How Can I Be So Sure?
It happens often.
At the moment, it makes perfect sense. I have a point to make. It sounds justified. Rational. I nod with certainty when I re-read the words I have poured out with utmost sincerity. It sounds like the truth.
“Of course it is,” I reassure myself.
I hit publish.
The words have left my fingers and are now imprinted on the screen, but the thoughts still linger on in my mind. Over time, the surety starts to wane. I encounter new viewpoints, stronger opinions, better explanations. On good days I realise that my arguments lack depth. On bad days I doubt if my writing is just immature, whimsical winning. Something, that just a few days ago, had seemed completely valid given the mental and emotional state I was in, now makes my eyes roll.
“Woah, what was I thinking?”
This is something that has bothered me for a long time. I want to steer away from hypocrisy, be honest and do the “right” thing. But the world can be a confusing place where nothing is as clear as it’s initially presumed it to be.
Not everything can be summarised in Twitter threads.
Everything is constantly in a state of flux. Right morphs into wrong tomorrow. Each day hits me with a dose of disillusionment.
A year back, one of my friends recommended a song, asking me if it was good. I didn’t want to disappoint, so I nodded in approval. I know I didn’t like it but did that mean it wasn’t good? And what constitutes this idea of “liking” something? What constitutes a “good song”? Some songs sound bland at first but after a couple of listens, the same music becomes endearing. And listen to it just little too much and you’d never want to listen to it again.
Small incidents like these reaffirm to me that even when I think I “know,” most likely I don’t. I am only using words to hide behind my incomprehension.
On most things, I don’t speak from experience. How could I? The tiny years I have been alive are insignificant to the vast experiences of mankind. I can only hope to look at a sliver of the full picture, that too with a vision that has been distorted with conditioning, both conscious and unconscious. My mind keeps itself busy constructing stories, reaching conclusions and creating chaos and confusion. I don’t blame it. It’s trying it’s best to keep up and help me cope with a world that seems utterly beyond my comprehension.
Escapism is an easy route out. Overthinking is another one. Both are tempting, but lazy attempts at shirking away responsibility. To think about the absurdity of existence provides temporary relief — blobs of flesh on a moving rock, zoom out enough and you are nothing more than a speck of dust. But zooming in or out is not solving any problem. Yes, it does provide an important perspective and makes life seem more manageable. But it doesn’t dissolve the questions I have started thinking a lot more deeply about, given the fact that next year I will be eligible to vote and maybe, just maybe my actions will have greater consequences.
I think a huge reason for this crushing sense of overwhelm is an information overload far beyond my mental bandwidth. Couple that with shallow reading and dipping hands into too many puddles of thought, it’s a recipe for disaster. I don’t believe in nostalgia for the past, but I can’t help but wonder if it was easier to make decisions when the only ones informing your choices were your family members and the only ones being impacted were members of your own community.
There are too many conflicting identities to conform to and each one seems demanding and urgent. There are so many issues that I “should” care about, so many problems I want to think about. As per an honest assessment of my abilities, I know I am not going to get humanity to mars nor am I going to build the next piece of revolutionary software. But I do want to make a difference — whatever that is supposed to mean. And before I go about doing that, I need clarity and a certain conviction.
Frankly, I have neither at this point.
And that’s okay.
Because this tremendous uncertainty provides boundless scope for opportunities. Given a chance to be born in any era, I would definitely choose this one. And as much as I may have sounded like a cynic in the previous paragraphs, I truly do believe that there probably never was a better time to be alive. This adds to the self-imposed pressure to not squander away what I have been so abundantly granted. I don’t want to waste it. I don’t want for all of it to be in vain. And maybe that’s why I stress and worry about making sure I am standing on the right side, making sure I am seeing things clearly and not falling into a rabbit hole of someone else’s reckoning.
After giving it much thought, I have come up with a small action plan. A tool kit to navigate through the noise. There’s nothing new or novel about this advice. It’s been repeated hundreds of time. There’s sounder advice out there. And at the expense of repeating myself, I can never really be sure.
I am laying down these tools here as a way of promising myself to make full use of them. Writing has that power. It makes ephemeral thoughts tangible.
I want to cultivate the space for silence.
This can take many forms, but I have decided on two techniques — meditation and mindfulness. While meditation would be the act of sitting down in the right posture and focusing on my breath (again, this can also take many forms), mindfulness is the practice of centring myself in the present moment and bringing myself to do this again and again.
I do this because I believe that sometimes silence can be the greatest answer. Setting aside time to do “nothing” forces me to prioritise and devote the rest of the time to doing something meaningful.
Helpful Resources: https://www.blacklotus.app/
A lot of the “breaking” news and trending headlines are stripped of important context. People conveniently discard what doesn’t fit their narrative. Everyone tries to feed you their slice of reality. But instead of gorging on it, I want to take time to step back and look at the bigger picture. So I have decided to do away with shallow reading.
Going forward, I want to read more deeply and raise critical questions instead of accepting things upfront. At the same time, there is a need to cultivate patience and become at ease with not knowing, with not having all the answers. It takes time to see the bigger picture and If I really do want to see it, the onus falls on my shoulders to walk two steps further and having the resilience to take those steps.
Helpful Resources: Your own abundant curiosity and patience
Space for Mistakes
“Make better mistakes tomorrow.”
Honestly, I should get those words tattooed on my arm. I have always been terrified of making mistakes. But what progress is available to those without the courage to fall over a few times? If no one has this figured out, there’s no better way to move forward than to make mistakes. Lot’s of them.
What’s the worst that will happen? I’ll have to apologise? Ego, is that too much to ask for?
Besides, the biggest privilege of not having too many eyeballs on your work is that most mistakes won’t matter. You are supposed to make mistakes. How else would you get better?
It’s okay to change your mind when you realise your vision has been blurry.
Helpful Resources: The grace to accept your mistakes
Principles and Priorities
What matters to you?
What do you really care about?
Don’t tell me what self-help articles or your friends think matters. Tell me what matters to you.
Maybe what matters to you doesn’t sound grand or pompous. But if it matters to you, that’s what makes it meaningful and that’s all that matters.
Personally, I want to centre my life around the principle of well being. That is my central point and that is what I will be taking into consideration before making decisions. Having an anchor helps to know when it’s time to sprint and when it’s time to stop.
Helpful Resources: The honesty to see what really matters to you.
A big part of the sense of overwhelm and fatigue I feel lies in my refusal to start small. I remember when I read an article that suggested to start out with a single habit at a time, I immediately thought, “Huh! I am going to start all my five habits at once.”
Guess who still hasn’t kept up with even one of those habits?
Small steps. Doable actions. One thing at a time.
One mistake at a time.
Helpful Resources: The permission to start small.