Question #10 On Personal Days…

Is a day spent watching movies when you could’ve been working a day wasted or well spent?

My approach to life is pretty simple.  Try to get better each day- by learning, new experiences, exploration of yourself, environment, and others, and never ceasing to pursue the things you care about.  I’m also a huge fan of doing what makes you happy because in the end it’s your life and who wants to be miserable?  Factoring all that into account I’m a pretty big fan of personal or ‘off days.’

Let’s be honest, “off days” are needed.  I worked on a cruise ship as part of the entertainment staff.  As personable and as outgoing as I am I’ll be the first to tell you that sometimes you just need time for yourself.  To unwind and relax.  It’s impossible to be ‘on’ all the time because you’ll wear yourself down.  You get to a point where even the smallest things bother you.  You’re so exhausted and tired of trying to be a go getter than you take 2 steps back for every 1 step forward.  You should never have to fake being happy.

Ways to avoid this burn out feeling are to on occasion take a day for yourself.  You can watch movies, read, go for a hike, doesn’t matter how you spend it as long as you spend it doing something that helps to reenergize you.  The work will always be there waiting for you.  By taking a break for a day when you go back to the daily grind you’ll go with fresh eyes and a rejuvenated spirit.   Remember as John Lennon once said ‘time you enjoy wasting was not wasted.’

Stay Gold.

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Question #9 On Death…

Would your life be better or worse if you knew the day, time, and place that you were going to die?

I believe knowing that information would be a good thing.  Obviously, it would take some getting used to.  There would be an initial shock and transition of accepting your own mortality.  The truth is though, we’re all going to die and we’re all aware of of it.  Would knowing the date really be a bad thing?  Like anything else in life nothing is really purely good or bad it’s made that way by peoples’ actions.

We always talk about not taking things for granted because you never know when they may be taken from you.  Well, life is the best example of that.  How much differently would you change the way you live if you knew that you were going to die in next year? 5 years?  10 years?  50 years?

Just think of the little things you would change in your daily life.

Just to name a few:

It would change how you approach love. There are different ways could affect you, but if you were going to die sooner perhaps you try and find love as quick as you can or perhaps you just decide to stop looking and not put your special someone through the pain of losing you.  If you know you have 50 years maybe you’ll chill and not freak about not being married by 27.

It would change how you approach your finances.  If you knew you were going to die next year and you had tens of thousands of dollars saved up, depending on your age, you may decide to stop hording and spend on things you’ve always wanted or trips you always wanted to take.  Maybe you just hit up the casino and see what happens.

Most importantly for the majority of people in the world it would impact the sense of urgency they felt on a daily basis.  Most of us put off dreams, goals, relationships, and so on because we think we have time to get to them later.

“The most dangerous risk of all: the risk of spending you life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”

By knowing AND acknowledging that the only way the clock is ticking is downward more of us may go after our dreams.  Anything that forces people to follow their dreams has to be a good thing.

Stay Gold.

Question #8- On Heroes…

How do you think of yourself- hero or villain?  Is the worst identity to have not the villain, but the person who is powerless?

Real life isn’t a comic book.  None of us are full time heroes or villains (though that would be cool and make life easier).  Do to our limited scope through which we see the world I’d guess that most people don’t see themselves as a villain, but instead the hero of their own story.  Constantly acting on their own behalf to achieve what they want.

But in the grand scheme of things I can’t with a straight face call myself or anyone I know a hero/villain.  I can’t think of a single person I know who is all good or bad. Each of us are constantly fighting a battle within ourselves.

Light vs Dark. Good vs Evil. Hero vs Villain.

As I went to answer this question I was reminded of an old Cherokee story I had once come across:

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between 2 “wolves” inside us all.
One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”  The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

I’ve for sure done some hero things in my life.  But there are also things I’d call rather villainy.  But most of my life and actions have fallen somewhere in more of a grey area- based on your views on morality.   However, I like to think I’ve done more good things than bad things in my life.  Or at the very least the “bad” things I’ve done haven’t had any real consequences on anyone else.  In no way does that make me a hero though.  It just means I have a conscious.

