When I was a teenager – playing in a rock band, writing angry blogposts railing against the government and media – I thought it was very important to have Very Strong Feelings, because The System had a lobotomizing effect that you had to watch out for. It was important to cultivate your personality, values, point of view – and if that meant some some knocks and bruises, so be it. Better than being a brain-dead sheep. (I sound confident saying this now, but at the time it was pretty terrifying. Also I hurt not just myself but other people, too, and I will alway regret that.)
When I got married, bought a flat and started working, I began to lean “the other way”. I now thought being able to Put Away Your Feelings was the most important thing, because I needed to be Responsible and Functional.
As I approach the end of my 20s though, I’ve begun to feel that something’s not quite right. I think the pendulum is starting to swing back. Which is very interesting to witness. I can feel my 17 year old self peering over my shoulder, smilng and tsk-tsking at me.
Both set of statements are valid and true: it’s important to be able to have Strong Feelings AND it’s important to be able to put them away when the situation calls for it. If you can’t do one or the other, you limit your own experience of life.
It’s just interesting to me to step outside of this yin/yang, breathe-in-breathe-out process and witness it for what it is. It has many names, I’m sure: passion vs pragmatism, idealism vs skepticism, naivete vs realism, open vs closed, liberal vs conservative. I find myself puzzled by people who find themselves happily committed to one side for life – but that’s their life, not mine. I think it’s pretty clear to me that my pendulum is going to keep swinging for the foreseeable future.
I _don’t_ think it’s possible to be balanced from the start. I think it’s necessary to witness both extremes, to really feel the full breadth of of the experience. I don’t think you can be “half half”, because then you’re just… lukewarm, and don’t get the benefits of either mode. Rather, it makes more sense to recognize which mode you’re in, what the pros and cons are of that mode, and be able to switch modes as necessary.
I also think that my experience in each mode has enriched my experience of the other. I think spending a few years trying to be extra focused, practical, rational, etc has made me even hungrier to get back in touch with the more passionate, idealistic side of me – and I have so many interesting things to tell him about the utility of being rigorous and level-headed. And I’m sure he has a lot to tell me, too. Which is exciting. Self-discovery is exciting. It’s humbling how easy it is to lose sight of that.