reason or for no reason at all.

“Best friends means: best friends to me”. What I take from this lyric is that a ‘best friend’ is someone that is going to do the hard things no matter what. They are going to do what they don’t want to do if that means it’s what’s best for you. They are going to do it consistently and for as long as you need it. Becoming friends is far from the difficult process of staying friends. Becoming friends is more about sharing a similar worldview, or having similar interests, or sharing the same type of humour. Once you get to know a friend on a deeper level, you almost have an obligation or responsibility to be there for them, even to do something that make them upset, sometimes that’s what people need. To me, a ‘best friend’ will just always be the person that’s the best at being there.

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For me personally, I’ve had lots of best friends. Some know it because I’ve told them, some don’t because I didn’t even realize it myself until I started thinking about this topic a month or so ago. At different points in my life, different people have ignored the pleasantries of their own life to do something for or with me, because they thought I needed it. I don’t want to leave things unnoticed, I want to tell people when I recognize that they’ve done something for me. The past year has been crazy for me. I’ve been in a lot of situations where someone else stepped up for me and I am so grateful to my friends for doing it. For stuff that’s happened in the last year and in all the years before as well.

I want to personalize this and specifically say thank-you to the friends that I know have been there for me over the years. All of the people who have been my best friend for as little as a minute (whether you knew it or not) or as much as a decade or more. The order of this list is mostly chronological.

To all these people I owe a debt I cannot repay but please don’t be afraid to ask me to. I love you all. Thank you very much:

Siah
Matt
Bek
Stevie
Nicole
Shawny
Maddi
Kam
Amby
Seb
Tim
Hayden
Brett
Koz
Mikey
Lauren
Shelby
Dylly
Allie
Chris
Allysha

And finally and most of all, Melissa. Thanks for seeing my darkest sides and still loving me. Thanks for being there for me and thanks for understanding a very complicated and high maintenance little boy.

-Ben

Happiness

“Actual happiness looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesquness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.” – Brave New World

I’m a romantic, for whatever reason. I’ve always believed that real happiness is a feeling in your chest and in your gut. The feeling that if bad things started happening to you, it wouldn’t matter, you could handle absolutely anything with a smile on your face. When a person goes through relational problems and it comes down to happiness of one, or both individuals, those individuals will be told, ‘you have to ‘happy’ on your own before you can be ‘happy’ with someone else’. I’ve heard those words spoken to me and I’ve spoke those words to other people. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it, you can’t rely on anyone else to make you happy because their agenda will always be make themselves happy first, after all everyone is being told the same thing. So that’s why you should make yourself happy, so you’re not relying on someone else to do it, because they don’t have your happiness in mind. That’s not so romantic.

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When I first got married I can tell you I was absolutely not complete. I was not happy on my own. There’s no way I could have been. I was too young to know who I was and consequently unable to know what would make me happy. I used my wife to complete my happiness, for lots of different reasons; some good and some bad. Over the years as I’ve learned about myself I thought I understood happiness, but in the place I’m in right now, I have no idea if I learned what it was or not. Brave New World is one of my favourite novels. The quote I posted above is probably the most depressing quote about happiness that has ever existed for a romantic like me. But I’m not sure if Aldous Huxley is right or not. On first glance, he absolutely is. Compare what a couple feels after being married for 30 years to what they felt on the first date when they had to fight to impress their new potential partner. Or think of it like this: two people are at a party telling the story of how they got to be at the party. Person A was simply born here in Canada and works with the host of the party. Person B is a refugee, they fled a war in their home country and nearly was killed on several occasions, the host of the party works in a centre for new immigrants and that’s how they came to be at the party. Now this example has nothing to do with happiness but which one of the stories is interesting? Which person would you like to talk to more? Person A is not ‘grand’ just as Huxley suggests happiness isn’t. Person B has an interesting story. This produces problems for a romantic like me. The me that wants the ‘grand’, the ‘picturesque’, the ‘spectacular’, and the ‘glamour’. The me that also wants to be happy, but is not sure how to get it with along with everything else. Is this the definition of getting cake and eating it too? Am I cursed by a personality with goals that reality cannot facilitate?

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Well this is going to be a cyclical argument but I refuse to believe that it’s impossible. That real happiness has to squalid. Because I’m a romantic. I have to believe that feeling in my chest and in my gut isn’t just because I have a good story to tell or because my life is overcoming some type of negativity. I want the happiness that includes the glamour, the grand, and the spectacular. I don’t want this happiness to be fleeting. I want to wake up every day filled up with this kind of happiness, and I want to understand that if it doesn’t happen, it’s my own fault. I control everything I do. At the same time, to some degree, I choose what makes me happy. And that makes life seem difficult. I put responsibility on myself to make myself as happy as I can be.

