AFYM: Being Single is Not a Problem to be solved

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It seems silly to say that 2020 has changed things. Dating is one of them. I haven’t dated really in 2020 for fear of well, the elephant in the room.

But also part of that was the realization that dating apps have begun to suck more and more. Not that they were all that great to begin with, just 2020 pushed them to the edge of being bad.

The problem lies in the nature of a “Free” product. Like most social media platforms the user is the product. In this case, the apps are free not out of the kindness of the developer’s hearts but instead to extract money through the same mechanisms that most freemium services to, exploiting flaws in your psychology.

moreover, these services are making you sad.

The first problem is that they present a false sense of abundance. This puts both women, and men into a sense that they can always do better, that even if this one doesn’t work out. While that inst a bad attitude per-say, it can be problematic in that it tends to lead us to the path of the perfectionist. Suddenly small things you might have forgiven in an age without social media convince you to abandon an otherwise great relationship in pursuit of something “better”

Dating apps act as a kind of simulacrum to actually you know talking to people as well. In a world without dating apps. the same way that social media acts as a simulacrum to actual socializing. in my experience I often found myself not pushing myself to risk talking to a pretty girl because Why risk the in person rejection? I mean it’s not like I am not dating people or trying to date people.

But if I was honest with myself I often found myself endlessly swiping away in search of the “perfect” or “ideal” person, instead of say striking up a conversation with a beautiful girl.

But the main problem is that Dating apps are philosophically flawed. I’m not saying they don’t work but they promote an unhealthy focus on the dichotomy of singleness and completeness.

Moreover, it places a lot of pressure on the actual act of dating instead of the act of living. It suddenly takes a normal human experience and turns it into a problem to be solved.

I’m not saying dating sites don’t have their place, especially in a pandemic however, it’s important you are using them to supplement your dating pool not replace it, and you approach it mindfully.

You are not a problem to be solved and neither is singleness.

AFYM: Love is something you choose

While classically women are touted as the more romantic sex, I disagree.

Most men I’ve met who aren’t just looking to get laid have much more rosy and unrealistic ideas about love, than most women. Most guys I know suffer from breakups much longer than their female counterparts.

This makes sense. Women must be more practical, as they’ve a lot more to lose from a failed relationship, and so while they might enjoy romantic ideas they are able to put them aside in many cases and choose the best option for themselves.

I am speaking in broad strokes of course, and there will always be exceptions but from my experience men have much more unrealistic ideas about love, relationships and sex.

The biggest of these is that love will be a whirlwind of never ending passion, and that a dip in that raw visceral attraction means the relationship is dead. Any disagreement, means that it’s not meant to be.

This is of course, a misrepresentation by media, and culture, and leads to unrealistic expectations. Your partner will get old. Your partner will get sick. Your partner and you will fight. Sometimes you wont be in the mood to lust after them, and you probably will still ogle beautiful people.

Love in my experience is a choice. It’s not always a feel good choice but it’s a choice you make over and over again. you don’t walk your dog because each time you do it brings you mind blowing giddiness, you walk the dog because they need to be walked and you want them to be healthy and happy. you walk the dog even on days you don’t really want to because you love them, even when you are annoyed.

It sounds odd but love is showing up over and doing something not out of obligation, but out of want for the person.

Moreover, love is often not show the same by two people, and it’s important to recognize what you need, and what your partner gives and how to translate that.

Some people show love by telling it, others by doing things, and so on. It’s important to translate this love into your own language.

most of all be patient and kind with yourself an your partner, and to recognize you are not bad or broken alone.

I think being a romantic person myself I found it difficult to not be alone, but the truth is if you aren’t whole by yourself you wont be whole with another human.

I know it’s cliche but love is ultimately a deeply personal matter that starts with the self. If you are desperate for love you will attract other people who are desperate, and then that love ceases to be a choice, but becomes a compulsion. Something you do to make your anxiety go away

Love is a choice you make again and again.

Motivation is Stupid, Habits are better

I suck at being motivated. I will be extremely into something for a week only to see myself burn out.

For many years I interpreted this as a failure of choice. If I’d actually been “destined” to do this, Job, relationship, or hobby, my motivation would have never waned.

That’s bullshit.

The truth is Motivation is an exceptionally limited resource.

The best comparison I’ve ever heard is adrenaline. Motivation like adrenaline is great for getting yourself out of sticky situations, that might otherwise threaten to end a dream (or life) early. However, if you spend too much time in that state of overwhelming motivation, you burn out.

So what do you do?

you form habits, and you show up.

Dumb huh?

You just don’t give up. When you miss a blog post, you post one the next day. When you don’t feel like writing you show up and stare at a page. Because what you are doing is programing.

I didn’t work out for most of my adult life. But one day, after reading how good it was for my mental health, I decided to work out. I got a gym membership, and then I just went.

The first week, I didn’t do anything but walk around the gym. Seriously, I just put on my gym clothes and walked around, and left.

