There is a very simple rubric I following when evaluating an experience. It proves pretty worthless in terms of reflection – and because of that I only use it when judging whether or not I should do, or try, something new – but besides that my system has yet to disappoint me. It is easy, just two very simple questions.
Question #1, “Will I be proud of myself?”
Whether it is cliff diving or going in for a kiss, I’ve always found that deciding whether or not I’ll be proud of doing something helps weed out wasted times. All people have a specific image of who they are, or who they want to be, and making sure that you are proud of the things you do reaffirms that self image, helps build confidence, and pride. You can be proud of anything; starting a company, speaking in public, or even the cliché example of tying your own shoes – it does not matter. Just deciding whether or not an action would deter you from greeting yourself boldly in the mirror is enough.
However, the “will I be proud of myself?” question does need a devils advocate. Disagree if you must, but out of all the people I’ve met or learned of, it is usually the ones concerned with leading perfect lives who are the least happy, proud, and generally unwell. I for one have willingly thrusted myself into many situations where I knew I wouldn’t be proud after the fact…but I will never regret having done so. The reason being that I never do so for the sake of being bad, or rebellious (at least in recent years), but instead because of the second question.
Question #2, “Will it be a good story?”
When I am old, withered, and wrinkled with little more purpose to breath besides spiting death, the only thing I’ll have left is my life’s worth of stories. Loves, adventures, heartaches, triumphs, defeats, accomplishments, failures, and all the wisdom picked up along the way. And, metaphorically speaking, if my life were going to be made into a movie, I’d want to make sure people would come to watch it.
Your best stories are not always the ones you were the most proud of when they happened. Sometimes it takes years to fully digest something you’ve been through before being able to learn from it, or share it. However, those stories are often the ones that drip with drama, scream adventure, or reveal a lesson learned the hard way. They are the scars that become apart of you – the reminders that you’ve lived. And that goes for the stories a person shares, as well as those they keep private.
Why the hell am I saying this?
If you are wondering why I took the time to write this – because yes, I know, it is nothing mind blowing – I’m not surprised.
This past weekend I visited Brussels on a school field trip. Pretty cool, right? The trip was organized for my international relations course, and during it we visited the EU Commission Chambers, as well as talked with Mr. Richard Williams on NATO. Just a two-hour train ride on the Eurostar, it is an extremely convenient trip to take from London.
Brussels – famous for beer, chocolate, and french fries – does have places to see and things to do, but the whole weekend I was in a bit of a foul mood. Instead of trying to take the city by storm with my camera in hand, I could barely find the motivation to take my camera out, and the only thing I wanted to immerse myself in was a pillow. And after some shallow and seemingly true reflection, the reason for my funk seemed n due to my simple rubric.
No matter what I did, where I went, or what I saw in Brussels, I will never be proud of having been there, nor would will it be a good story. Why? You may disagree, but, in my mind, any story that stars with the words “while on a school field trip” is instantly seen as lame. The reason being that with all the liability, protocols, and safety measures a school must adhere too to avoid any physical or emotional harm to its student, by the time it finds something it is able to do…could it possibly be exciting?
Our group was herded like cattle throughout Brussels. People looked at us like they would at a kindergarten class, and that’s honestly how I perceived the administrator’s thought of us – especially when they bought us all lunch from Pizza Hut so we could, “eat as a group”. This, among other things, had me grinding my teeth so hard from frustration my jaw is sore. As I’ve said in previous articles, I object to any situation where someone is there to do my thinking for me. In Brussels, the school was there to do my thinking; they also, at every opportunity they found, would tell me what I couldn’t do.
I could go on, but I wont. There is no need. On the last day a friend and I did take a few hours to run around with the camera – which are the pictures in this post. I’m not too proud of any of them, but some are still interesting to look at.
Sorry for the rant – I hope that you gained something from the two-question method.