La vida color rosa… Camila’s words stick in my mind. I hear them on repeat, day in and day out.
Adjacently, I am told to write about a struggle in my life graduate school personal statements. I avoid addressing such prompts; I hate speaking about struggles. It is more relevant to discuss what we do with struggle than how struggle developed. Then I remember the rawness I bring into my writings; the freedom, strength, and release I feel when being vulnerable and self-critical. When I am honest with myself, I find solidarity within myself; I find growth and change. So if I do not negate the importance of addressing struggles within myself, why do I refuse to speak about struggles with others? The qualities I use for personal growth; observations, analysis, honesty, and realism; can be shared in my interpersonal interactions. I have not been doing this, however. Instead, I have been living in the clouds.
I have been painting my life “color rosa”. At first a coping mechanism, this extreme optimisms grew into a bad habit, at best, and destructive, at worst. It began 3 years ago, when at age 20, I demolished my sense of self and world when I quit horseback riding, the sport that was my whole world and source of security. When I made my decision to quit, it was with an awareness of the difficult path of life-reconstruction that lay in front of me. Tears and self-doubt plagued me during the first year, I felt emotionally crippled and unable to process the world around me. This was when I developed new modes of operating, or coping mechanisms, to deal with the intense changes. I tried finding the beauty in my pain, locating the humor in my struggles, and revealing the lightness in my bleakness. Furthermore, I adopted a more “childish” demeanor to free myself from past constraints and enter a phase of “exploration”. I believe these shifts within me were a necessary part of self reinvention.
New View Points
My new approach enabled me to see the world through the eyes of a child, ignoring the stains of failure, loss, and pain. I explored life’s possibilities with the openness of a child, asking myself “what if” rather than dismissing possibilities. I was okay with acting a fool, therefore I was open to failing, again and again. I moved on quickly from that which did not interest me, waiting for interests to stick. However, by learning to see the world as a child, I learned to see it as a single color: beauty. I cut myself off from the world’s many colors because I wanted to live in a quasi-dream-state.
Life As Color Rosa
Seeing the world only as beauty manifested into a constricted mode of perceiving, experiencing, and sharing. To go about life in a hyper-explorative, child-like state of mind denies me the many pleasures and realities that make up life. This viewpoint makes it more difficult to connect to people who are experiencing darker colors and derails me from entering into those stages. If I only choose to see the beauty in situations, I deny myself the experiences of sadness, failure, and strife. I am not proposing to sulk in sadness, but we should feel it rather than paint sadness as with the same color used for happiness. Both eternal optimism and pessimism negate reality because they blend experiences into one dull, monotone emotion.
A realist, on the other hand, recognizes that there are truths about the world that one may not like. Often, truths reflect social-constructs rather than hard facts, for example, public behavior, expectations of adults, social customs. However, constructs are a part of our human reality. Constructs are, by definition, made up by people and they are a part of social order, so while an animal does not have a socially constructed reality, a human necessarily. Recognizing these constructs as guidelines in behavior and life-possibilities shows us where we stand in life and gives us clues of where to go from there. We can choose to challenge constructs, but negating their existence is destructive and foolish. Additionally, those that desire to challenge constructs must be selective in their rebellion. To become a realist, and a leader is to accept these constructs and selectively challenge the truths that constrict progress. To be a pessimist is to believe that all social constructs are useless and inauthentic. But how can authenticity exist without the existence of social constructs? They are two sides of the same coin, and we cannot have one without the other. Falling in line with social constructs provide order and rhythm to life; it is the foundation of culture. Authenticity emerges from the recognition of social constructs and the progression towards dropping the habitual behaviors that do not suit you. It is a slow progression, and it begins first in the acceptance, awareness, and analysis of our self-to-world relationship. This analysis cannot take place if we refuse to see only the negative or only the positive.
