On Living: A Genuine Moment

Gabriel Pham
Jun 18, 2019 · 5 min read

“The optimism that’s not naive is just a visualization of just how strong people can be. … I’m not making light of people’s grief. I understand grief. But who do you want to be when there’s a crisis? Don’t you want to be the person that everyone can turn to for strength? Why the hell not? Why not that as a goal? That would be a good goal.”
-Jordan Peterson

This is meant for no one in particular, but for everyone in general because throughout all professions, among all groups, in every part of the world, at every stage of life, across all social standings, with respect to all beliefs and perspectives, so many people have already sacrificed so much. So many people are still making sacrifices at this very moment. And so many people will continue to make sacrifices in the future. And that is the great tragedy and the great beauty of our era.

I could never know your infinite complexities or your intrinsic and valuable uniqueness. I can never appreciate the magnitude, scope, or quantity of personal experiences, cultural contexts, social dynamics, and intimate relationships that shape the circumstances of your life. I don’t know if things will get better, and if there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it is so distant as to not even be there. And it just feels selfish for me to say that you should act now to make the world a better place when you’re already struggling and striving so hard and for so long just to feel like you’re decently getting by.

I don’t know what it is that you should do. I can barely answer that question for myself. Over the past 2 years, I’ve experienced so much loss, so much sadness, so much grief, and so much disappointment. The scars of my past run deeply into the present, and nothing in the future will replace what’s been lost to time and circumstance. There are so many words and actions that I can never take back; the effects of which led to pain, sadness, and sorrow that I can never undo.

I don’t know how it is that anyone is supposed to act. But I still act. I don’t act because it might make things better. I act because we’ve all already lost so much; because of the ones we’ve lost; because all we have left to lose is each other. I’m not going to lose the relationships that I love and hold dear without expending all my energy to extend my hand to them. I’m not going to lose the people and values I care about without holding onto them with all my vitality and effort — regardless of how pathetic and small and little that is.

It never amounted to much. I don’t even know if it made a difference. But I’m here now and it’s all that I can do to hopelessly cling to what I cherish and love most in my life. And I’ll still lose those people, those values, and those relationships. But maybe just for a second, they heard my voice, or they saw me reaching out to them, or we shared company for a moment. And maybe just for a second, we didn’t feel so alone. Just for a second, we were there together, we mattered to one another, and we had each other.

For all my second guessing and missteps and fumbles and mistakes, if my acts only amount to this, I’ll take it without hesitation. If it means I can share just a single moment of mutual honesty and acknowledgement with someone’s most genuine self — with its beauty and ugliness, with its consistencies and contradictions, with its kindness and compassion, with its triumphs and shortcomings — then I am glad for all of it.

I’m not strong enough to protect the things that matter to me. I’m not able enough to save that which I care for most. I’m not wise enough to fix the most broken aspects of my life. But if all I can do with my willful acts of love is make these fleetingly small and quiet moments with someone else, then so be it. If only for the briefest instance I make a connection of shared authentic and lived experience with someone else, the pain and uncertainty of acting will have been worth it. How rare are those genuine moments of shared compassion? And how valuable are those uniquely human moments of shared vulnerability and shared dignity when weighed against the emptiness and isolation and aimlessness we experience so regularly?

I can’t say whether or not things are going to be OK. To be honest, it’s really tough for me to hold onto hope sometimes. And I’ve let so many people down in my life that I doubt I can make any difference at all. But I am here. And I still care. And I am doing my best, no matter how ugly and dumb it looks and sounds.

So act now. Not to make things better. But to make the people you love most know that you’re there — bruises, scrapes, smallness, shortcomings, failures and all. We’ve all lost so much. I’ve made terrible decisions, but nothing is more unbearable than walking away when you know that you didn’t do everything you could to stay. I’ve acted immaturely, foolishly, and mistakenly at times, but nothing has caused me more suffering and more shame than disappointing the people that believed in me with my inaction and paralytic self-doubt.

So act. Because I can’t stand the thought of someone else living my worst mistake.

So act. Don’t live the tragedy of never letting the lost know that it was loved too.

So act. Don’t disappear from our lives without letting us know your most honest self, your most genuine life, and your most authentic heart.

So act. Because you don’t deserve anything less than the very best that you have to offer.

So act. Because you don’t have to wait any longer for your turn or anxiously wonder for that one chance to shine bright in front of others. You can be radiant and incandescent to everyone around you right now. Within your most secret heart of hearts, I know it’s there and I know that you can.

So act. Hope that this winter can be spent with the people that mean the most to you and share with them that closely guarded but deeply enduring love within you.

It’s all that you can ask for. But in my life, I’ve found that all you can ever ask for is more than you could ever hope for. -GP

“This is something you’re going to have to contend with if you’re going to be alive and adult. You have to contend with death and suffering. And you have to be ready for it, and you have to be there for the person. Because that’s all they’re gonna have.”
-Jordan Peterson

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