Don’t Look Down. [September 21st, 2012]
Don’t look down. It’s an impossible view. The immeasurable void between the things that you are genuinely talented at…and the things that you do to survive. This is the daily pep talk you whisper to coerce yourself back from the ledge, and up into the office elevator. This is the nagging feeling that maybe it’s just you whose view of the world is askew. This is the ladder you drunkenly struggled up as they egged you on, and the sobering doubt that you’ve squandered years climbing up to the wrong heights. The gaping chasm created by wrong-headed success. The well-intentioned mob of loved ones, begging you to jump, with little regard to what your insides will look like even if you land in one piece.
There are truths that few of us were told as children. Words like: “I should have tried harder not to become someone else.” “I should have been less concerned with how much I could make, and more enamored with how well I would sleep at night.“ Or “I should have been braver, when all I had to lose was myself.“ Now, and instead, those sentiments hang frozen in quiet moments. Like untold and unrequited lovers. Like ghosts at the train station. Forever at the same stop, and forever trying to pinpoint the exact moment they found themselves going in the wrong direction.
How many of us are reluctant to sleep in the beds we’ve made for ourselves, but find ourselves forever tripping over the discarded sheets?
We work diligently at owning things. It’s easier than admitting we own less and less of ourselves the longer we work for someone else. It’s a simpler path to wrap one’s head around. The idea of learning a trade, and serving as someone else’s arms and legs for eight hours a day. Being required to leave your heart at home, under lock and key, is a minor detail that some are all-too-willing to overlook. But there are those of us who wear them on our sleeves, and weave them into our words, even as we try to spit well-practiced platitudes of complacency out of the sides of our mouths.
And so the clocks tick. And so the whips crack. As we build someone else’s Babel…while staring at the horizon and wondering what our Pyramids would look like.
People talk of missing their window. They talk of now being too late, and of now being too soon. They would over-think themselves into an early grave, if you let them. In a manner of speaking, anyone who has allowed him/herself to become content already has. We are made up of varying increments of failure, each of them divisible into smaller increments where we come out on top. The scales tip in whichever direction they are forcefully pushed, and playing fair only makes sense when it’s not your life at stake. But of course, it’s easier to just let things happen. Over and over. Until we forget who is holding the reins. Until we forget there is something great inside us.
You have big ideas. They live in a too-small cage, and threaten to eat you whole. You feed them small morsels of yourself and bide your time as they plot an escape. At nights, you sleep with one eye open…But they don’t sleep at all.
That thing you’ve tucked away inside you. Try as you might to forget it…it will rear its head like a childhood monster that outgrew it’s hiding place under the bunk-bed. It will ask you if you grew up to become someone that the younger you would have been proud of. You will want to lie to it, but after lying to yourself for this long, there will be few able-bodied untruths left in you.
It’s a difficult thing to hide from the world. The fact that you’re going places; and the fact that there’s nothing anyone can do to stop you. It’s the sort of thing you’d love to discuss, but the rest of the world just wants to ask each other about the weather.
So. If you know what it is to smolder on the inside. If you know what it’s like to tire of rationalizing your Monday morning to your reflection. If you’ve always known that you can do better.
Then climb. And don’t look down. Until there’s no more ground beneath you. Until the landscape looks as small as all of your excuses were. Until you find whoever it is that you’ve long pretended you could live without being.
Photography – David Evan McDowell
Soundtrack: Grizzly Bear “Shields” & Tame Impala “Innerspeaker”