June 11, 2010
18:57 – 19:31
Also, helped a friend find some hostel information.
A few weeks ago, someone close to me sent me an email with a quote about how living in the past, be it with old loves, successes, failures or whatever else is “fool’s gold”. That has been playing around in my subconscious since then, and gradually I have come to realize how often I pan. I spend countless amounts of mental energy living these fantasies out in my head. Whether it be the girlfriend I broke up with whom could now complete me, to stories I should have written, to things I should have done while in Japan, to innumerable other visions of how things were before and could have played out differently had I only made the “right” choices.
Additionally, I live out fantasies of what my life in the future could be. This past year has been dominated by trying to figure out where I will work/live when I finish my job here. I have considered countries around the globe and fantasized about such things as how I would arrange my time there, what I would buy, comparing the qualities of this country to that one for their short term and long term benefits. Or, I will spend hours planning out a new website I will start, or story I will write, or changes to this very blog, which, aside from new entries, has not changed in almost a year.
I fantasize while I lay in bed at night, on the can, meditating, teaching students, or even playing ping pong. Sports are an excellent avenue to analyze what I do. I started playing ice hockey at eight years old. At that time, I was playing with guys who had been playing since they were 5 or younger. I could barely skate, and they were doing things like trying to improve their wrist shot. As the years passed I improved and moved past most of them, or they quit. Finally my senior year of high school came around, and I made the Varsity Green team. The highest honor for a New Trier district ice hockey player. Yet, even with this fact, I was unable to see myself as anything but a new guy, an outsider, who only made the team because the best defenceman in our age group got bored with hockey and decided to quit.
I carried this weight on my shoulders the entire year, when in fact, I was not the best player on the team, but I was in better shape and worked harder than almost any of my teammates, so I could of been a key contributor. Yet, my mental image of myself never changed, until the very end of the season in the playoffs, which was swell that it happened, but too late for me and my team, we lost in the semi-finals, breaking our school’s streak of 5 consecutive high school championships.
As I was leaving high school, I developed a distinct crush on a friend, but never acted upon it, watching as my peers did. After I got to college I discovered she had feelings for me. Then, instead of going wild like an 18 year old freshman should as one of many confuesed young people, I spent the majority of my energy on this girl thousands of miles away, analyzing to death the minute conversations we would have online or over the phone, and times I would see her at home. Nothing came of it, and I lost innumerable opportunities for a real connection with all the people around me.
Additionally, while I have increased my writing output, the amount of time I spend just thinking about all these different things I “could” be writing or “new projects” is easily ten fold what I actually just sit down and write. Three years ago when I was starting as a sportswriter, I found an outlet that got me a press pass to see Tiger Woods, and who let me write a weekly column about the Bulls. Instead of simply focusing my energy on them, I went out and found four or five other places to write for as well, thus reducing the quality of the Bulls articles I wrote, and also keeping me from other opportunities they had, like covering Blackhawks games live, which I only did once for the last home game of the season.
All in all, I have spent at least the past 15 years of my life, since entering junior high school, living far too much time of my life out in my mind about what could happen or what should of happened in the past. This is profoundly stupid. Reviewing one’s past actions are important, as is planning for the future, but they pale in value to this exact moment. I have missed so, so, so many opportunities all around me, by focusing on what “could be” instead of what I have, can actually do right now.
This is not to completely disparage the planning/fantasizing I have done. I have learned a lot about myself by reviewing past actions and I feel my life is in a wonderful place at the moment because of the forecasting I have done for the future and planning my options based around what looks optimal.
This also connects up with how I am constantly trying to catch up for things I should of done better in the past, because I did not do them well the first time, because I was distracted thinking about someone else. Thus, despite teaching just 21 hours a week, I recently whined to my family about how I have “no time”, because my mind was so confused between what I was actually doing with my time compared to everything I was fantasizing about.
What does that mean I will do now? I am not sure, but I think the first step will be stopping myself when I start to go off and fantasize about something and how wonderful it could be. Instead of figuring out what I will do when my book sells millions of copies and I have to balance my time between teaching and writing, I should just be finishing the book. I still must review and plan for the future, but that time should be done constructively, with paper and a pen or my hands on a keyboard for just a few minutes a day. Other times, I should be looking around me for what I am missing and the opportunities begging to be discovered. Overall, just living the advice I have tacked above my desk.
Living a fantasy is comfortable, but dangerous in its power to paralyze.