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What happiness actually is can be hard to define. I can provide a list of small things that make me happy, certain activities or events where I get that happiness feeling. But do those things mean I am happy? I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. And that’s what seems so elusive. That’s what is squalid according to Huxley. But what does that feel like? Do I have that and not even know it? Have I had that for a long time? Have I just gotten little tastes here and there? Did I have and it and lose it? Am I just too much into my own head and asking too many questions? I’m not really sure. Those are hard questions, they seem almost existential in the fact that if I was given an answer I would question how accurate it could be.

So I keep on living, really doing what ever I can, just to be. Trying my best to make the best out of each situation. Some of which I wish I wasn’t in at all because it feels like happiness wouldn’t have to be so complicated. But I put myself into all the situations I’m in. I’ve compensated for misery, I’ve chosen instability, I’ve fought misfortune, I’ve struggled with temptation, and I’ve been overthrown with passion. Here I am still questioning happiness.

-Ben

Forgiveness

The hardest thing to do.

The bullets at the end of this post may seem conceited and arrogant. Well, if you know me and you think that I am conceited and arrogant, then you just don’t really know me and I have the benefit of not caring what you think. I’ll take a second to briefly explain why these bullets are anything at all.

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I’ve made some pretty big mistakes in the past 8 months or so. The kind of mistakes that hurt some of the people that I care about the most. Luckily, for me, I believe I have received forgiveness from the people I have hurt (for the most part anyway, not everyone believes in forgiveness). But I’ve still been struggling internally. I have discovered that, for a person like me, forgiving myself is the hardest thing I have to do and I haven’t quite gotten there yet. I’ve seen counsellors, I’ve talked with the people I’ve hurt and I’ve been able to establish reasons, lots of reasons, stemming as far back as my childhood, for why I’ve acted the way I have. For why I made the decisions that I did. I am realizing that going through that process was actually terrible for my psyche. When it comes right down to it, those “reasons” are excuses. I did what I did and that’s it, I made decisions that hurt people, period. It’s like this. When a serial killer gets put away, psychologists and behavioural analysts will look into the persons history and will establish the warning signs or triggers that explain why this person went on a killing spree. Well, that person, unless outside their own mind, was under their own power, they made their own decisions. There was no puppeteer controlling their actions. In a similar example, when someone commits suicide these days, we immediately assume that person had a mental health issue. I recently watched a documentary where a woman said she had no idea her husband had a mental health condition until after he killed himself. Well that could very well have been true in that specific case, and I imagine that lots of suicides are the result of a mental health issue. However, there are people who just simply make that choice. Who look at their life and decide it’s better not to be a part of the world any longer. How do I know this?Because I’ve made those considerations, I’ve written a letter in my head saying goodbye to people I love because I feel that those people are just better off with my memory rather than anything else. For me, that’s a choice, I took an analytical approach, thinking about how other people would feel and what I want for myself and I made a choice not to take my own life. This choice is just the same as any other choice I’ve made in my life.

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My history has nothing to do with it, people go against what they’re ‘prone’ or ‘likely’ to do all the time. This realization is important for me. I don’t get to lean on any excuses. I don’t get to rest on an emotionally and sexually repressed childhood. I don’t get to rest on my personality and it’s propensity to do things that others don’t expect. I don’t get to rest on anything. So all of this to explain that, it’s hard to live with what I’ve done to people that I really truly love, and always will (see previous entry on not losing love). What now follows is an attempt to gain myself back. To make realizations I’ve made in the past, to not forget why people have fallen in love with me in the first place.

