"Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself." - Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre, an early 1900's French philosopher, playwright, and novelist was a proponent of Existentialism, the doctrine that man creates his life himself. In 1946, he gave the game changing lecture "existentialism is a humanism".
"The idea of freedom occupies the center of Sartre's doctrine. Man, born into an empty, godless universe, is nothing to begin with. He creates his essence— his self, his being — through the choices he freely makes (existence precedes essence)"
In other words: we're born, we exist, and we define ourselves by our actions.
My Past Existence: How I defined myself
I used to coast through life. Taking the easier path whenever I had the opportunity. I wasn't growing. In terms of actions towards a rewarding life, I wasn't taking any. In terms of actions towards a regretful life, I was taking many:
- Victim Mentality: When things didn't go my way, I complained. This victim mentality trained me to not take responsibility for my actions. It was much easier to blame external variables than to own up to my shit.
- Fear of Uncertainty: I ran away from many opportunities to grow. I let other people's opinions have control over my life. I paralyzed myself.
- Reactive: I waited for life to happen to me. Waiting for that ideal job to land in my lap, that perfect girl to walk through the door. I thought of myself as a good person so I thought I was entitled to have good things happen to me. It took me 25 years to realize that life doesn't work that way. I was ruining my life waiting on the bench for coach to put me in. Instead, I should have been busting my ass like Kobe and become a player/coach that put myself in the game whenever I wanted.
A coward isn't a coward because he thinks he's a coward, he is a coward because he does cowardly things.
My actions defined me as someone afraid and complacent. Unsurprisingly, I never thought of myself being that way. Since we discover who we are through our actions - not our thinking, my actions were facts revealing who I really was.
"Reality exists only in action." - Sartre
Not wanting to go back to that life was enough reason for me to want to change. I knew if I didn't change my actions, I'd continue to get the same results. By letting discomfort be my compass, I started to make moves towards what I believed was the right direction.
My Current Existence: Rebuilding my reality
- Pursuing an enjoyable career: Prior to film editing, my family had a big influence on my career choice. They wanted me to stay close to home and get a steady job, regardless if I liked it or not. They had good intentions but they were just projecting themselves onto me. I let them steer my career choices for a long time. It wasn't until I made the choice to move to NY to pursue a career in film editing that I finally broke that chain. 8 years later, it was one of the best decisions of my life. That is why my recent career change to camera operating doesn't scare me. I believe that as long as I'm making progress, I'll be okay.
- Turning death into growth: When I got Lymphoma my oncologist told me that no one knows how you get it. I interpreted that as bad luck; something that was out of my control. I took this uncontrollable experience as a way to grow; to take control of a terrible situation. 10% of life is what happens to you, 90% is how you react. Said differently, 10% of life is out of your control, 90% of life is in your control.
- Not getting friend-zoned: My track record of getting friend-zoned was as reliable as Lebron's hairline receding. I took major steps not to get in the zone with Paulina. It was extremely challenging and I learned a lot about myself in the process. I envisioned a certain type of relationship with Paulina and worked to make it happen. Luckily for me, she felt the same way.
Through my actions, I proved to myself that I have some control. It's taken a very long time and is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, but it's an invaluable tool I now have in navigating through life. Knowing that I have some control over how my life gives me the confidence and track record to work towards a fulfilling life.
It makes me feel like Kyrie Irving when he took control of the Spurs in 2015.
"Man is responsible for what he is." - Sartre
I am responsible for how my life turns out. Me and me alone. My actions define who I am. I had let my life go bad because I took bad actions. Now, my life is on the upswing and it's been, largely, a conscious effort. It's liberating.
I think this is what freedom feels like.