If I Could Do As I Pleased – And how I learned to stop worrying about the future and trust myself

For a time in October/November of this past school year I put myself through an inordinate amount of stress and worry by questioning myself to no end about the uncertainty of my future. My advice – don’t do this! I just couldn’t stop running through all the potential scenarios. I tried to keep myself positive but always in the back of my mind there was a sense of unease. I think a lot of it had to do with a sense that I had no control over the outcomes in my life. This feeling was likely fueled by the spontaneous pneumothorax I suffered in late September that caused a partially collapsed lung. There was nothing in particular that caused it. I was just running and then BAM! – I get a pain in my chest, followed by an x-ray, then I’m in the hospital.

My point is, I was unnecessarily worried about my future and I let it get to me. I’m sure a significant number of college students (especially seniors) could probably relate to the feeling of unease that comes with the question of “what are you going to do with your life?” The following piece is an essay that I wrote for my creative non-fiction class that addresses this topic.

The amazing thing is that, despite all the worry that fueled the writing of this essay, my second semester went very smoothly. I stopped over-thinking things. I did what I had to do (and what I wanted to do) and aside from that I just let things take their natural course. I learned that sometimes not knowing is actually way better than knowing, because it’s actually not very fun knowing everything (let my friend Pete Holmes explain). I’m not saying that this was a cure-all solution, but in general I learned to relax. Most importantly, I learned that no matter what I can trust myself.

Looking back I had an amazing school year and I wouldn’t change a thing. Now that I’ve graduated and the dust has cleared I feel confident about the next phase of life even if it isn’t 100% clear. I do have a starting point however, and that place is with an awesome digital marketing company in Detroit called Rebuild Nation.


If I Could Do as I Pleased

What would I do if I could do as I pleased? What is one thing I could focus on? Rather than just one branch I see a tree with a million different diverging twigs and roots.

If I could do as I pleased I would sit in front of a tree and study the intimate details of every last groove in its bark. I would watch every ant that scuttled through my line of site and follow it up the trees wide trunk. I would stare intensely at each and every leaf until they withered and died the most beautiful of deaths.

If I could do as I pleased I would run. I would run as fast and as far as my legs would take me. I would run until it felt like I had died and then I would keep running. I would run west where the cities would be fewer and further between. Spread open wide the vast plains would stretch out before me like and endless ocean of grain. Out here there would be nothing interesting to look at and so I would retreat into my mind. I would think about nothing and everything all at once. My legs would grow numb to the inevitable pain. I would become injured, but I would run through it until it healed. I would stop in small towns with cozy bed and breakfasts, diner’s named “Main Street”, and waitresses that called me “Sir” maybe to be polite or maybe because I would actually look more grown by this point. Weeks would have passed and I would not have had a chance to shave. Perhaps my beard finally decided that it liked my face enough to stay, or that my face was hideous enough that it should be covered to spare anyone from seeing it ever again. I get up and carry on. Still running, I finally arrive in the true West of the nation and visit the mountains I once saw as I kid when we drove out here on family vacation. Nature surrounds me on all sides and I weep at the beauty. Then I get up and keep running some more.

If I could do as I pleased I would immediately get on a plane and travel to Southeast Asia. I would immerse myself in their culture until I knew their language well enough to ask where the wisest monks lived, but I wouldn’t ask just anyone. I would wander into the strangest most isolated alleyway I could find and enter the quirkiest, oldest looking shop. It would smell of dust and incense and be crowded with thousands of items big and small, falling of shelves and hanging from the ceiling, yet looking around I would still be baffled as to what it was they sold here. Behind a curtain I would find an old man who would try to shoo me away, but I would insist that he knows where I must go to study the art of enlightenment. Finally he would hand me a piece of paper on which he scribbled a rough map. Immediately I would leave. Finding the monks I would sit with them and be quiet. I would watch them and I would listen to them although they would rarely speak. I would breathe in. I would breathe out. I would breathe in. I would breathe out. I would be happy.