Humanity is obsessed with leaving a mark upon the world.  Outlasting death.  Bequeathing a legacy.  We all have a desire to be remembered.  This leads to a lot of the ‘evil’ deeds we see done.  Our overreaching for this remembrance leads to a type of blindness which leads to the hurting of other people.  We want to make ourselves bigger and more important even if it comes at the price of leaving scars on the world or the people around us.

When I was younger I’d think about what impact I could make on the world to be remembered. I wanted the name Todd Smidt to live on forever.  I was ambitious, assertive, even a bit manipulative.  I wasn’t afraid to step on people to get what I wanted. To pull people’s strings. But as I’ve gotten older and seeing just how big the world is it’s become less of a necessity of mine.  If it some how happens great.  But instead of dedicating my attention to doing something great to leave a mark regardless of the consequences I’ve found myself looking more for what gives my life meaning to me even if all the importance it ever has is just to me.

The answer then is that I’m not a hero anymore than I am a villain.  That’s the honest way I see myself.  Full of both light and dark.  In a constant battle of what’s best for me vs what’s best for the world.  Hoping that one day I can answer this question with a more definite answer.

If my two choices were between villain and being powerless I’d choose being a villain all day.  I’m a huge proponent of free choice and taking control of your own life.  If I was making a short list of my fears it’d go something like, getting dementia, alzheimer’s, pregnant women, being powerless, going blind.  That’s basically my fears list.  In order to avoid being powerless I’d go full scale villain pretty quick.  Judge me if you will but I don’t think it’s too hard of a choice to make.  At least then I would still have some sort of control over my life and who knows, perhaps I’d even enjoy the dark side.

Stay Gold.

Question #7- On Commonalities and Relationships

What’s more important to a relationship: common values or other commonalities (like taste in music. interests, etc.)?

Common values without question.  Sharing common values with your significant other about things such as wanting a family, how long to wait to have sex, how to spend your money, importance of religion, and overall approach to love tend to be ingrained in each of us rather we want to admit it or not.   When your common values align with your SO you are reducing a lot of area for potential conflict.

Everything we’ve ever experienced has helped us to build up our own ideas on what we want and what we value, sometimes without even realizing it.

Something as simple as wanting kids or not can be a huge divider between two people.  If one person gives up something they’ve always wanted because the other person asked them to it has the potential to created blame and regret.  Which aren’t great feelings to have exist in a relationship.

Some of us don’t realize how important something is to us until a conflict arises that may stop of us from getting it.  I had been dating a girl for awhile when she had a health scare and the possibility of never having kids was a serious reality. Early in my 20s I had no idea how big of a deal that was to me.  We’d been dating for awhile and I really cared about her.  But having to potential choose between her and having kids was unthinkable.  It’s one thing to think you might not want something but it’s completely different to have something taken from you that you didn’t even know you wanted.  Or to make a choice against what you’ve always wanted for someone else’s sake.

But that’s how core values work.  We’re not aware how deeply they are ingrained in us.  How hard they are to change and give up.  The types of feelings we open ourselves up to if we give them up for other people.

Yes it’s great to like the same band, sports, books, or food as the love of your life but I don’t believe it’s essential.  I want us to have things in common, sure.  Yet I think us having different interests can be great too.  When your friends or spouse likes something you don’t it can be beneficial.  A lot of the time we don’t like things because we don’t know much about them or have never tried them.  Someone you care about loving something will exposes you to it in a way otherwise impossible.  Maybe you really hate it or maybe you just didn’t give it a chance.

Having different interests can be overcome and in some cases can even bring two people closer together by expanding their world.  Having different core values on the other hand will usually result in loss, void, and asking “what if” which is something I try never to do.

Stay Gold.

Question #6 on Love

What’s your opinion on love?  Are there different types? Can we separate love from infatuation?  Are there any qualifiers to make love “true” (rather than fake”)?

A few weeks ago, a girl I know linked me to the Elite Daily article on Eternal Love that I posted on Of Whiskey and Words. She told me to read it and asked me for my thoughts.  It was an interesting dynamic as she used to be a formal flame of mine and it’s always interesting to hear thoughts on love from a former romantic interest.

Below is what I wrote to her about my thoughts on Love:

“Did you know that English has one word for “love” where Sanskrit has 96?  There are so many different types of love.  So many different ways to show love.  I once read “No one has ever loved anyone the way everyone wants to be loved ” and that’s frightfully true.  We all have different concepts of what love is and how to show it. That’s why people struggled so much at times in relationships (romantic or friendly).

