Always Arriving, Never Arrived

Going to the beach is just what people in Alabama do over spring break. Strike that, it’s what people in half the country do over spring break. That’s why the typically small town of Gulf Shores, Alabama gets overrun by beach dwellers across both Alabama and other states. A colorful cornucopia of license plates trail the cars parked in constant bumper-to-bumper traffic. It comes down to a simple fact. What’s the closest white, sandy, and most importantly warm beach from Birmingham, Alabama? It’s Gulf Shores.

Kentucky?
Ohio?
Minnesota?

Yeah, it’s Gulf Shores, along with the other (even more popular) tourist-trap beach towns across the Florida-Alabama coastline.

No matter where you’re starting from, getting there is really all the same. Find the exit to I-65 South closest to your house, set your cruise control, and highway hypnosis your way all the way to the beach. No matter where you start, be it Montgomery, Alabama or Louisville, Kentucky, it will invariably take one day to get there. Google Maps may say you’ll arrive in three hours. Google Maps is wrong.

Spend a week doing the same things you could do at home, except on vastly overcrowded (and overpriced) beaches. Then come back on Sunday by, you guessed it, finding the closest exit to I-65 North and praying no hungover beach-dweller wrecks the entire interstate. But it doesn’t matter, because even if they did, it would still take a day to get back. It’s inevitable.

As a traveler, there’s always a sense that you’re getting close to your destination but you’re never quite there. And, given enough time to think while driving, you come to the same conclusion in your own life. You’re always arriving, but you’ve never really arrived.

Sure, there are days when you feel so close to who you want to be; to how you envisioned your life being when you were a child in a world with fewer responsibilities and more opportunities for fun and rest. But life always seems to afford precious few opportunities for contentment, and even those moments contain the most sobering reminders that you are, at your core, not completely the person you want to be.

The most deep-rooted of feelings are the ones that nobody cares to talk about. So society boils them down to trite cliches disguised as words of advice.

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”
“Not all who wander are lost.”
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Different people react to the frustration of never feeling self-actualized in different ways. Some are cruel, some are deeply antisocial, and some forcefully cling to a certain personality trait or skill which they think defines them. Really, what you have here is a case of the “human condition,” which, if you ask me, is yet another trite cliche which is lost it’s meaning long ago.

For lack of a better term, the human condition all comes down to this: between striving for financial success, dealing with frustrating family and friends, and being slightly too busy to fulfill all we’re capable of, we lose the parts of ourselves we’ve always dreamed of being.

This is a problem which may not have a solution. You may not ever be able to “have arrived,” but only ever experience the perpetual sense of “arriving.” However, it seems humanity favors those who actively try. There’s a romanticized notion for the travelers of the world; those who throw themselves into environments they are unfamiliar with in order to grow. And yet, people also admire the mentors, the teachers, and the public servants, who help individuals grow and become somebody important. Many of these people rarely leave their hometown, and yet they seem to have a more fulfilled heart than the ailing wanderer.

I’ve seen Ph.D. professors who are so frazzled and openly discontent with their lives that I feared they may fall apart on the spot at any moment. I’ve also seen custodians in the most humble of occupations who seem so content that I’d want to live in their shoes. And the reverse is true as well. So what gives? What is the common denominator?

What makes each of these people uniquely content? I don’t know. I have no facts to back up my claim, no testimonies to indicate commonality, and no psychological profiles to pull from for comparison. But I do have a sneaking suspicion I may know the answer.

These people know that they will never “have arrived.” They know they will always be “arriving.” They know that if they live on this earth a hundred years, a thousand years, or even a million years, that they will always be learning, aging, and maturing. They know that there is something to learn from everybody, and something everyone has to learn from you. They know they are imperfect, and freely admit that vulnerability to those who criticize them. These people are getting through life without ever taking life personally.

So, based on this new information, the information I obtained on my endless, not so endless drive to the beach and back, I think I’ll start by being humble, accepting what I don’t know, and always setting my mind to learning. I think maybe you, dear reader, should consider the same. After all, legend has it that it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Perhaps that expression is not so devoid of meaning after all.

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No Time to Be Normal

Take the entirety of the human race, all of their attributes and quirks and appearances and cultures and nuances. The nerds and the preppy girls. The hipsters and the athletes. Yes, even the nerdy, hipster, preppy girl athletes (I’m sure they exist). Then amalgamate them, all 7 billion of them, into a single individual. It is there that you find that one truly normal individual. Also, he or she is bound to be really lame. And yet most of the world seeks to exist within one standard deviation of that ideal person.

Life becomes about rigid balance, even in relationships. Continue reading

Four Perks of Being an Only Child

I am an only child. I grew up with no siblings, just my mom and my dad. Often when I tell people that, I get looked at almost with pity. While it’s true that being an only child can be a lonely life, it really isn’t so bad. Here’s why:

1. You have a close bond with your parents.

I won’t lie, this isn’t exclusive. In fact, I know a couple of OC’s who’s parents were not particularly involved in their child’s life. Still, buy and large parents tend to value their one child a great deal. This leads to a close parent-child relationship.

