Today I passed one of the most important papers of my sophomore year. It seems a bit shallow, or superficial, or irrelevant in comparison to all of the papers I’ve had or will ever have in the future, even more so if you consider the fact that this is just a paper. It is not, and never will be, an accurate representation of my collective thoughts, musings, and more importantly, who I am as a person. However, I’m not writing this to talk about my paper. I’m not writing this blog post to further elaborate on how we shouldn’t reduce our lives to absurdity in the face of our inevitable deaths, much less from the perspectives of Socrates and Josef Pieper. No, I’ve done enough of that for the semester.
(Okay, maybe not enough. I still have an oral defense on Tuesday, but I can care about that when I’ve reached the end of this in-between.)
I discovered something in writing essays, reviewing for tests, poring over books on death and philosophy, doing org work, serving in the student government, listening to people greater than I was, and engaging in (usually) fruitful discourse, something that I often overlooked while I was doing these things. I discovered that this seemingly jam-packed schedule of mine was not as full as I perceived it to be sometimes. There are days when I feel like this one paper is as heavy as the weight of the world. I’ve never stopped to consider that I was doing it all for a reason.
I was never confident in my ability to rise up to the challenges that came my way, mainly because I can be a sappy, insecure piece of crap who folds into himself almost every time I get pressured. I’d be anxious almost all the time whenever a deadline loomed above my head. I’d be anxious that I hadn’t done something right, or hadn’t started on something that I felt I should’ve started with. I’d feel anxious whenever a family member or a friend acted even slightly differently from usual because I’d think that I had done something to offend them or hurt them or that they just thought I was being an idiotic jerk. It’s true, though. If there’s one thing I don’t want to be, it’s an idiotic jerk. I guess that somehow helped in my becoming one. Kind of. At least in my perspective, I kind of was one.
You see, I’m a rather paranoid person. I just don’t like showing it. I’ve kept my occasional bouts of paranoia to myself becau– Nope, actually, no, I have no good reason for my paranoia. I am an insecure person who cannot let even the little details from bothering me. I picture these almost-cataclysmic ends to my relationships with other people for no good reason because I am extremely insecure. I care about what people think about me for no good reason because that’s what I am.
But (and this is a huge but), the past few weeks – even the whole past semester, to a certain extent – has showed me that I’ve been caring about the wrong things for such a long time. I’ve been caring too much about the opinions of other people, people who, I’m sure, don’t even care that much about me. I’ve been caring too much about insignificant things, about tiny little details about me and about other people that don’t matter.
(I’m sorry if I can’t articulate this well enough, I just came from writing a paper on death and I’m pretty drained. Sorry. But yeah, where does the part that I said about writing and stuff come in to this horribly self-pitying self-realization? Okay, here goes.)
I discovered that what matters are the things that I choose to give value to. I cared about the opinions of other people because I chose to care about them. What I didn’t know before (and what I wish I could’ve found out sooner) was that I could choose whose opinions to care about. I could choose who mattered to me, and I discovered that I didn’t have to choose. Not really. People like them come, sometimes they go, but in many ways they come back. If you want to, they will. These people are ultimately the people who are worth caring about, and even more importantly, worth caring for.
(That still doesn’t have any connection to what I said earlier about writing and doing schoolwork and serving in student government. But yeah, I’ll get to that in this next paragraph.)
Furthermore (this is starting to feel like a paper wow), I realized that while persons mattered, individual persons who I actually personally knew, I wasn’t alone in this world. I was trapped in this umwelt, as Josef Pieper referred to, and I was limited by it (ugh I told myself I wouldn’t add anything even slightly philosophical in this blog post). I was in my own little world, and I had to know that the world actually mattered. That discovery led me to care even more. Not about the opinions of other people, but for the world. Yes, this is embarrassingly naive, but I’m pretty sure none of you will read this (much less remember this), but I believe way too much in the world. For all my insecurity, I feel like I have the responsibility to change the world. Call it Atenean formation, call it my weirdly Catholic upbringing, call it my naivete fueled by comic books and pop culture. I call it hope.
And this is where all those things I do, I choose to care about, come in (Aha! I knew I wasn’t just rambling pointlessly). I, for all my insecurities, for all my anxiety, chose to do these things. In the grand scheme of things, I probably won’t matter that much anymore, but I have now. I can choose to give in to the pressure, I can choose to give up, I can choose to fold in. But surprisingly enough (I really am quite the lover of surprises, aren’t I), I chose to accept all this pressure and go on. I chose to carry these burdens and use them as something to help me carry on. And I do all these things because I continue to stupidly, undyingly hope, and in spite of it all, I learn. I wouldn’t be writing this blog post if I didn’t learn something from all those times I had this past week, this past semester, this past year. I chose to do these things, I chose to pursue these passions, and I chose to learn. I guess in the long run, that’s one of the most important things in my life. I choose to do what I love, I choose to love what I do, I choose to love the people who actually matter, and I choose to try everyday to be a better person. Not necessarily to be the best, but to be better.
I can’t seem to think of a fitting end to this post. It’s been a while, so my non-academic writing’s a bit rusty. Sorry about that. Here’s a nice quote to make up for it.
“It is because of the ambivalent structure of philosophy, because ‘marveling’ sets one on a road that never ends, because the structure of philosophy is that of hope, that to philosophize is so essentially human–and in a sense to philosophize means living a truly human life.” – Josef Pieper, The Philosophical Act