But week two, I just got on a treadmill for 5 minutes. The reason, I figured, I was already here, Might as well. That 5 became 30 and my visits became daily.

Now I get some form of physical exercise every day, and it feels weird if I don’t.

That state of “it feels weird if I don’t” isn’t guilt, it isn’t motivation, it’s just that the desired behavior has become such a part of your life you do it without thought.

The key though is not just to show up, but also not to make a big deal of your failures. You didn’t hit the gym…oh well…do it tomorrow.

It sounds silly but you want to reward yourself for doing and ignore the not doing. If you give the not doing attention, even negate attention, it tends to get stronger.

Motivation sucks. Just show up, try your best, and be ridiculously (in your critical head) kind to yourself about it.

AFYM: Give your subconscious a place to talk

We are trained by the current social model, especially as men, to run away from emotions that are not “happy” or “good”. But the main problem with this is that it ignores the fact that millions of years of evolution gave us those emotions for a good reason. (or if you prefer a great creator).

At first glace this might seem silly. What good could deep sadness do? But often if we give that sadness a voice through a kind of call and response method, that is, if we approach it quizzically, we can sometimes sidestep the anger, and get to the real root of the problem.

This isn’t easy. You have to be genuine, because most of your life you’ve probably been pushing emotions down, and trying to kill or numb them. But here’s the rub. You cannot numb just the bad ones. It is the dichotomy of emotions that let us feel the good ones. So when you approach your subconscious it’s likely to attempt to defend itself, which makes sense, you’ve been attacking it all this time.

However, if you can sift through the vitriol, and gently but firmly ask it real questions, without leading, you can sometimes piece apart what’s really going on, and in doing so identify the cognitive errors present within.

Today, I felt sad. I didn’t know why, so I took out a sheet of paper, and said, hello sadness, come on in, tell me your woes, what do you have to teach me. It proceeded to berate me about how I was not doing enough in my work life. So I politely asked it what was enough… and so on. This continued on and on, me nicely but pointedly asking for clarification. The writing externalized it, made it real, prevented the mercurial brain from shifting tactics mid thought.

In the end, keep this in mind, you are not trying to beat your mind, you are trying to reconnect with it. You are attempting to rectify the unconscious ideas that guide you with your conscious desires, and that takes time and patience.

AFYM: You Do Not Have to Agree with someone to be their friend

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In this increasingly divided age, I wanted to comment a little secret. Friendship doesn’t have to be an alignment of ideas.

Friendships are meant to expand your mind, and fulfill social needs.

However, the internet has warped us into thinking conformity is needed to establish relationships. Tribalism is a programmed behavior of humans, but so is inter-connectivity, and it’s only through collaboration that we come to the font of innovation.

One of the hardest truth’s to swallow is the idea that you are not your friend’s savior. You aren’t going to convert them through rhetoric, or logic, or simply bothering them until they break.

If you see the world from their eyes for a second, you are the one with the strange ideas. If you go into a friendship with an agenda it stops being a friendship and becomes a project. It’s not longer about mutual exchange of ideas and good feelings about about one person being right and the other wrong.

In order to find common ground, embrace humility, question yourself without having to convert to the other point, and most of all simply be with that person. If they start to go into a conversation topic you aren’t comfortable with, tell them, and ask them politely to not discuss it.

Most of all, focus on your common ground, and remember, that’s a person out there.

Now comes the hardest part: Letting go and moving on

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The election is for the most part over. I don’t want to get political here, and I wont, but aside from the legal challenges of current president, the political battle for the United State’s highest office is all but decided.

But now comes the hardest part. We need to take a good hard look at ourselves and our opponents and understand them.

To quote an ancient proverb ” When you go seeking revenge, dig two graves.” I know many in the president elect’s camp seek to other, and destroy those in the current president’s camp and vice versa, but that logic is flawed.

First off, it labors under the idea of a Zero sum game, or the idea that someone must lose in order for someone else to win. This makes sense. For most of human history our psychology and biology developed in a zero sum environment. Sometimes in order for the tribe our ancestors were in to survive they had to commit atrocities to other people. However, in today’s world of nearly unlimited resources, we no longer have to destroy someone else to win. The inner-connectivity of the world might pose many problems, but it allows us in the western world to enjoy the bounties of almost always having too much.

Second, the mindset of destroying my “enemies” is largely what got us into the highly partisan and separated mindset that we are in today. Because each time we punish a group, they remember, and they pass that remembrance onto their children who then bring that grudge to bear when they are in power. And so on and so on.

The way forward is instead one of vulnerability. We must all lay our sins to bear at the table, and once it is done say, OK, we’ve all done bad things to people, but let’s bury the hatchet.

This isn’t about making it even, or balancing one bad thing against another, but instead a period of forgiveness to forge unity. Without a common coalition the current divisiveness in the US will do nothing but worsen.

