My motto on various social networking sites has always been “In pursuit of truth and beauty.” In reflecting on 2013 and what I hope for 2014, I’ve realized just how apt it is. Maybe I’m stretching the meanings a little bit, but I’m okay with that. So my official 2014 resolution is to “pursue truth and beauty” – with all of the nuance that entails.
I’m not a fan of uncertainty. I plan in advance, sort out options in my head, and generally like to put things into their little boxes. But I’m starting to see that learning – that thing I profess to love, that drives my career – is uncertainty. Learning is saying, “I don’t have all the answers and I don’t know what they are, but I’m going to try to find them.” It’s saying, “I may be very bad at this [skill, job, activity] but I’m going to give it a shot even if I don’t know if I’ll get anywhere.” Learning is exploring, opening up, finding, and re-discovering.
In college, my style of essay writing was always feverish. Once I got into the 400-level philosophy classes, they stopped giving us actual questions to respond to; instead, we had a general theme and could come up with our own argument. After we got an assignment, the rest of my day would be spent feverishly researching, trying to pin down this big uncertainty of a thesis before it drove me nuts.
But this isn’t a good model for life, going back and forth between the complacency of having the answers and stressful discomfort with uncertainty. The learning happens when I settle myself in research mode and don’t demand the answers to come now. I’ll never be done figuring out life; I’ll never get my A and be able to rest easy.
My motto is not to possess truth and beauty, but to pursue it.
In my original formulation, the truth I was pursuing was knowledge: knowledge about things like innovation, psychology, and morality. But there’s another, slightly less lofty truth I want to pursue in 2014: the truth that’s right under my nose.
One of my great afflictions is the well-honed talent of worrying about things I can’t control, like my health or whether the plane’s going to be late. And while I see that this is incredibly dumb – and a huge waste of time – it continues. In 2014, I vow to ask myself: can I change this? And we know what happens when you ask yourself this question:
Sometimes it feels like my stance toward the world is too tense. I’m fighting and resisting and struggling: I can’t believe things are this way, I don’t want them to be this way, and I get preoccupied wishing they were different. I want to relax my grip on life, and just Let Go. Breathe. Phew, doesn’t that feel better?
Finally, on the positive side, is beauty. And beauty isn’t just those rare sunrises and symphonies and cozy restaurants that come into my life every so often. Now – particularly with the help of the Happier app – I’m starting to see beauty in more places. This morning, I saw the blue-and-yellow morning sky streaming through the windows of the gym. The other day, I saw my boyfriend’s eyes crinkle into a smile. Decorating the tree, I saw a deep red, glittering ornament in the shape of a hot air balloon.
I often live in the future, planning for the long term and doing the right things, forgoing pleasures for productivity. Finding beauty in the little things is just one way of being happy in the present – and, in some sense, isn’t a string of happy days all anyone wants? After seeing beauty, the next step is to go further and be grateful for it. I’m taking Happier’s Everyday Grateful course in January, and I’ll be reporting on how that goes.
My final insight from 2013 is to see the positive, the beauty, within myself. I may want to be less stressed, more patient, and more successful. But that falls under the “pursuing” category – life is a journey, and I’m working on it. For now, I do my best to be a good girlfriend, daughter, and sister; I exercise and take care of my body; I’m proud of the work I do; and I take my principles seriously. Life may be messy and uncertain and uncontrollable, but this – who I am – I can control. I can cultivate and nurture and grow, while being happy at any given moment with what I’ve created. It’s a delicate dance of striving and contentment, and I’m still learning the steps.
Worry chart by: JoyReactor