It recently occurred to me that what I believed to be my (admittedly underdeveloped) philosophy of life was perhaps at least partly a compromise; an excuse to justify my apparent fear of commitment. Not the whole life-screwing relationship-destroying commitment phobia that's relatively common, but more like something that would stem from fear of failure. When handed one of those "What I'd like to achieve" sheets in high school Personal Development classes, I only ever scribbled down something trivial that I could easily achieve, or that I planned to do anyway; and the habit has continued. My inability to choose a career path was not due to the fact that I couldn't choose between the options available to me (nor solely due to the lack of of help from my school's careers advisors, who were adamant that I became a teacher despite no desire of my own to be one), but rather that I didn't want to commit to any one of them.
Being noncommittal about one's future in this way seems almost clever. Preventing failure by not trying, cowardly though it is, is undoubtedly an act of social self-preservation; and would just about be acceptable for a person of little ambition. Unfortunately, people I've met in recent years have inspired ambition in me (damn you, amazing friends), and at my present state of self-deception and self-preservation, I'm not at all content. This still, stuck state of existence with its ephemeral joys cannot fully satisfy the human desire for growth, expression and understanding, and I'm tired of having no answer when people ask me what I want to be when I "grow up".
But how does one make a shift from such a subconsciously-ingrained way of thinking? I'm hardly one to resort to sycophancy to achieve things, nor can I ever draw on the ecclesiastical inspiration that others find so easily. It would be a lot easier to overcome such problems were there a few more people facing their own demons alongside me.
Thankfully, such a scenario has been created and will progress through the means of the internet (why hello, 21st century). UK comedian Mark Watson recently started a new project entitled the Ten Year Self-Improvement Challenge (TYSIC), for which readers of his blog nominate a personal resolution or something they'd like to accomplish in the next ten years. Every week, Mark encourages readers to make a step towards achieving their goal, and post it on his blog. The indefatigable webmistress Linzy is even developing an online community in which "challengers" can log in, describe their progress, and support others. With over 200 people participating, there'll be enough mutual encouragement to make this a potentially life-changing opportunity.
The 10 year period commenced on the 4th of March, and I've already made a commitment to the project by commenting on the first blog post (you can read Mark's blogs and the comments here).
I turn 19 on monday the 1st, so in a decade I’ll be 29. The one thing I truly want to accomplish is to learn to play piano properly – starting with jazz. I suppose my goal could be successfully completing a music degree at a university somewhere. That’s as brave as I’m willing to be, for now.
So, there's no backing out. But I can be braver than that. Let's say that by 2020, I want to be playing gigs on keys, or have played gigs in that period of time.
My philosophy of life may be flawed, but perhaps it's time to formulate a new one. In accordance with the more "philosophical" goals set by the challengers, I'm going to aim to be more self-confident, and try new things, regardless of whether or not the outcome might be failure.
I am going to be the Little Engine that Could. I'm nineteen, and ten years is plenty of time to become all I want to be. In my earlier years when I was procrastinating, I'd look up motivational quotes on the internet; a pursuit I'd highly recommend if you're the sentimental type and you're feeling down. I believe it was Buddha who said, "What you think is what you become."
I think I can. I think I can.
"Trust Me" photo by Javier Evertz.