Jesus, whether you believe him to be the son of God or a wise Philosopher, had it right if someone slaps you, you offer them the other cheek. Not because you are so much better than them, but because you recognize that you yourself have done things wrong, and people deserve forgiveness, and so do you.

AFYM: You can disappoint people, it’s OK ( No really)

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I recently disappointment a friend. It wasn’t a big disappointment but I could tell it made him feel bad.

I felt bad at first, but then after a bit of soul searching I realized that while, I may have disappointed a friend, and I did feel bad, I still did the right thing.

The thing is you have to take care of yourself first no matter what. That’s a tough sell, especially to people who were raised to take care of others. Being an older sibling I saw it as my job to care for everyone at the expense of myself.

But here’s a secret. No one reasonable, (reasonable! I say.) will expect you to take care of them first, because in their heads they will always take care of themselves first.

While it sucks to disappoint people, you can’t help anyone if you yourself are broken.

In reality, not wanting to disappoint someone is an ego driven overvaluation of your impact on the other person.

Think of the last time someone disappointment you. You might have trouble recalling it. Did it hurt that badly? Probably not, in reality, if you liked them you forgave them relatively quickly.

try and place that own standard on yourself, and remember. You are human!

Anxiety is a call to action, but you don’t have to pick up.

Anxiety is hell. It’s a great survival mechanism, but one that lacks nuance. It’s on or it’s off and the thing about it is, that each time we cave to anxiety we reinforce it.

This is the main principle behind Cognitive Behavioral theory.

The more we understand about emotions the more we learn that they aren’t based off reality so much as our own perceptions, and how we feel we should feel based off previous experiences, colloquial expectations, and cultural knowledge.

What this means is that our emotions, while powerful and useful aren’t accurate in and of themselves, but they also shouldn’t be ignored.

The key, the real hard balance, is finding the right measure to honor the emotion, and be curious about it, while still not caving to them all the time. Sometimes emotions know what is going on better than your logic or intuition might, and other times one of the other intelligence rules the roost.

While I don’t think there’s a wrong way to process emotions, I think the main key is to identify the patterns of thinking you want to follow, and put your energy towards those, versus the thought patterns that are dragging you down the same old paths.

Advice For Young Men: You are not the savior of the universe (or even your friends and family.)

I distinctly remember. Being in the car with my father, and feeling a sudden sense of obligation to do something about the world. We passed a homelessness, and I felt guilty, seeing his tanned gaunt face living in squalor, as not a quarter mile away million dollar homes were being built. The injustice burned, and I felt being born into a privileged life, I owed the world something, and while my intentions were noble, the scope of my pondering were dangerously broad.

This is not to say that I can’t help the world, or that I shouldn’t but the problem came when I set my intentions to help everyone. To fix the problem of __________ (insert global problem here).

32 year old me now sees the Three issues with my statement.

1. The vast overvaluing of my ability vs the scope of the problem.

2. The inconsistent judgement of what counted as enough.

3. The idea that there is a “solution” to problems at all, instead of simply a set of situations that change consistently.

As for the first, this is a common problem and it stems from a combination of many things, but primarily a lack of self knowledge, and the very human problem of overestimating our own ability, and underestimating how complex the problems of the world are.

A relatively broke college student in English might be able to volunteer on the weekends, and help quite a few people out, but alone he isn’t going to change the effects of three decades of poor public policy, the war on drugs, or human nature.

Take for example homelessness, it’s a huge problem, with many complex nuances, that stem from a variety of different factors. NGO’s and think tanks spend millions with some of the foremost thinkers in the field to come up with solutions and struggle to make a dent.

In the shadow of this revelation, it’s relatively foolish to assume that I a broke college student was going to make the final difference. (Not that I wouldn’t make any difference, but I lacked the humility to admit my own smallness.)

The problem of what counts is also an ego driven bout of perfectionism. Anything less than say the total end of homelessness would do for my hero drunk brain. This of course led me to feeling rather Impotent in the face of the problem, and feeling that my real contributions did not count. (alone they did not, but multiplied over a long time with others with similar mindset’s they would, but I couldn’t see that.)

The final issue, and the real issue, and the underlying defeat of perfectionist ideology is the realization that there is no “solution” to most problems, especially not big ones.

The idea that we can “solve” humanity is a dangerous utopian idea that often leads to the deaths of millions at it’s worst times, and dissatisfaction with life at the very least.

The problem is not that there is homelessness, the problem is that we expect it to end, and we expect ourselves to bear the burden.

To make the world better is an amazing thing, but just not making it worse is a beautiful thing as well.

I guess in all of this rambling I will say this. You cannot alone save the universe, but you can maybe save yourself, and make the world not worse. It sounds a little like a cop out, but eventually, you not making it worse, might inspire other’s to do the same.

Do not try and save the world. Save yourself first, and then if you have the energy, try and make the world suck just a little less, but you don’t have to. No one is watching. No one but you.