I have instead denied the weight of struggles and built a way of behaving that flies in the face of societal expectations, specifically against my American culture. For example, I became fascinated with the concept of split-decision making and one’s ability to make a decision, at any moment, based on complete randomness. I started to test limitations by engaging with random, last-minute decisions and watching other people’s reactions. When someone fails to meet your predictions, the planned responses of anticipation, prediction, and planning re no longer applicable—throwing us off. Once in a while, this is a useful tactic; it forces us to readjust our narrow perception and foresight. Done too often, people perceive you as erratic, unpredictable, and unreliable. When I began this experiment, I enjoyed surprising people. Now, I can’t stop making unpredictable decisions; it has become a bad habit. I am now trapped in this behavior that makes me appear childlike and unreliably, but worse still is that I no longer trust myself to make predictable decisions. I see myself as erratic and unpredictable and I have lost faith in my reliability to myself.
What Can I Know?
As I trace the lineage of this behavior, I realize that this erraticism evolved from a deeper place still. I spent my life planning for my career in horseback riding, and when that plan failed and my dream died, I asked myself: “If I could not know this about myself if I cannot be certain in this, what can I know and what can I plan for?” By thoroughly planning my riding career, I set myself up for achievement; but when I achieved my dream, I had to face the fact that I did not want it. When I realized this fact, I then had to take steps to find a new dream, which is best done through deep exploration; however, once I found this dream, I was afraid to lay claim to it. I believe this is because when you claim something like your dream, and you take the steps to achieve it, you are setting yourself up for potential failure or success. You are laying claim to something that has value to you and, perhaps, to others. And if your plan does not work, if something goes wrong; you are derailed or you fail, then you must deal with the aftermath. To claim something like a dream, you must engage in some kind of behavior conformity and life-planning that creates the potential for failure.
Failing at your dreams is deeper than failing at a new activity or hobby. When you invest in something with dedication, commitment, and trust and it ends, you are left devastated. This is what I felt when I quit riding; I felt like a fool and a failure. I stopped planning or preparing because I lost faith in myself to select goals. If I could not predict the end of my riding career, the most important thing to me, then what can I predict? I preferred to leave my life up with fate, “the flow”, but in reality, I did not trust myself to know what I wanted nor to execute properly. I stopped goal setting, I stopped planning, and I stopped achieving, reducing these activities to mere social-constructs and illusions of grandeur. While I have learned a great deal from embracing a “laissez-faire, world-as-pink” attitude, I have also been denying myself a sense of accomplishment.
For One’s Self
By denying myself, I am failing to lay claim and follow through on my goals, which lets down other people and myself. Worse still, I have become so unpredictable and laissez faire that my word now means less to others—and myself. I do not trust myself to follow through anymore. That is scary. It’s become a part of me, but it is a superficial exterior. I am an incredibly goal-oriented, driven person. Horseback riding taught me how to accomplish goals and stay consistent, committed, and secure. I was born with these qualities and my sport refined this into hard skills. Since then, I have relied on my abilities to achieve as skills that are “ingrained” within me. Now I realize that there must be some follow-through, some work, and reliability established in my daily behavior to obtain my goals. I want my word to mean something, I want to plan for success, and I intend to actualize my dreams. So right now, I want to lay claim to the most important dreams I have in my head, and explain my first steps in obtaining them.
I want a Ph.D….. I am beginning with a Master’s degree.
I want to become a published author. …. I am beginning by routinely writing, blogging, and reading.
I want to learn other languages…….I am beginning with Spanish.
I want to improve the world….. I am beginning with my education.
I want to recognize the “non-beautiful” aspects of life and myself: scars, failures, and disappointments…… I will stop finding positives or negatives and see things for what they are.
I want to embrace my maturity again by goal setting, planning, and following through….. I will stop not avidly seeking to shock people, rebel against constructs, or shift my persona and instead rely on natural rhythms in interactions.
I want to acknowledge my strengths, certainties, and securities….. I will use my strength to go after what I want and demonstrate that I still have these qualities.