You are a Human Being, Not a Human Doing

Monday, November 3, 2014

When I was going through my bad period of clinical depression in college, I saw a psychologist named Linda once a week for an hour.

In short, I loved the experience. When people talk about "the college experience" I know they mean more "drinking beers in the shower to get ready to go out and pre-game simultaneously" and less "life-changing free psychological services" but, to this day, the latter is a college experience I cherish.*

Now as I said before, clinical depression is generally an internal battle, not a result of external factors. But, obviously, just because you're depressed doesn't mean you're somehow immune to life's annoyances and tiny tragedies.

So, often during my weekly hour with Linda, I'd talk about grades on tests, writing papers, fouling out of basketball games, going to lame parties, not being invited to "cool" parties, and whatever. Regular run-of-the-mill college crap. ("Depressed people! They're just like you!" ;) ) My focus was often on things I was doing, the seemingly impossible ever-growing to do list, and things I thought I was doing poorly.

Linda continuously reminded me:

"You are a human being, not a human doing."

Years later, I still love that simple, yet powerful, sentiment.

We are so obsessed with metrics in our society, that we often see ourselves as equivalent to our "results."

We go from asking ourselves in High School: What's my  SAT score? What's my class rank? What colleges did I get into? 

To College: What's my GPA? What sorority/fraternity did I get into? What's my team's record? 

To Life after college: How much money do I make? Where do I live? What car do I drive? How many likes did my facebook picture get? How many hours do I work a week? 

Not realizing, of course, that the whole time we're asking ourselves all of the wrong questions, shining the light on relatively unimportant things. Our lives are not our resumes; our lives cannot be distilled down to a single sheet of paper.** We are more than a carefully curated list of concrete accomplishments.

We are the little things, the tiny actions, the subtle nuances, the fleeting thoughts, the passing emotions. The growing friendships, the intimate bonds, the open smiles.

Your essence cannot be contained on an 8 1/2 x 11 inches of space, you are so much more expansive than that. And when you leave this world, and someone does try to deduce your entire, dynamic life into a tiny newspaper blurb, it will look nothing like your resume. You will never read an obituary that looks like this:

Ashley was a center starter on her basketball team, she scored 8.9 points per game, got 9.2 rebounds per game, and died with a 3.85 GPA. She left behind a six-digit job offer and a signed lease on an awesome apartment in the most expensive part of town. She was survived by her beloved Audi A-4.

Salaries are not mentioned in obituaries, but people are always mentioned. Brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, husbands, children, grandchildren, are always mentioned. So why do we define ourselves by what we DO? We need to define ourselves by who we are, and how we love.
So, I'm not a psychologist (neither was Walt), and actually never took a single psychology class in college, so if you want to ignore me, I'm not offended :) But I just think you deserve to cut yourself some slack if your To Do list seems insurmountable, your resume looks disappointing, or your "metrics" aren't up to society's standards. And just be. It's enough. Thankfully, you are a human being, and not a human doing.


p.s. Have you read the Tao of Pooh? From amazon: "While Eeyore frets, and Piglet hesitates, and Rabbit calculates, and Owl pontificates, Pooh just is." It's a lovely, quick read.

p.p.s. ICYMI: my blog post on depression turned Thought Catalog article and I'm so excited for all the support from everyone about it :) A little thing, but a big step for me. There are 30+ comments, and most aren't mean. (ha!)

*I'm no prude, but never have I ever drank a beer in the shower. (You can put a finger down.)
**Even if it is pink and scented.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post. And for the record, we love you for you, not just when you turn out an excellent post. You, yourself and you again are awesome.