There are no shortcuts.
Yes, I know you don’t want to hear that. Who does? Especially not now, when most of us are currently wallowing in some post-festive pit of despair, with resolutions already shelved and forgotten, and delusions of clean slates already grimed up again with the dirty facts of living.
Seems we’re all looking for fast-track happiness, the shortest route out of here and away from ourselves. Otherwise, who can explain the massive sales of self-help books, cigarettes and serums? Surely we must believe all of this works then, if we’re splashing our cash on it? Right?
The truth is, we already know, deep down, that it’s all just bullshit.
We know it even as we paint on another lipstick smile, order How to Be an Adult from someone who has presumably already figured this stuff out, spray on the scent that promises to make our lives sepia-tinted and perfect, and make yet another scrawled to-do list that would require several hundred lifetimes to ever achieve.
That’s it, though. We know it deep down, in that part of ourselves that we rarely visit—that part of ourselves that only makes itself heard in the sleepless hours between 1 and 3 a.m., or in the aftermath of yet another messy break-up. Or, perhaps only in the burning center of some unexpectedly brand new connection, or in that wild flash of happiness we get on a random street-corner, when the sun glances off the wet tarmac and momentarily the surface scum of what passes for life is swept away as we remember that it’s all just as simple as this.
We’re not used to listening to it—this wise part of ourselves—preferring instead the status update of our daily identities and the one-word labels we hope will stick: popular, successful, high-achiever, coping,…human. And because we’re not used to listening to it, we’re in danger of forgetting about it all together.
We’re fooling no one though. That’s also the problem. Because if you have this wise voice inside you, it’s fair to presume that everyone else has it too.
No one buys your Twitter feed version of yourself—and would you really want them to anyway? None of us is reducible to this lazy short-hand, and I, for one, am grateful for this. Our beauty is to be found precisely in all our unfinished sentences, the never-ending paragraphs, the crossings-out and scribbled rewrites, and the endless footnotes upon footnotes upon footnotes.
There’s no shortcut to being yourself, and as such there’s no shortcut to letting anyone else know you either.
It all takes time.
So, rather than trying to find a quicker way to escape ourselves, perhaps it’s time to take things slower? Instead of the fad diet that is guaranteed to push your February into the darkest depths of depression, rather than the ‘like’ button response to your friend’s new baby, and instead of the post break-up attempt to bleach yourself into to artificial newness—how about just sitting with things as they are, however shit they may be, and seeing what comes of it?
Besides, if we always took the shortcut, think of all the amazing journeys we’d have missed out on, all the people we would never have met, and all the feelings that would never have had the chance to come into being.
Take time, use words, be patient.
Wherever you’re heading, the best route is probably the one you’re already on.
Clare is an itinerant teacher and writer who always takes the long way round. After six years in Asia, trying to find balance in temples and traffic jams alike, she is finally accepting the fact that balance is largely over-rated and enjoying the ups and downs is what counts.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel
Assistant Ed: Tara Lemieux