1. I am an encourager. It’s literally what my first name means. Whatever it is that you do that makes you happy, I am going to tell you to pursue it. If I have any knowledge or wisdom, I’m going to pass it on to help you. Not only that, I’ll support you in any way I can. Going to your show or exhibit, talking to you about a struggle, just being there to do dumb shit if that’s what you need. I want the people around me to be happy, and I will encourage those people to make it happen for themselves.
2. I am really interesting. I think more about daily events than most people think about big existential crises. And I think in a different way as well, my view on life is a direct result of an adapting worldview, and I’m not afraid to talk about it.
3. I will help. It doesn’t really matter who, what, when or where, I will try to help. If you need someone to talk to, I will. If you need someone to buy you a beer, I will. If you need someone to pay for dinner and forget about it, I will. If you hitchhike, I will pick you up (if my kids aren’t in the car).
4. I’m no comedian and I’m definitely not the funniest person among my friends but I am funny. Usually in action instead of word, but in word too. People sometimes think my humour is dorky but whatever gets you smiling right?
5. I’m 31 and still pretty attractive. I’m not turning any heads on the sidewalk but I mean if I was the last guy on earth I’m sure you wouldn’t be that broken up about it. But if you wanted to repopulate you would have to learn how to reverse a vasectomy. (You probably just smiled, see 4)
6. I am pretty damn intelligent. One of my past flaws is that I don’t work hard or really apply myself as much as I can. Not trying hard gave me a 79 average in high school after almost failing grade 9, and a Bachelors degree with a 3.4 (of 4) GPA. I was recently in a job interview and was asked a math question, not only did I finish the question in my head before the interviewer was done asking, he had to use a paper and pencil to confirm I was correct.
7. I’m a fucking whiz kid with the written word.
8. I have this innate ability to get people to do what I want. To convince people of things. I realized this in the later years of high school. I purposefully did not practice nor hone that skill because it’s just rude in my mind. So I don’t use it. (Sometimes it happens by accident because my awesome just can’t be reigned in all the time, but whaddya gonna do?)
9. I am marginally skilled at a lot of different things. Think of any activity: sports, canoeing, rock climbing, reading, photography, driving, swimming… I can do pretty much anything, some things not very well and some things really well, I mean I won’t win any awards but it makes me flexible if someone wants to do something and hang out.
10. I don’t hold grudges. Basically if I think you did something to wrong me, all I need is to tell you about it one time and then I’ll be good. I have an ability to understand everyone’s point of view and that includes their motives. Therefore, I’m not going to hold something against you unless I know you purposefully tried to hurt me, even then, I don’t know, forgiveness right?
11. Everyone likes someone that sings in the shower and the car right?
12. I’m the guy that when you think up something crazy that no one will do, and you say “I bet no one would do __________”. I’ll do it, at times only because you said no one would. I just might need tequila first.
13. I care. About a lot of people and a lot of things. Generally I have really pure intentions, I never want to be the cause of hurt or pain. This might seem basic, that everyone is like that. It’s just not true. Some people just want to watch the world burn.
14. I am annoyingly polite, don’t believe me? Introduce me to your mom.
15. I do belly flops in pools.

Thanks for reading about how awesome I am. Help me remember when it seems like I’ve forgotten.

-Ben

Doubt

Just a little bit about self-doubt

I’m at this really curious spot in my life. I feel like I’m on the precipice of cliff – not figuratively but you know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you look over a cliff or a building, I have that feeling – and I am so full of fear. What makes this curious is that most people when they stand over a cliff, a literal or figurative one, they know they can pull themselves back. They know they won’t go over. I’m exactly the opposite of that feeling, not so much as I know I can’t pull myself back, but I know I’m going to go over. I’ve already decided to throw myself into a valley of unpredictability and unknown paths. I’ve always been someone to embrace change, to even seek it out, I like letting life hit me with whatever it has and not planning out my future. But right now, this isn’t just about life hitting me, it’s me being whoever I am. Do I get to pick that? Am I already somebody that can’t be changed much? That will suck because there are parts of me that I definitely hate. In my own head I feel a need to define myself. I’m hung up, though. Hung up on the person I’ve been in the past, the person who I’ve always thought I should be, and the person I want to be. Those three people all have intersecting lines in some places, but it’s hard to determine if I can be anything I want to be, there’s a good chance I’m very limited in who I can be.

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I sometimes annoy myself. I’ll sit at home, or in the middle of a group of friends or strangers and I’ll think about these kinds of things. Is what I’m doing a reflection of the person I want to be? That’s annoying because I look at other people around me or think about other people not around me and wonder how much they think about themselves like that. It’s not that I think analyzing myself is a bad thing, but I feel like it’s such a complicated way to live life. I can see that some other people just aren’t capable of thinking of themselves that way. The choices they make in life reflect a desire to please themselves or a few close people around them, and they take whatever path offers the least resistance. They aren’t filled with existential or complicated questions about themselves, about who they are or who they want to be. They just live life. All of this type of thinking represents a feeling of doubt. Doubt of who I am. Doubt of the things I do. Doubt is a character trait that is probably the least attractive trait to other people. People like confidence. Doubt is the absence of that.