If I could do as I pleased I would move to L.A. and I would join the standup comedy scene. I would go out on stage every night and I would tell stupid, stupid jokes and I would bomb over and over and over again. I would meet a lot of nice people and some not so nice people. I would make friends with the nice ones. We would hang out all the time and encourage each other and hone our craft. We would write together, laugh together, and make fun of each other to no end. Eventually, I would make the crowd laugh as well. My chest would swell with pride, but I would just as quickly cut myself down. No need to get high and mighty, still a long way to go. I would write and write and write and tell the stupidest of stupid jokes that I thought no one in a million years would find funny but me, but people would surprisingly laugh still. So I would keep going and working and I would become writing partners with one of my friends. Together we would get noticed and be brought on as writers for a new comedy show on Netflix. Our unorthodox style of humor would make the show a hit and I would wonder why I ever doubted myself. It might get canceled after one or two seasons, but I would still laugh and I would be happy.

If I could do as I pleased I would ditch nearly all of my belongings and head immediately to Europe. With me I would only carry a back that would hold all that I need. I would couch surf through Airbnb and go everywhere I could ever hope to go. In my backpack I would carry some lightweight recording equipment. Everywhere I stopped I would record a new podcast documenting my travels and everything I learned. I would send it to another friend who would edit and upload it for anyone to hear. People could follow along my reckless and haphazard journey by listening in and by reading what I write on my website. This is no study abroad journal however, this is full on immersion into a world of surfing, climbing, art, skydiving, culture, and history all wrapped into a crazy burrito of I-don’t-know-what-the-heck-I’m-doing-but-I’m-having-a-blast.

If I could do as I pleased I would go to the library and read every book I could find about every conceivable subject that interested me. I would start with psychology interspersed with books about philosophy. Then I would jump straight to quantum physics, preferably the ones written for the laymen. I would sit at a table pouring over a pile of books always with a warm cup of coffee in my hand. I would read every classic novel ever written, then every autobiography. Then I would read about 18th century pilots long with everything to do with ghosts, aliens, and supernatural phenomena. Then I would spread out a big sheet of paper and open a mathematics textbook (yes that’s right I said math) and I would start teaching myself calculus. Everyone who knows me knows that I hate math, but in this scenario I have a whole lifetime to devote to anything. There is no timed tests here, there is no teacher breathing down my neck, there is no looming exam, just me a cup of coffee and some fun little puzzles that happen to be math problems. I spend hours on the simplest of equations. Slowly I start to make progress and finally it starts to click. I get excited. Then I read more books on physics and ancient Indian art and I get really excited. I somehow attain a scholarship to study at a university in Denmark. I learn everything I can. There’s no limit to what I can accomplish.

If I could do as I pleased I would move to somewhere with great warm weather with beautiful scenery of mountains and streams and chill out picking apples or some other kind of fruit with my best friends. At the end of the work day we would jump into the crystal clear blue waters on the coast and swim next to dolphins and sea turtles. At night we would shower under waterfalls and then have a huge feast, throw Frisbees to dogs in the sand, and party until we felt tired. Then I would sleep on the most comfortable bed with a light rain hitting the roof and softly lulling me to sleep. In the morning I would get up whenever my body awoke naturally and the day would start all over again. For vacation I would visit back home where I would cook for my mom and take my dad to a baseball game.

With infinity looming it often feels time is endless. It’s possible the universe I’m living in has already died and been reborn a million times over before the inception of the current rendition I now inhabit. On a personal level I may never get this same second chance. To make the most of my limited time I must begin by choosing a single path, a single branch to follow like the ants crawling up the tree. This doesn’t mean that I’ll only have one story to tell when it’s all over. Likely I will encounter many diverging branches, but to look at the whole tree all at once can often be overwhelming. The only way to find out for certain which way the grooves in the bark run, I must take to climbing.

Article by Mike Brichta

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