Block 2: Afterthought…

The Identity you have is a choice that you make.  Even though you can’t change your past, or remove memories (on purpose), you can change how you view and interpret those memories.

I learned this in the Marines, but we are all quite adaptive.  We adjust to shitty situations until they become our new “normal”.  Like wearing a watch or a ring- after a little while you don’t even feel them on you.  Or walking into a loud concert- after a while it will become the new normal and won’t seem so ear-piercing, and when the music stops, your ears will have to adjust back to low volumes.

Bad days don’t last forever. Not because situations actually change (they might, but that’s irrelevant), it’s your outlook that changes.

Good days don’t last forever either.  People adjust to a “good” normal and start to complain about frivolous things.  It will become increasingly harder to keep having good days.

Chasing happiness.

When you look around and you feel empty with no obvious reasons why.  That might mean you’re “normal” needs to be reset with bad days (relative to your good days), or through intense reflecting.

The point is that our Identities evolve and change regardless of what lies ahead in the future.  In other words, we all can change our identities without making any new decisions, new memories, anything.

We can choose to re-interpret our existing memories and experiences; essentially re-defining who we are.

I hope you enjoyed Block 2.

Block 3 coming soon…

Previous:  [2.6] The Identity

Go back to Block 1

[2.6] The Identity

I’m hearing independence and self-sufficiency in the theme of this Block.  I feel like my extreme anxiety about outside validation is not only preventing me from progressing in my career goals, but as a person as well.

I can be better than I am if I can only be okay with my own personal judgments about the things I do and the way I behave.

But does that mean other people’s views are no longer relevant?

Well that doesn’t sound right either.

This must be one of those gray area things.  A good balance between the two ends of a spectrum, whatever the hell that means.

Nothing has confused me more than the concept of a gray area among things.

What is a good balance of opposites?

In other words… yes or no.  And how much yes and how much no. That’s all gray area is to me, a balance of chaotic confusion of things that don’t match.

What’s the balance between an apple and a carrot?  Sometimes it is just that confusing to me and it drives me nuts trying to figure out that perfect balance.

Maybe I’m trying to understand it wrong.  Or from the wrong angle.

Life is best understood backward, but must be lived forward.

What if I change my approach to the question of what a good balance is in a spectrum of opposites?

These are difficult questions to be asking.  Especially when you don’t give yourself enough time to find an answer.  It has been tearing away at me from the inside for as long as I can remember.

Whenever these moments of thought run through my mind, I get that insecurity about whether or not I should ask others these questions, or whether or not I’m strange for thinking to ask them in the first place.

Of course it’s strange.  Most people do not entertain these thoughts as much as I do, but that is only an assumption I have about the people I’m around.  Not on a larger scale.

What if I’m not so strange, just strange right here?

This is why I am having trouble adjusting to things.  I don’t know what to adjust to.  And because the internet removes the imaginary geographic barriers to what defines traditional normalcy, this is only getting increasingly confusing; for millennials across the board, as well.

Throughout my life thus far, I’ve made myself aware of some other ways people can live their lives.  I’ve met people from many walks of life, in different countries, and in a wide range of settings, and I can’t seem to figure out where I fit into all of it.

Retreating back to the very beginning…

If everyone were to disappear, who would I be?

That’s an extreme question.  As mentioned, it’s probably a balance of things and that’s why that question seems so difficult.

Perhaps, I’m asking it wrong.

Let’s try separating the question into 2 opposite perspectives…

If everyone were gone, except those most important to me, who would I be?  

I’m not sure.  The same confused person maybe??  I guess I would at least find comfort in not going through everyone dying off by myself; I have my closest family and friends with me.

What if only those most important people to me died, leaving everyone else in the world, who would I be then?

The second question feels like everyone else might have well died also.  If everyone important to me died right now, I wouldn’t have much reason to go on with life- at least that’s how I think I would feel.

My thinking just doesn’t make logical sense because there are other people, billions of others.

Ok, I think I’m gaining some clarity.

It’s the memories you have of the life you’ve lived so far- that’s what makes people and things important to you.  And you’ve shared the most memories with “important people”.

