So, early Saturday morning I was walking in the snow and ice on a college campus after just finishing an awesome after-party (which was after an awesome party for moms and kids) and there were a lot of thoughts going through my head. Primarily, the one I was wrestling with in the freezing cold (as I was losing feeling in my ears and face) was that life is too short for cowardice.
In my head I was jumping back and forth between two extremes, a common thing for me. On one hand, I was convinced that certain things in life required patience. Patience is a virtue. Good things come to those who wait. These cliches played through my mind and I generally find they're right ... sometimes. My life, just as everyone's, has proved these cliches (and others) right a few times.
On the other hand, life is too damn short to be a coward. You can't get anywhere in life without risking something. Life is too short for cowardice. As I was thinking this, just as I was about to fall back onto the other extreme, nearby parking lot lights blinked off. As well they should because it was 1:15 in the morning.
And that pissed me off initially. Time passes and it passes so fast, faster than I ever really noticed before. I'm not sure why my perception of things has changed so much in the last few months. Maybe it's because I took a risk and moved up to Ohio. Maybe it's because I took a risk two years before and made a hail Mary attempt at losing weight. Maybe it's because I just recently decided to change the very foundation of how I operate by becoming Catholic.
Maybe it's because I feel so damn old now.
I'm 25 and I get routinely mistaken for being a teenager. I hate it, but it's unchangeable and frankly I prefer that to being mistaken for being older. I tried to change the perception by shaving off most of my hair and it only made me miss my hair. Thankfully, hair grows back.
But you can't get back time lost and those lights turning off in that parking lot made me realize that I had passed up some opportunities this past week that I may not get again. In the span of a little over a month I've dove, head first, into Catholicism. I'm a complete noob at it, yes. I'm uneducated in basically everything, yes.
But I'm committed to it and I'll gladly drown in it. I'm throwing around as much weight as I can (not as much as it once was, mind you) to get things done on this front. I genuinely feel pretty good about it.
Yet, those damn lights pissed me off because they symbolized a possible loss of something I may not get back: time. Ladies and gentlemen, it flies. So fast. Being as I am, diving head first into Catholicism, I hooked up with the local college student Catholics last month and their lives resembled mine from a few years back.
And in our many discussions, all of them fun and insightful on some level for me, I've realized just how old I am compared to them. It's sobering to say the least and, frankly, scary when put into the context of just how SHORT a time ago it seems to me that I was where they were.
I will be there again (once I get enough money to get back) but I'm not there now. I'm a working stiff but I get to experience a few slices of the college life once again. It feels good, don't get me wrong, but I'm a geezer compared to some of them.
When I factor in where my younger siblings were when I was in college, I feel even more like a geezer. My sister's 14, my youngest brother is 16, and my younger brother is 22 now. All of them are at way different points in their life than they were two years ago.
I'm at a way different point than I was two years ago.
Which brings up back to the parking lot lights. They blinked off, I got pissed, I walked in the freezing cold, and on the drive back in the early morning I was consumed with a mixture of melancholy and rage. I'd like to submit apologies to my steering wheel for beating it mercilessly for a solid five minutes as I raged (I had way too many cookies but they were SO good).
I wasn't sure what to make of it all when I fell asleep or when I woke up this morning. I went to work, was driven insane by everything going on there (just madness in retail this time of year), froze over and over again grabbing carts from the icy wasteland that was the parking lot, and came to the conclusion that this was about YOLO.
You Only Live Once ... since that phrase became really popular, I've always had a problem with its application. My generation (and perhaps the one after me) seems to take it as more of a justification to do whatever they want. Want to have sex before marriage? YOLO, go for it. Want to get wasted and do something crazy? YOLO, drink it up. Want to try all these new drugs just once? YOLO, take a hit and pass it on.
Is this a true application of the phrase? I wasn't sure as I was freezing my tail off getting those carts, but that seemed to be the popular application of it for the day and age. I decided then that YOLO had to be a bad thing.
And I came into this post prepared to wage that argument but after some Starbucks and a rom-com (a deadly mix for me), I'm going to make the argument that YOLO is a good thing. It's not the phrase itself that's bad, rather the execution of it. YOLO shouldn't be your go-to justification for doing something undeniably risky/stupid/ill-conceived.
YOLO should be a reminder that the minutes and hours you waste pursuing such things can be better spent. I'm not one to do such things, I inherently don't like risks. I like plans. I like strategies. I like the ability to make things work and keep things on schedule.
This point was more than proven when one of my fellow volunteers at the Beatitude House Party pegged me as an engineer because of how I operated. I told her I was anal but not quite that anal, but I'm not that far off. If I had a better grasp with spacial orientation, I probably would be an engineer but I really, really suck at spacial orientation. Anyone's who's seen me try to build something or navigate a tight corner will understand (I routinely cut those tight corners too tight and bash my shoulder or elbow into them).
YOLO isn't about that and, frankly, life isn't either (as much as I want it to be). I came into this week with plans and strategies, but life is chaos. Sometimes it's somewhat controlled, but often it's chaos that flies in the face of logic, reason, and rationale. It breeds frustration and gear-grinding, brain-overdrive-inducing thoughts.
It confuses me. Especially when I think one thing, am seemingly proven by life and God that I should think the opposite, and then get the reverse of that thrown in my face ... thusly making my original point the right one despite it being wrong a moment before.
For every new revelation there seems to be a dozen retrospective judgments. It piles up in my head and in my heart and it just crushes me sometimes.
YOLO is a reminder to me, personally, that I need to waste less time trying to put life into a pattern or a map and instead just do. Not without consideration, mind, but I should do more doing and do less analysis. Time ticks and, really, it goes by faster than I would like. 24 hours doesn't seem to exist anymore, despite how often I'm told by the clock that it does.
It seems like the day runs faster than that and only goes slow when I need to be painstakingly reminded how bleak life can be (read: Mondays).
Opportunities come and go. Cowardice is a poor excuse for missing them.
I've been a coward this week on a few fronts. Mostly out of habit, I think. As I was going back and forth in my head today at work, this Zach isn't exactly field tested for a lot of what's going on in my life now. I no longer exist in the safe little bubble I had constructed for myself over the years before as the fat guy. Physically, he no longer exists.
Mentally, the programming is still there and it's hard to overcome in certain respects. It's like existing in two different states at once some days. Others I'm just one or the other, but some days I achieve this mix that produces weirdness.
And I am weird. God, normal does not apply to me and I think that eliminates me from a lot of things. I lose out on some titles I'd like because I'm weird. I'm unique. I'm other.
I was pissed about that on the drive back Saturday morning but by this afternoon I was okay with it again ... I can't change that. It's a building block of me and it makes me angry some days that it even exists. Other days, I'm happy it does because I get to see things in a light others don't.
That has its benefits and its drawbacks. This week, it was a bit of a drawback more than a benefit. Seeing things in a different light sometimes means I see a ferocious, man-eating lion where a regular cat is. If that makes any sense. But sometimes I see scary things where there are just regular things.
Not sure why. Probably some sort of self-preservation mechanism or a strange way of protecting myself (redundant?). Whatever the case, I need to stop being a coward. I need to be less of a Cowardly Lion and more of a Simba.
YOLO, as it applies to me, means that I need to stop watching parking lot lights turn off and instead figure out a way to turn them on myself ... and keep them on if I so desire.
Thanks for reading folks. Enjoy your life and enjoy the minutes that so easily pass by. They add up faster than anyone would like to admit.