There’s a new Internet meme on the loose. I like this one, because it was compelling enough to have me lying awake at night thinking about how to respond.
But first, here’s a helpful, timely interview about memes, and Internet memes specifically, with the man who originally coined the phrase, Richard Dawkins.
Now that you know what a meme is, here are the parameters:
- Answer this question: if you had the chance to go back and change one thing in your life, would you and what would it be?
- Pick 6 people and give them this award. You then have to inform each that she has gotten this award.
- Thank the person who gave you the award.
A case of arrested development
There are lots of things I wish I’d done differently. When I first started thinking about this little meme, I found it difficult to pick one. But eventually I realized that my regrets all tied back to one essential flaw. Or maybe it’s not a flaw. More like a failure to, for whatever reason, reach a state of self-awareness that most people achieve fairly early in life.
I did not see myself as a wholly autonomous actor in my own life until fairly recently, meaning within the last, eh, maybe eight years? Before that, I made wildly dramatic decisions and took risks that would seem to indicate a great deal of autonomy and confidence. But I think that’s called overcompensation.
No, I was pretty much along for the ride in most aspects. I’d make a big decision (e.g., move to New York after high school, borrow a shit-tonne of money to go to grad school, start a business, etc.), entrench myself, fully committed…but from there pretty much let external circumstances or other people define the outcome of those experiences.
The unfortunate result of this failure to reach what I suspect is a critical milestone of emotional development is that my life’s trajectory has been neither smooth nor predictable. And it’s never felt under my own control. Again, until recently.
I have been extremely lucky to have had, through the past couple of decades, a few relationships and pursuits that have served as an anchor to which I could tether myself. Or maybe the better nautical analogy is water wings I could strap on so I could finally go from treading water to learning how to actually swim.
Unfortunately, my previous “follower” nature, along with my tendency to avoid all forms of confrontation, meant that for a long, long time I attracted and tolerated the wrong kinds of people and situations. I saw myself as moving air molecules aside as I made my way through the world, but that was the extent of my impact. I guess it comes down to not having a clue that I mattered. You can imagine how the absence of that essential missing brick in one’s personal foundation affects the life that is built upon it. Bad relationships are endured. Good ones, unrecognized, go to seed or, worse, are torpedoed for stupid, clueless reasons. Dreams are concocted, but plans never made.
Could I have done anything to change this arrestation of personal development? Probably not. But I still regret it.
Anyway. Things are better now. I have no idea why. I suspect I went through, albeit slowly, whatever range of life experiences I needed to in order to earn my “emotional intelligence” and “self esteem” merit badges. I do credit running with having helped in some indirect way. Or maybe directly. My brain functions better when training and I’m overall a happier person. The actions I take while “on running” are not the desperate gambits of the past, but conscious decisions that include active plans for follow-through: to try to make something original and valuable out of nothing (Houston Hopefuls); to ask — and hold out — for what I want (I’m turning down projects/clients that are not a good fit for me); to keep my mind open to new experiences, however scarily foreign or seemingly extravagant (going somewhere new to altitude train for 4-5 weeks).
I know people who are very private in their online lives. I’m not one of them, although I can be impenetrable in person. I don’t think of myself as an “oversharer,” or exhibitionistic. (Although when I read something like this, I’m not so sure.) I do know that some of the best relationships I’ve found and fostered have come as a result of being authentic on this blog. People who sort of knew me in “real life” came to know me better. People who didn’t know me at all decided they wanted to. Perhaps I come across as a navel-gazing fruitcake. But I’m recognized by the right fellow fruitcakes, all of whom are most assuredly not navel-gazers. So something’s working.
If you were hoping for something less amorphous, like “I wish I’d stuck with those ballet lessons in third grade,” my apologies.
Six people, six insights
I suspect you’ll get some interesting responses from these people. I know some of them well. Others, I just wish I knew better.
- Susan (she’s my sister; she’s also got a running blog)
- Anti-blogger (not her real name)
- Caroline (author of this guest post, which is one of the better items I’ve ever posted to this blog)
Joe, who tagged me in this meme, is one such “online-to-offline” discovery, although he might bristle at being included in the fruitcake category. He’s a thinker and a careful reader, he gathers information, he loves a debate. He holds strong opinions, but his mind is open to new data and points of view and, beyond that, he works to connect people for the purpose of creating discussion and sharing information. He’s also upbeat and fun to talk to.