2. You get to explore the person that you are.

I value this, and I am fiercely appreciative of my own identity. Everyone is unique, but with siblings that uniqueness is overshadowed by the challenge of living in relationship with others. I enjoys having the time to meditate on my own life.

3. You tend to get a boost in intelligence or creativity. 

In theory, the time spent socializing with siblings when you’re an only child gets replaced by time spent learning, creating, and maturing. This helps the child to discover his or her own talents more easily than with siblings. Of course, that time could also be spent doing number four.

4. You have plenty of time for video games.

Yeah… it’s more likely that you’re just going to become a nerd. Oh well, nerds are awesome.

Tomorrow: Four Drawbacks of Being an Only Child.

Word Count: 246 words.

about the author

Modified Version of Myself

 

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A good writer knows that in order to convey the messages, themes, and stories that he wants to, he has to wrap them in an interesting and compelling package. A reader will not stay tuned for the message if he or she has to get through awful dialog and badly conveyed story points. 

Blogging has an equivalent. A good blogger will not lie, but will pen subtle shifts in reality in order to more closely fit the preconceived notion of “real life.” The blogger will alter reality just enough to where it looks good on paper. Since this phenomenon, to my knowledge, has never been documented before, I will give it a name.

This is the “Modified Version of Myself” principle. 

I am ashamed to admit, I have done it. I haven’t done it as much as most bloggers, but I do it. Let me give you some examples from recent blogs.

From ON MY LITTLE PONY AND BRONIES
In fact, I will say that I’ve only seen one episode of Friendship is Magic in my life.”
Truth: I have actually only watched an internet review of one episode.

From THE GREAT TOILET PAPER DEBATE
“What’s even stranger is that my girlfriend prefers Type B, even though she is far more organized and strict about things being in place than me. I swear she’s even changed the orientation of the toilet paper before when she’s been in my bathroom.”
Truth: My girlfriend confirmed that sehe never once switched around my toilet paper. So either she’s lying or I am.

From GIRLS WITH BOY HAIRCUTS AND THE UNCANNY VALLEY
I admit, rarely a day passes when I don’t mistake a girl for a guy at first glance.”
Truth: This should probably be changed to “rarely a month passes.”

Now, in my defense, these are all from funny blog posts. 

But I was praying this morning, and I don’t want to be like that. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with being a modified version of yourself when you’re writing, but it leads to insincerity. What you, the audience, needs more than ever is truthful statements and human ideas.

God is not impressed when we make our lives seem more exciting for people. In real life, people who do that tend to get found out. I’m a person who is trying to be more than the sum of my parts. I’m trying to be better than the people who try to manipulate their way to the spotlight. If I’m going to be known for my writing, I’m going to be known for who I am.

So no more modified me. You’re going to get the truth, completely. 

My Five Year Plan

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It was suggested to be by a friend of mine that I should create a five year plan. What’s a five year plan? I asked her that question only after Google gave me a list of countries with five year plans for economic recovery. Turns out there’s also a movie called “Five Year Plan.”

It’s probably a brand of perfume, too.

“Hey Matt, I want some Five Year Plan for Christmas!” my girlfriend would say exuberantly. “What’s Five-Year Plan?” I’d ask. “It’s a new fragrance by Taylor Swift.” she’d reply.

Then I’d say, “Oh, you mean like Taylor Swift’s five-year plan to find a steady and constant boyfriend?”

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Nope, turns our a five year plan is just what the name implies. It’s a five year outlook about where you want to be in your live at that time. So, made public for everyone to see, here is where I want to be in five years.

I am going to be married. You know where I’m going with this. And as a wedding gift, my future wife would like to request some “Five Year Plan by Taylor Swift.” It’s a perfume.

I am going to have a Master’s Degree. I graduate this summer with my bachelor’s in communications. I am going straight to Auburn University for my Master’s Degree. They’re paying me to get it. That’s kind of cool. I’ll be more than done with that in five years.

I’m going to find a career that allows me to accomplish things beyond making money. At the end of my life, I don’t want to look back and wish I wasn’t a workaholic. I want to be a person who spent time serving God, being with my family, and changing the world for the better.

I will have published at least one book. I’m almost finished with my first novel. I plan for it to be published, as well as hopefully its sequel.

This blog will be popular. A Link to the Matt will still be going strong, and it will be an entertaining and important blog in the WordPress community. Hey WordPress gods, if you’re out there, I want to be Freshly Pressed!

I’m going to be better than who I am right now. Every day I want to progress. I want to be a person that goes beyond expectations. I want to be kind to another person every day. I want to grow to a better understanding spiritually. I want to learn one more thing about myself and others. When I look back at this blog five years from now, I want to say that Matt is a better human being than he was on December 15, 2013.  

 [Thanks Kimberly Waites for suggesting that I do this!]