2018, as far as I’m concerned, should begin in that cozy space that is perfectly situated between “I know nothing!” and “I know everything!” Hyperbole among millennials isn’t something you run through like that goth/punk phase in high school. You don’t max it out until you’re balanced. On the other end, the Nihilism sits on the other side of our know-it-all attitudes, ready to lead you to nowhere. When you claim to know nothing, you absolve yourself of the accountability and responsibility of acting on what you know. “I know nothing” is also “I have permission to make whatever mistake I want.”
No, you don’t burst through nihilism or hyperbole. Both are idiots entertaining a party you’ve hopefully slipped out of while everyone else was blinded by the allure of celebrating less honest parts of themselves.
Arvin, what are you talking about?
I’ve had my fair share of know-it-all moments. 18-year-old Arvin gave out some pretty great marriage advice. 22-year-old Arvin kept going on and on about how he knew nothing. He was so proud of his honesty and (you’ll remember this word from college coffee shops) “transparency” about knowing nothing that he found himself offended at the notion that anyone would text or swipe while he was beautifully and dutifully articulating how thoroughly dumb 18-year-old Arvin (or anyone who ever wanted to be anything) truly was.
I know, it’s a nervous cycle. Technically, 25-year-old me is doing something similar in putting yester-Arvins on blast. What neither of them were capable of, however, is forgiving or venerating the other.
At some point, I hope you’ll have genuine mercy for the former versions of yourself every time you bump into them. Make peace without emulating them, inviting them to join you, or making those fake-plans-for-coffee you were once so good at making.
We need this because nothing says, “I don’t believe God can change me,” like hating on who you’ve been in the past. You don’t stand up and lash out at the annoying person in a restaurant you’re about to leave, do you?
It’s only when you know you’ll have to sit in the same space, theater, airplane as this annoying person that you consider speaking out in hopes they’ll change. What if that annoying person is that older version of you—who did eat all those cookies and slept through those 4:45 am alarms? You’ll be gracious when you know the door is about to open and you’re about to leave them behind forever.
You are patient and merciful when you’re convinced change is coming. I pray you’ll prove you believe in the you you’re becoming by showing some mercy to the you you’ve been.
And how are you when the space you’re sharing is not with the annoying, undisciplined you, but that future, sharpened and mature you—Your Best on Concentrate?
I’m finally secure enough as a writer, no—as a person—to tell you what I’ve learned by observing myself around beautiful women. Put me in a room with the boys from college and it’s “loosey-goosey this” and “impressions of that” and flailing arms and ugly laughter…until the last girl whose photo you liked on Instagram walks in and the chipmunk section at the zoo turns into a high-brow museum. High-pitched squealing and “tell that joke again” turn into marble-esque poses and heads nodding in the key of “O My! How Together I Have It”
Try this out for yourself the next time you plan to meet friends somewhere the lighting is intentional. I’m sure my female friends can share all about what happens when they say hello to a man they’ve happened upon—“Oh, uh…hello there” says the lowered voice of a terrified average joe. What’s that “uh” for, Alvin? Did you have to think of the word “hello”?
Of course he did. Alvin and his chipmunks’ brains slow down in the presence of someone or something beautiful. And that’s good, that’s reverence.
But what about when that someone beautiful is the you you know you’re gonna be? It’s probably still taboo to touch on self-confidence and esteem in such a frank way, but you’re still a hyperbole-wielding nihilist if you’re telling me you never think about the person you wish you were/hope to be someday.
The muscles get tighter and the appreciation of the moment gets more severe. I hope I’ll get to talk to you. I hope you’ll like who I am. I hope I get to leave with you. I hope you find me worthy.
You didn’t become who you are in 2018 overnight.
You’re going to bump into older versions of yourself every so often. When you do, I hope you’ll be gracious.
And speaking of grace, you’ll spend much of this year bumping into who you’re going to be someday—I’m not worried about your reaction. I know you’ll tense up in veneration and reverence, hoping 2019’s you will find today’s you attractive even though they’re obviously a light-year ahead of you. That beautiful person will walk in and you’ll go into marble-mode.
Seated comfortably between knowing everything and nothing, I hope you’ll genuinely smile and keep moving when you bump into your resolution-needing former self. At the same time, I pray you’ll notice the beauty and breathe-out your anxiety when you bump into who you’re going to be.