That is also where you base and learn your judgments from.  Even the memory of someone telling you something is a memory that you can use as a personal identifier.

It is new memories, accumulated, that make new important people and things in your life- and provides you with your own sense of identity.

I would like to add that epiphanies and personal reflection can allow you to interpret your memories in different ways, leading you to a redefined identity; simply by changing your perspective.

Regardless, without memories, you lose your identity.  Without memories, sentimental value doesn’t exist.  Nothing will be important.  In the absence of memories, you have no definable identity.

This is probably why people feel the need to shed their identities when they feel they need to “start over” (usually after a bad break up or a death).  They throw away a lot of stuff, they kick people out of their lives, get makeovers and change their profile pictures on Facebook, or just pick up and move somewhere else leaving everything behind.

After all, by throwing things away, or by the loss of someone, there is nothing left to hold their memories accountable.  Their memories now become whatever they say they are.

But until they remove their own memories, they cannot actually “start over”.  That is why this phrase is so popular, “you can’t run away from your problems, they follow you.”.

It is you who is following yourself.  What the phrase refers to as “problems”, is nothing more than the words you’ve chosen to judge your own identity.

Who am I?

I am a collection of my own memories of the past and how I choose to interpret them for use in the future.

…there.  That wasn’t so hard.

Block 3 coming soon…

See Block 2: Afterthought…

Previous Piece:  [2.5] The Judgement Principles

Go back to Block 1

[2.5] The Judgement Principles

Principle I:  Judgement is a Natural Ability

We all know that people judge others, at least we are all born with the ability and craving to do so.  Whether we evolve enough as individuals to remove this impulse from our being is a separate issue.  For those that haven’t…

People like to ‘people watch’.  I know I do.

We sit on our thrones and make a game out of critiquing unaware people while they ignorantly carry on about their day.  Chances are our playful judgements are meaningless, but the takeaway here is how common people just sit and judge each other for no apparent reason.

We say our secret judgments to ourselves or someone close to us as if we were the only ones that have them- and they do the same about the two people snickering to each other across the room.

Mini spotlights of judgement and you never know when you are in the middle of it.

Is it the moment you bumped into a wall?? …casually turning around to see if anyone noticed your clumsy mistake; as if it would make a difference if you knew.

Imagine sitting on a bench, and as you peruse the scene in people watch mode, you come across another bench.  You look at who’s sitting there and you lock eyes briefly with another person, who also happens to be people watching.

It’s as if you were caught doing something you weren’t supposed to.

Curious thought:

Running with the “bump into a wall” example… everyone is clumsy once in a while, why are we so critical of ourselves?  If you turned and saw people staring, maybe even smirking, that’s usually when embarrassment comes into play.

But why?

If you turned and saw no one, you would feel nothing.  What does that mean?

We make that choice to feel embarrassed.

Principle 2:  Judgement is linked to Insecurity

I also believe there is a strong correlation between the level of judgement and the level of insecurity that person feels.

In other words…

The more you judge, the more insecure you may be; in theory.

We all know judgments happen and almost constantly so in public settings.  Even though people may not care about you, or care to know you, we care how they feel and think about us- to the degree at which we judge others.

There is a reward we all receive intrinsically for being “accepted” by those around you.  Humans are reward seekers; as is all other forms of life.

A new person’s judgments are like fun, mini-validations of living the right way.  Endorphins gained from a compliment can change the overall feel of someone’s day.

Sometimes a stranger’s quick judgement of you (good or bad) based on limited information is highly important to us.

Well, hold on a second.

I thought only important people in our lives hold this sort of weight upon us; perhaps you’ll never see that person again

So how can this be true?

Due to the craving to know who we are, we give unpredictable and immeasurable weight to the quick judgments of those we don’t know so well, or at all.  It’s almost as if the more desperate, or lonely and searching, a person is, the more seriously random judgment is taken.

On the latter of that thought, a fulfilled and satisfied person may give very little to no weight on random judgments.

Insecurity skews reality and makes you forget that the person has no idea about anything else you’ve done or accomplished in your life.  Even if you made a mistake and know it, the judgement is extreme because that person only has that very limited information about you.

Limited information = ignorance.

