Don’t Have To

This past week I was chatting with a friend of mine who lives far out of province, and we were talking about the challenges of maturing and changing. That might seem pretentious; we certainly didn’t start there in the conversation, but this friend is one in particular that I’ve often talked on this level with. I really value the friendship! He’s done a remarkable amount of personal growth in the past bunch of years, and when I pointed that out, he fired it back at me.

As I often do, I deflected and self-deprecated, claiming that most of the learning I’ve done, especially in my 30s, has been “against my will”. I also made a sort of half-joke I’ve made pretty often, which is that personal growth is exhausting (this is sometimes true) and every so often I’d like to just announce that I’m stagnating for the next few months, and hide under a pile of coats from any and all ‘learning’ and ‘growth’.

(The “pile of coats” is key for some reason. It’s an image I borrowed from The Simpsons and I use it every time. I even searched this blog for “coats” to make sure I hadn’t already done this bit here)

Reading my words back after I’d sent them to my friend, I remembered a bit I’d heard recently in the audiobook of Nonviolent Communication by Marshall P. Rosenberg. In it, he talks about the things we tell ourselves we “have” to do; dishes, pay bills, go to work, or in my case, mature as a human being. He goes through an exercise where you write out the thing you have to do–

I have to keep growing as a person

Then, change the “have to” to “choose to”

I choose to keep growing as a person

And finally, add “because” at the end, then fill in your reason.

I choose to keep growing as a person because I really do think it’s better than the alternative.

Rosenberg encourages this exercise for all areas of our lives, and it clicked with me that I really don’t have to be making any progress in terms or growth or maturity at all. I could absolutely ‘check out’ every day. Probably untold numbers of dudes in my position have, throughout history. Disconnected from things that fill them up, never trying to understand another’s point of view, never bothering to do the work of improving themselves, even for the sake of a partner or family.

But I don’t, and I don’t want to, and I really don’t give myself enough credit for trying. I know growth isn’t linear, and I won’t do it perfectly every day, but I am trying, and I do myself a disservice by pretending that I’m just some dullard who’s somehow forced to accept new ways of thinking about himself and the world.

So I’m gonna try to stop! Time to put the metaphorical pile of coats in a closet, or better yet, give them to metaphorical goodwill. I don’t know what the goodwill represents in this scenario. This metaphor got away on me extremely quickly.

Thing I Saw: A creepy YouTube short called Backrooms, which apparently has a few related videos by the creator and has spawned a cottage industry of fan creators AND of course those annoying “SLIGHTLY MYSTERIOUS THING FINALLY EXPLAINED!” videos. Gosh, I dislike those. Let something weird just…be weird. Anyway, this short reintroduced me to the concept of “liminal spaces” which is a great search on Tumblr, and the whole thing was apparently created by a 16-year-old using free tools! Amazing!

Thing I Learned: If you’re watering an African Violet, water the dirt, not the leaves. I know this because Cassidy gave me one for Father’s Day (she is 5 and we are still working on “picking a gift based on what the other person likes, not what you personally like and think they should”. It is in my office, in indirect sunlight, recently transplanted into a proper little clay pot and everything. I hope it lives. It sounds like a challenging flower to keep alive, and I’ve killed two cacti so far lol

I’m Grateful For: Kids that react positively to my presence.

I’m Dreaming Of: Continuing to play/record the game INSIDE which I will probably do after I finish this post. Future Nathan Plays?? We’ll seeeee

Bonus Thing I Learned: This artist is the bandleader for Stephen Colbert’s show? huh