Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Remember Your Roots

I often look back at my childhood and wonder what on God's green earth I was thinking. How did a social outcast who hunted squirrels and hid in leaves for attention during middle school recess turn out so normal. It's times like these I remind myself that only a divine being could change my fate from possible mass murdering psychopath, to a gregarious blogger. There are many things I regret about my past and wish I had done differently but my belief system is not one of them. Often times we forget the views we held as children were more pure than the ones we hold now.

Who here thought to themselves as kids, "I am definitely going to smoke cigarettes when I grow up." Probably no one. As we grow up we make more excuses for compromising our values. Psychology calls this cognitive dissonance which is defined as discomfort within an individual who holds a belief and performs a contradictory action. When we can't change what we do, we change how we feel about it. Smoking suddenly goes from the worst thing in the world to not so bad.

In 3rd grade I was just a white belt at Taekwondo practice. As most practices do we started off with stretching. It was during this time that I remember seeing the adult members pathetically reaching for their toes huffing and puffing with their backs arched in a 'C' as they hands barely grazed past their knees. As I sat there doing a nearly full split I pondered what made these old people so stiff and unable to do what was so easy for me. I laughed and reassured myself, I'll never become like that.

Wrong. At some point in my adulthood as I was reaching for my toes as far as my tight hamstrings would allow I remembered the promise I made to myself in that dojo. I had become the very stiff old geezer that the little 3rd grader in me scoffed at. My first reaction was to cast off my young little ghost, after all what did 3rd grade me know about aging. I was naive back then, ignorant to the stress of the world and the toll time had on the body. But was I really? Was stretching for ten minutes a day really so hard to do. People say they have no time for things but quite frankly statements like that are plain bullshit. Ten minutes can be fit into anyone's daily schedule, especially for the sake of health. So why didn't I do it?

For the most part it was probably a lack of discipline. Doing anything day in and day out requires a lot of mental commitment and stretching was honestly not at the top of my to do list. Surely if it were something more important like smoking I would not allow myself to compromise my beliefs right? Wrong again. It began with statements like, "One cigarette won't hurt" and escalated into "I only smoke when I am stressed". Compromising my beliefs little by little each day was a slippery slope where I found myself falling so far down until my beliefs became so skewed I could no longer recognize how I had even come to believe it. It was the little excuses that built up becoming the norm and with every day that passed I tossed on more excuses until the pile became a mountain and the sheer weight of it all pressed on my conscience. Had I really come to the point where I thought only cigarettes could relieve my stress and that my life had no time for other healthy alternatives such as running?

The scariest part wasn't even that I was smoking, it was the idea that I became something that at one point in my life I swore to myself I would never become. The past me was young, naive, and ignorant but he was also an idealist, a purist and didn't give bullshit excuses. Don't belittle your past self and the convictions you held because those were the times you saw clearly and were not blinded by whatever life had to throw at you. Addiction, financial struggle, death, relationship problems, stress are all hard to deal with but don't let these hardships shape you into the person you swore never to become. Stretching really is not that important in the big scheme of things, but I still felt a little disappointed that I let my past self down. Even though I knew I had fallen down I also knew I could pick myself back up. It's never too late to stretch.

Don't forget the past you were rooted in. The values we used to hold are just as important. Stop making excuses and justifying the wrongs in your life. We all skew from our paths but it is never too late to correct ourselves.
“Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer.
If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.” 
          C.S. Lewis

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