We need or expect something other than what the person is giving us.   Most of the time it isn’t because they aren’t trying.  It turns out to be the opposite.  They think they’re giving us what we want because it’s what they would want. “We see from where we stand.” Perspective matters so much in love.  We don’t seem to understand that each person in the world has a different expectation for what being truly loved would feel like and involve. Unless you establish open and honest lines of communication you’ll never be able to be loved the way you want to be loved.

With that in mind it depends what you believe love is and how you define perfect.  Is love caring about someone to the point of madness? Is it mostly emotional? Sexual? Is it being there for them even when you promised yourself you were moving on and want to be anywhere else?  Is it constantly wondering about them and how their day is going? Or maybe just being the shoulder they cry on when the world seems to be falling apart?

I don’t know if love is perfect in itself or maybe it’s the only perfect and pure thing which we ruin it by trying to put in a box.  We all have our own ideas of love.  We get these ideas for ‘perfect love’ from movies, TV shows, books, our families,   We craft our idea of what a perfect love will be like.  We think ‘next time when i meet someone it will be like this.’  Which is funny because each and every relationship we enter into is going to be different.  Similar to chess, you understand the basic rules of what is “allowed” but every time you sit down to play it’s different because one action or movement completely changes the game.  You can’t predict other people’s actions or motives.  You can’t plan love.  Nor should you.  Love is the unplanned thing that gives life meaning.  It teaches us about forgiveness.  It gives us hope.

In the Elite Daily Article Paul Hudson writes:

If someone you love changes your life to a great enough extent, if he or she changes the person you have grown to be, if this person adds enough of his or her personal touch to the canvas that is your life, and you love the result, then you have no choice but to love this person.

I really loved that.  People say love is a choice but I don’t know how true that is.  Maybe at the start. But eventually you get to a point where you can’t turn it off no matter how much you try.  You can suppress it but that’s not the same as ending it.  Even with suppressing their fingerprints still leave smudges on your life.

Maybe it’s the hopeless romantic in my but that concept, of adding to someone’s life,  makes loving someone seem worth it.  You know that in the end it may not work.  But in a world of extremes we can only love too little.  Once you love someone they take part of you away that you can never get back.  But they leave a part of themselves with you. When you give your time, or texts, or kisses, or anger, your smiles, your vulnerable moments to someone there isn’t anyway your personal touch, your fingerprints, aren’t added to their life.  In the end you can never fully undo that.  Not saying you’d ever want to, but it can make it hard sometimes.  They leave a cut on your heart. If things end, the cut will heal, but what will be left is a scar because you put so much into each other.

That’s what romantic love is supposed to be about. Wanting to ‘paint the canvas of their soul with your brush’ wanting to leave your fingerprints all over their life because when you do that you’re helping them to paint yours. You’re growing together.

But sometimes the growing together ends.  People break up.  But one of them will always want to stay friends, Which I’ll never understand.  For the longest time I couldn’t explain why it felt wrong to me.  It wasn’t because I hated my exes or wished them harm.  It wasn’t because I was still in love with them.  It was because it seemed like taking that step back was insulting to the memory I had of them, of us.  For the longest time I couldn’t put words to the sentiment but then I came across this which sums it  up:
     “At the end of their relationship she asked if they could still remain friends.  His face stayed expressionless until he said No.  Because we put friends in boxes.  You see them once in awhile, or even a lot, but still they have their box in your life, their specific place. Their *category.*  That’s one of the great things about being someone’s love- you have no box in their life because you’re part of all their boxes.  You’re their friend, their lover, their confidante- all those things.  I don’t want to be put in one of your boxes and I don’t want to shrink you to fit into one of mine.

One day you’ll realize you’ll truly understand love.  One day someone will make you feel like potential of love is worth the risk and that being scared isn’t a good enough reason to not follow your heart even if you don’t know where it’s leading. Indecision won’t be an issue because you’ll feel it.  You’ll see that there are a million things that could go wrong but you’ll be foolish enough to try anyway because you only need to succeed in love once.  You’ll make time to see them.  You’ll think up ridiculous excuses to talk to them because you know that they add more value to your life than anyone ever has.  You’ll be there for them even when you have other things you should be doing because love isn’t logical.

