August 4, 2017

Transformations, for Better or Worse

There are certain transformations that happen to all of us at certain times, most of which are difficult to observe from our own perspective. No, I don’t mean like the kind that happens when you accidentally test out a teleporter device while a fly is stuck in it with you. I mean that we all undergo various transformative moments throughout not just our life in the broader sense, but every day and in everything we do. When we drop a couple of bucks in the bucket for the bell-ringing Santa guys around the holidays, we tend to walk off from such a minor action feeling just slightly better about ourselves, transformed in some tiny way that puts off a glow of charitability. After a romantic romp with our spouse, we tend to go into work the next day with a slight glow of romanticism or just plain feeling good and accomplished about what recently transformed our attitude, and maybe even woke the neighbors up if you had a really romantic time.

On the other hand, we have to remember that street goes both ways. How many times have you won a fight or just an argument and felt triumphant right afterwards, but then slightly less awesome after more time went by and you realized that no one actually wins fights and arguments? Have you ever had to break up with someone, but genuinely didn’t want to hurt their feelings? Usually, that kind of situation doesn’t go well no matter how well intended you may be, and you probably walk away with another type of glow; one that’s less, well, glow-y and more dark and depressing. A lot of business owners and managers experience this more often than they’d like when they have to fire or lay off an employee—at least the ones who don’t enjoy that sort of thing.

It’s almost as though the more good things you do, the more awesome kind of person you become.
Every action we take has some kind of transformative effect on who we are, from large to small, seemingly insignificant to perceptibly enormous. Every new love that blossoms, every new friendship struck up over laughter, as well as every death of a loved one, and every betrayal from a trusted friend—everything leaves its mark, for better or worse, and makes us who we are. So, if everything, whether active or passive (active if we’re doing something and passive if something just happens to us), transforms us a little bit, then it would seem like it all would have a cumulative effect. It’s almost as though the more good things you do, the more awesome kind of person you become, or the more bad things you do, the more of a turd you become, right?

Yes, that’s pretty much the size of it. Scale back the perspective for a moment and think in real simple terms. What do you do for a living? If you cook food for a living, then chances are you’re known to the rest of the world as a “cook” or a “chef.” If you work on cars, you’re known as a “mechanic,” plane flyers are called “pilots,” and so on. Whatever it is that you do for a living, chances are you do it a lot, and it not only affects the way people see you, but it also affects how you see the rest of the world. For example, I used to work in film special effects for years, so now every time I watch a movie a can immediately understand how a trick was done, or notice all the screw-ups that made it onto the screen (you see, transformative for better or worse).

This also applies to all sorts of other things too though, not just jobs. If you play video games a lot in your free time, we know you as a “gamer.” If you drink a lot of alcohol, chances are people might know you, at least behind your back, as a “drinker” at best or an “alcoholic” at worst. People who fund regular charities and humanitarian activities are reverently referred to as “philanthropists” to acknowledge their deeds to the public, while folks who run around stabbing people to death are scathingly labelled as “murderers” to the rest of society for everyone else’s protection. All that being said, you can probably now start to think about “what” you are to the rest of the world. But, that’s really not the point of this little article.

It’s about the slow build, the long journey of development.
Who you are inside is important, but what you do is what defines you and ultimately affects who you are on the inside over time. Sure, good people occasionally might piss you off by doing something bad, and bad people might occasionally surprise you with something good. But, it’s about the slow build, the long journey of development. If you’re a self-centered, miserly rich person and you give a little to charity once a year to avoid some extra taxes, your scales are tilted in the wrong direction by the numbers. If you’re a dependable, faithful friend who absentmindedly forgot something important to someone else a time or two, then don’t beat yourself up over it (even if your friends do). Just acknowledge it and make the improvement you want going forward.

Realizing that this is starting to read a uncomfortably like a self-help book, I’ll bring it back to some practical insight. Every time we interact with the world, it’s like a lump of clay being shaped. Some things make big handprints while most things just little dings here and there. Occasionally, something comes along that carefully molds a section of the clay into something pretty interesting and sometimes the small things can cut nasty little gashes all over it. The question to think about is this—Are you an active participant in molding your own clay? There’s a lot of stuff that seems to keep coming along and imposing nasty dents and scrapes on us, despite our best efforts. It’s how life is, sucks most of the time. But, every smile, every laugh, every scowl, and every groan and grumble all make little marks that we usually can’t notice as it’s happening. Too often, we don’t notice until the multitude of small marks result in a much larger and more gradual transformation, very similar to how gaining a bunch of weight doesn’t happen overnight, it happens one Oreo at a time (no offense to Oreos, which I do enjoy).

Remember that every little thing makes a mark, no matter how small it may seem.
Be active in the sculpting process of your life. Shit happens, good things come in small packages, etc., etc. The important thing is that you observe your small transformations along the way and remember that every little thing makes a mark, no matter how small it may seem. If you want to be awesome, do awesome things. If you don’t want to be an ass, don’t do bad things. Whatever it is you want to be, do that thing until the marks and dents add up to a finely crafted sculpture of whatever it is you want. These articles represent me doing that very thing. I’m having a hell of a time getting anything published, which makes me consider myself a “failed writer” on less cheery days. But, I’m still doing the writing, and the word “writer” is still technically in there, I guess. You are what you do, so if you want to be better, then do better.