For whatever reason, I don’t readily think ignorance when I’m faced with someone else’s quick judgement whom I do not know personally.  I think it’s because I give them the benefit of doubt that maybe they do have ground to stand on with their opinions and judgments.

So, skewed by my own insecurity, I recognize ignorance in myself; as oppose to the ignorance of the other.

Principle 3:  Judgement is a Defense Mechanism

Judging others isn’t always a bad thing.  And I know a big part of it is for self-preservation (a defense mechanism).  Judgments stem from values instilled by others (those most important to us) and personal experience.

If your judgments are screaming danger based on those things, you should not treat is as if it is the first time you’ve encountered whatever it is.

Stated that way it sounds reasonable.  But consider the word racism.

A brief real life example…

I was jumped by a gang of about 15 black people.  I say gang, because the gang had an official name, I say black because they were all black.  One of them struck me on the side of the head with a 2 by 4 piece of wood, with nails sticking out the end of it.

What they didn’t realize was my being a Marine veteran and my roommate was an Army veteran- a true American war hero.   So we jumped right back.  But it was still a looong recovery and legal proceedings that ensued.

My heart is actually pounding right now thinking about this.  That is how a judgement is learned and ingrained for future use.

That makes me feel better about it.  I feel as if it is my own, uncovered by myself.

The point is now when I see a group of black people walking towards me, with a similar fashion sense to those that jumped me (not business suits), I will not be comfortable.  I will try to avoid the situation altogether.

Yes, in some cases that can be misconstrued as racism, because the group of black people may actually be very nice people.  But my instincts tell me I might not get a second chance to even find that out.

This is a learned judgement drawn from personal experience, not so much instilled from other sources like media and societal influences.

These Judgement Principles play out within each of us every day, and we apply them to everyone and everything-equally.

The Final Piece:

[2.6] The Identity

Previous Piece:

[2.5] Validation

[2.4] Validation

To seek validation is to confide.

My experience in confiding in those close to me is that sometimes they cannot handle it and that confiding in other people needs to be kept with the person [being confided in], in mind, not just all you.

They are only receiving the information you tell them, not the full story by a long shot. They aren’t privy to facial expressions, situational factors, things you’ve misconstrued, or anything else [that you don’t tell them, or that they cannot experience for themselves].

After learning my lesson slowly, I’ve found that you need to be careful what you say and who you say it to- as obvious as that may sound – a family member, spouse, best friend may not be ideal.  Especially if circles cross.

This doesn’t mean those confided in would tell others about what was said.  A private conversation is usually kept rather private.

But they can never be exactly where you are, see and experienced what you have, so what you are saying will never be equal and fair information.

They are only getting your side.

A simple example is that if I were to confide in person A about person B, person A may start to take the new information and form judgement about person B [without even interacting with B].

And person A will begin to change the way they treat person B; leaving person B very confused.

That’s why we shouldn’t jump to conclusions when the grapevine comes along informing us of second, third, or more hand information.  That goes for products, opinions, thoughts on life, whatever.

It leads to chaos, confusion, and no one knows why something happened.  Heed caution when others confide in you to not alter your judgments without sound reason.

A Quick Note…

Someone very close to me inspired me by example to start this blog.  Until very recently, I’ve always kept my personal thoughts toward life, people, and the way things are confined to the hard drive of my computer.

I was neglecting myself from outside validation.

Writing is my escape.  My release from the stuff I don’t say for one reason or another.  Mostly because I feel bad for overpowering people with my stupid thoughts on life and questions and observations that run sprints in my mind every day.

I’ve learned to just simply stop myself and bottle up all of those unanswered questions, however irrelevant they may be.

Well, bottling never does the trick, and I can’t seem to shut up sometimes, so I am admitting that I need outside validation from these inner turmoils that prove inappropriate in public settings.

Live Writing is my confidant…

I’m sick of writing dated word documents as if it were a journal to myself.

“Knowing” no one is going to read your journal only allows you to be more honest and blunt about the way you feel.

It doesn’t address the validation of someone else knowing about what you are going through.  Just one other human being to know what you are thinking so you can gauge whether you are crazy or completely sane.