Those are my scatterbrained thoughts on love.”

Question #5 on Living

How would you live your life if you had a week to live?  How would you live your life if you had 5 years left to live?  How would you live your life if you were going to live forever?

If I had a week to live I would spend it with my family and close friends.  One week isn’t enough time for me to do everything I wanted to do in life.  Which leaves me with the choice of trying to cram as much in as I can or spending it with the people who have made what I’ve done seem worth it.   Making as many memories with the people I care about as possible so that when I die they will always have that last week to look back on and remember.

If I knew that I had 5 years left to live I would focus more on finding the love of my life.  I’ve done a lot of traveling to this point in my life so it’s not as pressing of an issue as it may be for some.  There’s no point in focusing on a “career” if I only have 5 years to build it.  But finding love even if it’s only for a few years would help me to really understand what the poets have been talking about since the dawn of time.  It’s something I’ve never experienced and something I would make more of a priority if I only had 5 years to live.

If I knew I was going to live forever I would learn a lifelong craft that allowed me to live anywhere in the world and be able to make money.  Then I’d spend year after year traveling and trying to find my real passion for life before picking a place to settle down and really plant roots.  If you’re going to live forever you need to have a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

Question #4 on the Income Gap

People often talk about the growing gap between the rich and poor.  However, today’s poor (in the United States, at least) are much better off than most people (not just the poor) were a century ago.   Does it matter that there’s an increasing gap between the rich and the poor if the standard of living for the poor keeps going up?

The gap between the rich and poor is one of the biggest issue facing America  Not only is it bad for the economy it’s bad for our morality. It’s divided us and made it harder to empathize with each other. This gap has lead to needless finger pointing and jealousy.  It’s created an ‘us’ vs ‘them’ mentality.  It’s allowed us to look around judging others not for who they are but by how much money they have in the bank and the manner in which they choose to spend it.

WIth such a large gap the increased standard of living doesn’t matter.   An increase in the standard of living for the poor means an increasing standard for the middle class and rich.  What’s worse is during the recovery, the gap between the rich and poor actually widened.

Comparing our poverty line to other countries may ease the minds of some people, but does no good to solve the problem.  In Perks of Being A Wallflower Stephen Chbosky wrote “I think that if I ever have kids, and they are upset, I won’t tell them that people are starving in China or anything like that because it wouldn’t change the fact that they were upset. And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn’t really change the fact that you have what you have.”  His point is spot on.  Mentioning that people in Chad or Fiji or countless other places having a lower standard of living than Americans does nothing to change the fact that in our country the rich continue to leave the poor further and further behind.

I grew up in a middle class family.  By no means rich but I always had food on the table and the lights on.  I graduated from a good college and was able to land a solid job with a big company upon graduation.  I’m not in the top 30% but am I’m not in the bottom 30% either. For all the answers I think I have about life I have no idea how to solve this problem in a way that would please everybody.

The two most popular sides of the argument seem to be redistribution vs Darwinism. Tax the richest as much as we can or let everyone fend for themselves and see who among us survives.  The fact that according to the Pew Research Center, the top 7 percent of all U.S. households own 63 percent of all the wealth in the country isn’t good.

Personally, my vote goes to a basic income.  Obviously there would be a lot of details to work out but it is the easiest way to end poverty in our country. Also, I believe that a basic income would allow for people to pursue their passions and dreams to advance society instead of spending their time working for a company they hate just to be able to pay rent and feed themselves.

I know that it’s not right or realistic to expect people who work hard for what they have to just give it up.  Nor is it right to assume that anyone who has less isn’t a hard worker and lacks potential.  Believe it or not, hard work and a large income are not directly correlated.  Yes, some people are lazy. Some have had bad breaks.  Some people are born with a silver spoon. And some of us are just caught in the middle not poor enough to plead poverty but not rich enough to make a difference.

My hope is that we stop believing that monetary worth equals self worth. More importantly, that we all understand that this problem isn’t hypothetical. It’s real.  As are the millions of people who are living in poverty every day. The income gap isn’t something than can be solved by a minority of the population.  If you don’t want to give away your money fine but look into other ways you can help those around you such as volunteering or through charity.  Because in the end if we don’t look out for each other who will?