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I know a lot about confidence because I can tell you within a couple days of when I first felt it. I was 15 years old. I had just spent a summer being a camp counsellor. My big energy, weird mannerisms and desire to do just about anything someone wouldn’t expect was perfect for a summer camp filled with other teenage counsellors. Weird kids are cool kids at camp. Sadly, going from 5’8″ and 200 lbs to 6’2″ and 160 lbs in about six weeks that summer probably had a huge impact on people wanting to be my friend as well. People really took interest in me and thought I was funny and for the first time in my life I felt like I had friends that wanted to be my friends and not just because I forced myself into their life. Going back to school in September that year, people didn’t really recognize me. I don’t blame because even my parents walked right past me when they came to pick me up at the end of camp that year. Not recognizing me probably contributed to why I was treated differently at first. That first day back was really different than any other day I had at high school. People were saying ‘hi’ to me when I didn’t even think they knew my name. The second day back at school, I had this really strange feeling that I hadn’t really felt before. It wasn’t just like the absence of fear, I had that a lot because I learned to give zero fucks about what anyone thought of me from a pretty young age. If I cared what other people thought I might have committed suicide in grade 4. This feeling wasn’t just not giving a fuck, it was pretty foreign and I’d come to know that feeling was confidence. I was proud of myself and happy, and I thought I could pretty much just do what I thought I wanted to do. I have friends that I think have this feeling more often than they don’t. And I admire that about them. If I could create that feeling inside me, I would. There are lots of reasons why I don’t think that feeling can be created. Lots of reasons why I don’t have that feeling more often than I do.

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This lack of confidence affects pretty much everything I do. In my career I learned to have confidence because if you don’t, you’re worthless. In a busy restaurant or theatre you need to make a decision on the fly as a manager. You make your decision and stick to it no mater what. When things slow down, then you analyze your decision and learn from it if it was a poor choice. Life isn’t like a job, though. The stakes are much higher. Jobs at the end of day all just come down to money, and I couldn’t care less about that, it’s a fleeting material thing that is temporary. Life is all about people and the relationships you have with them. Feelings and emotions may be temporary too, but they are carried and remembered. The following example is not the only result of not having confidence, but it reflects my desire to treat everyone with the respect they deserve to make their own choices. Here’s what I mean by that. I was recently in Las Vegas and went to a couple pretty upscale clubs while I was there. Me being me, I didn’t just drink my weight in alcohol and do crazy shit. The first club I went to, I was so curious about how Vegas clubs differed from other ones, the answer is; they don’t a lot. But the one major difference is shitty dressed dudes don’t get in, they don’t even get in line. I was surrounded by a few hundred people who were all really attractive, guys and girls. What I saw the guys do there is something I see in every club, but I saw it happening on a much more massive scale. Guy walks up to a girl that he clearly doesn’t know, they talk and/or dance for a minute or two and then they guy just starts making out with her and the girl is into it. That’s confidence. Guys that can do that, which was most of them, are so confident with themselves that they can do that, and girls see the confidence and are attracted to it, even if they have no intention of ever seeing the guy after breakfast the next day. To me, those guys are douchebags. It represents a lack of respect for themselves and for the girl. I’m not one to judge and say they are bad people. For both the guy and girl, if doing that makes them both happy, go nuts and be happy. To me, I would have to disrespect myself a lot to do that. I would also have to disrespect the girl to do that. As I write this, I wonder if these people who do that are the same, they disrespect themselves and that’s why they do that too. For some I’m sure it’s the case, for most I doubt it is.

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That’s a really long way to link to my main point of standing at the edge of this cliff I’m on. My lack of confidence manifests itself in these big decisions in my life as well, as well as small ones. I think I know what’s good for me, 100%. But hey, what if I’m wrong and this is awful for me and turns out to be the worst thing ever? I can’t be sure about anything I decide to do and that drives people away from me (don’t tell me it doesn’t because I know for a fact that it does). I’m just not sure when I get to the point of figuring out the person that I want to be, if I’m going to be able to commit to that. Commit to myself. That’s probably the hardest commitment to make in life. You’re going to be the only person you let down, and you’re also the only person to keep yourself on track.

But at least I’m still standing, full of fear, void of any confidence in what falling means for me but I’m standing. I’m not hiding, there’s no camouflage here, I’m exposed and I’ll be exposed to those who care enough to get close enough to see.

Ben