I’ve found myself in some pretty rough states because of that question being unanswered.

Without validation, I am in a purgatory of what is normal.

So I am going to not only continue writing, but post the writings of the past; some of which are very dark.  Just the thought makes me feel vulnerable and insecure, but I think I’m about ready for public validation.

Assuming this is all worthy, of course.

It’s validation that makes the risk worth the reward; whether it comes from within or from other people.

In the Marine Corps, the louder you yelled and the more forceful your words are (and the more you drank) earned respect points (the reward).  Of course this is a very much abbreviated version of a respected Marine, so don’t think too much into that.

In the suburban society I currently preside in, a raised voice can mean danger and stay away.  Drinking too much means you have a problem. So I adjust my behaviors to what the society I’m around most of the time views me as “normal”.

It gets hard when you are around different groups of people, and all of them have a different “normal”.

That begs the question, what is my “normal”?

For now, it seems as if I am one of a small few with this version of normal.  It made me feel lonely and depressed as a kid, and continues to do so even while I’m in a room full of people who love and care about me.

But I think I’m getting closer and closer every day.

Next Piece:  

[2.5] The Judgement Principles

Previous Piece:

[2.3] The Little Picture

[2.3] The Little Picture

The question here is…  

Do the people most important to you really matter?

Or is it some innate need we have to cling to those closest to us in order to measure the type of person we are in this world.

Consider these scenarios:  those that have lost parents as children (or lack stable family structure) or those that have lost parents as adults.   I’ve had neither happen, but it certainly seems like the children have above average trouble figuring out their place in this world.

And for the adults that have lost their parents, it looks as if their entire world had been flipped upside down.  A parent dying is like a bad earthquake that destroyed foundation of the house they’ve been building on all their life.

Who is right and who is wrong?  What is right and what is wrong?

This is the foundation of all of our lives.  This is how we define our value and ethical systems.  The answers to these questions gives us directions on how to conduct ourselves each day.

Without them, we are hopeless wanderers that might as well flip a coin to make decisions.

The children have to write their own directions.  The adults, it’s as if their directions got ripped up and thrown away.

Regarding the children, it’s not that their foundation has cracked, it’s that they are trying to build a house on quicksand.

1 step forward, 3 steps back.

However, I believe anyone, including these children, has the potential to thrust themselves out of their environmental issues beyond their control.

With that said, there’s a lot working against these children’s efforts and they have to find validation from within at a very young age.  This is a must for any sort of faith to exist that the path they are on and the things they are doing are the right things to do.

Trusting others probably didn’t go so well when they learned it from the world of strangers and not their parents.

As far as those foundational questions that help each of us write our own unique life directions…  the answers are up to you-

the person asking them.

Only you decide who and what is right/wrong, and only you have to live and deal with the consequences of your actions.  No matter how important someone is to you, they are not guaranteed in your life.

Then what.

You become lost for a while until something fills the gap and helps you figure out who you are in the world.

Ahh… Relief from not knowing who you are.

If this is true, grief from death is an act of self-interest.  But that doesn’t sound right.

There are other factors to how death impacts your life beside how you measure yourself as a person.  What I mean is that that self-interest I’m referring to is the craving we all have to find out who we are.

To not know who we are, is to live out each of our days as a helpless wanderer, and it is no way to honor whatever gift life is. 

So we search and search until that gap is filled, and we are whole again.

I guess I’m begging the question of whether or not that ordeal is even necessary.

Can I be important enough to myself to be able to measure who I am based on my very own reactions and judgments?

After all, I have judgments and I am an important person in others’ lives.  That means I can very well become that gap in someone else’s life on the other side of this argument.

So I am, in effect, the very person I’m trying to impress.  I just don’t think of it that way.

Next Piece:  [2.4] Validation

Previous:  [2.2] The Big Picture

[2.2] The Big Picture

People make conclusions about themselves based on who they are around most of the time.  Or at least they measure themselves relative to the most important people in their lives and that’s how they find their ‘place’ in the world.

It is those people most important whose judgments matter the most to us.  A negative interaction with an important person can impact your perceptions and emotions dramatically.

What is it about one person that can have this much of an effect on you?

