Being Real

If you could be reborn again, what would you come back as? This is not an if, but a what. Would you come back as yourself? I’d come back as a tortoise. They have it figured out. They eat leaves and bathe in the sun. They’re wise as hell too. Slow and steady wins the race, right?

There was my mistake. I thought I had to die to be reborn. I didn’t know I was changing every second. Turns out you’re not doomed to the life you’re born to. There are always avenues for change, for new beginnings.

I fucked up. I’ll admit that much. I was going to hackathons thinking I was hot shit. I was satirizing them. I was winning them. The CTO of NYC personally awarded my team and I for a shiny project we made that didn’t work. It was great. I let it go to my head. I started failing classes. I screwed over a friend who was trying to help me (sorry Hanne).

I let myself be under a lot of pressure for no reason. If I was a tortoise, I would have moved slowly and carefully. But the lure of the hare can be so tempting. I wanted to keep pedaling, to keep accelerating. There’s a funny thing about being a hare though: no matter how fast you’re going, you eventually trip up. You don’t win the race.

I stopped school in December. I tried to start a startup. It was ambitious and had no funding or profit model. It failed. Life is a process. There’s failures, there’s successes. Sometimes you learn, sometimes you make the same mistake over and over. I couldn’t be honest with myself. I wanted my previous successes to continue, but I was a tired hare, and the tortoises were starting to pass me by.

The color drained from my vision. Rock bottom is a funny place to be. You either mire in it and die, or you figure out a way to get back up. This time, with a hardened shell. You start crawling; walking, even. It doesn’t even matter how quickly you move. Why not enjoy the scenery? All that matters is that you keep moving. You can’t keep still. Humans are mostly water. Do you know what happens when water stagnates? It festers.

When was the last time you were excited about something? Tried something you were afraid to do? When was the last time you felt truly afraid?

Those waves of fear we feel break on the shoreline of trust. They break in knowing that everything will be alright. To know that dying doing something we dreamed and feared doing is still better than having lived in fear never trying at all. That if we can forgive ourselves as much as we forgive others, anything is possible. When was the last time you truly trusted in anyone? In anything? In yourself?

When I look up at the stars at night, I know that when our ancestors were crossing continents, oceans, rivers, mountains, foxholes and trenches, that they looked up at the same constellations. That the things I worry about today would have been petty and paltry concerns to them. It makes me feel smaller. It puts things into perspective. It makes me trust.

When we fixate on concerns of any scale, we can always make them out to be big. Humans are anxiety machines. If it wasn’t anxiety about eating food, it was anxiety about becoming food that helped us survive. But those threats are gone, and so our anxiety machine finds other things to fixate on. We’ll even be anxious about germs if we’re safe enough.

It’s easy to forget sometimes that there’s a world out there. A world with billions of people who you will never truly meet. People trying to go to space. People trying to find clean water. People climbing mountains and walking across China. It’s easy to forget that you don’t have to be stuck. That you can go other places. That people actually love each other and want to help each other.

Have you ever slept in a stranger’s home? They’ll treat you like their own child. Sites like Couchsurfing and Warm Showers help restore faith in the human race. You find out first-hand that technology doesn’t have to be used to profit off of sharing. It doesn’t have to be used to profit at all. It can be used to help people help each other. Isn’t that what we’re here for? To care for, respect, and help each other?

I think so. And I think sometimes we forget this. I forget it all the time. As soon as I start stagnating, start staying in one place, I forget how small my worries are in the grand scheme of things. That every battle I fight now has been fought before, but with different characters and settings. I forget that worrying helps no one. I forget that walking slowly as a tortoise to my destination is infinitely better than sprinting in circles as a hare. That life isn’t a race to be rushed, but a calm journey to be enjoyed.

It may sound cliche, but my struggles aren’t new. They’re the same struggles many of us have faced, just sprawled out on a digital landscape. I forget to be real and be open. But that’s where the soul lies.

I’ll try my best next time.