Song in title:
Jack Kerouac captured a popular sentiment when he wrote that life is holy and every moment is precious. That, a bit of Freud, attacking the frustrating irrationality of peak-end theory, and answering the repeated pessimistic question in Bastille’s song is what this entry is about. Oh and there are pictures from throughout the summer!
It’s easy to become complacent at nearly every turn in life-most especially in a summer of idleness. Just as a crisis of confidence from life’s uncertainties might render one inactive, so too can moribund laziness result from a forgotten, yet at the same point routine, familiarity.
My summer seems to be a see-saw between these two points: at times irrationally over-stressed at what may professionally and personally happen next as I’ve refreshed my email inbox roughly 800 times an hour. Conversely, times where I’ve been drunk on the nostalgia and have stopped, figuratively and literally, to smell my dad’s roses in the backyard. I’ve passed this type of time with old and new family members, friends, running, and once more, gasp, reading for pleasure (e.g. I’ve recently been reading a very detailed book on Georgian history and now know more about Vakhtang Gorgasali than I ever knew while living there).
I start with this because I remain concerned that both points may result in maudlin complacency; a docile and unproductive lifestyle. Yet, I recently realized because of that fear, I was unfairly deriding this summer-especially when I compared it with last summer.
To refresh, last summer my Ukrainian adventure was chock-full of laughter, spontaneity, soccer championships, academic and professional achievement, and living with a sense of reckless abandon (I wrote a bit about this last feeling, but a recent article about the circus in Russia reconfirmed that it’s a region-wide issue). As much as it was a summer celebrating my id, my superego’s cravings were met by a larger overarching plan and purpose which were connected to opportunities and responsibilities in the fall (It’s fun to slip in Freud so long as it’s not a Freudian slip).
This summer is assuredly different for all parts of my psyche. For a bit that bothered me as though it has had many memorable moments (see: photos), it has lacked the overarching plan and purpose to the degree my superego would like. Yet, I’m increasingly starting to comprehend that permanent stability, or even a set plan for the future, is as likely as permanent happiness in life. The more important thing truly is the pursuit.
With that in mind, I was facing the fact that my experience last summer “enriched my store” of memories more than this summer had simply due to its raw newness. Thus, the frustrating aspect of peak-end theory (in essence peak-end theory being: “we give too much weight to a) the peaks and b) the ends of periods, rather than logically evaluating their entire duration.”) made this summer worse both for an inability to forget how great last summer was in comparison to this one, but also because the future was so uncertain.
Sometime around understanding this, I began to think about what I had been doing the past ten July summers. 18 seems a pivotal age. More than that, it was the time I went on a month long odyssey with an Outward Bound course. 28 days in the isolated backwoods of North Carolina and Tennessee. Every day hiking, mountain climbing, whitewater canoeing, whitewater drowning (nearly), and three days in a ‘solo’ tent alone. All of that and many more memories came flooding back. One of the biggest personal takeaways from that program: constantly seek to expand your own circle of comfort. Yes, certain memories stood out rather than the duration-but it felt important to associate the gains of that summer with today.
I am not going to write here what I have done each of the previous nine Julys, but I will say this: highlighting the most important things going on in my life (e.g. the people, where I was, what I saw etc) provided a wonderful break and reminder of past summers. Moreover, in retrospect it showed how much uncertainty the future should have represented (who knew Poland would play such a pivotal role in my life 7 years ago?).
It also gave weight to the duration, not just the peaks. When I read it over, I realized I still probably emphasized some of the memorable stories, but at least I did not feel like the last ten minutes of this July should mean so much more than how the previous ten got me to this point.
Too often moments are forgotten or, conversely, inappropriately dwelt upon. I have no idea where I’ll be ten years from now in July. Yet, I will attempt to emphasize the full duration as well as the peaks that get me there. This summer has helped to place the proper emphasis on the overall journey without feeling overcome by present challenges and the incessant intrigue of the future. That, to answer Bastille’s song at the intro, is how I intend to be an optimist about this.