Add-in the fact and knowing that people die and it’s starting to sound as if we are leaving ourselves quite vulnerable to hardship on purpose.

Two thoughts come to mind.  First, this all seems counter intuitive by purposely leaving ourselves vulnerable to pain.  Second, is that there are billions of other people out there who’s judgments mean nothing to you, or will never have an effect like this one person’s.

So why do we not choose these “important people” more carefully?

The risks you take may or may not be worth it in the end; but you’ll  never know that until the end happens. That’s the game of life-

To figure out what deserves your time and effort… and what doesn’t.

Furthermore, a large quantity of people (whom you probably don’t know) can be a good match for an important person.  The amount of people that disagree, or have opposing views, can also impact you dramatically.

That being said, if the entire country of Africa hated me, would I care?  Maybe, maybe not so much.  Perhaps I wouldn’t because the entire country does not affect my day to day life here in Buffalo, NY.  I’m not reminded by the hatred of an entire country (for whatever it was).  Perhaps, it would be relatively easy to move on from the actions that caused the hatred.

However, if America were to hate me all the same, it would truly impact the way I feel about myself.  Everyone I’ve ever known in my life, all of my effort into being a good person to others, would feel like a waste.  I would feel like a waste.

To be back on square 1, just a little older.  Like the beginning of a fight I had just finished losing.

But why?  If the majority of people on Earth don’t even know me, why would a few people’s take on me and on the things I do bother me so much?

It’s because I decide what and who is important to me.  The ones I’ve found most important to me are the people closest to me both geographically and emotionally.  I choose to weigh their opinions and judgments with a higher value than that of strangers.  And I choose how I react to those judgments.

But these things are nothing more than mere choices.

Next Piece:  [2.3] The Little Picture

Previous Piece:  [2.1] Lonely Road?

[2.1] Lonely Road?

[2.1]  Lonely Road?

If everyone were to disappear, who would I be? 

Am I living life the way I want to live it?  Have I adjusted myself to society’s norms, so subtly over time, that I’ve become a sort of actor in my own life?

I heard a speaker, Greg Duncan, ask, “If you were to be told you would die in 5 years, what changes would you make?” His point was if the answer is a lot of things, then you are not living the right way.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but there are times I’m afraid I’ve grown into my non-self.  Lost, am I… watching my carefully calculated decisions impact the life I am living.

I just feel as if there is a disconnect between the me I see, and the me the world sees.  And as I mask my true intentions around others more and more, it’s as if I am getting further away from my true self.

Changing tones, I think I believe in fate.  Or I at least fall victim to the ideology at times.  I believe what is going to happen has already happened; I just don’t know it yet.

That would certainly make the question of whether or not I’m on the right path an easy one…

I’m on the only path.

It’s strange, though.  At the same time, I feel as if I have control over my actions and can change my mind at any time.  Then fate comes around and I realize my mind has already changed, and the new direction I feel I’m going, is but the same exact direction I had already been on.

What was going to happen, is going to happen; the stress and anxiety was just a part of the journey; impacting my actions and decisions accordingly.


Fate is a lazy excuse for things beyond my control, but I truly believe my decisions are my own, forever and always.  That doesn’t mean they aren’t strongly influenced by what and who I find most important in life; an influence that stems from insecurity and me not truly knowing who I am or what kind of person I want to be.

If I knew that, hard decisions would be not so hard.  Less variables to consider and impress.  It would just be me.

I thought of this the other day, I’m sure I’m not the first:

“You don’t need validation from others… Impress yourself.”

Easier said than done.  The problem isn’t from logic and reason, it’s the powerful emotions you feel (love, lust, grief, desire…) that sway your decisions.

It’s a lonely road when you only try to impress yourself.

Seeking validation from within is self-sufficient behavior and it expresses itself to others as apparent confidence.

Confidence because you don’t need their judgments and reassurances; they no longer effect you.  You are the judge of yourself.

It is the powerful emotional cocktail that flows through your veins that makes rational thinking  feel like driving with your eyes closed.

The only downfall of this journey to personal transcendence is missing the past and what and who was once important to you… Hence, the lonely road.

Next Piece:   [2.2] The Big Picture