Just a Thought

To clear my troubled mind

I have been having a terrible time getting my thoughts in order as of late. Just prior to starting this article, I got partway through a long, rambling diatribe about the sorry state of our consumer society, until I just got overwhelmed by the sheer number of factors involved in the discussion and burned out.

Getting overwhelmed by issues has been too common as of late. Every time I turn on the news, something comes along to send me into a fit of outrage or a slump of depression. Maybe it’s just a product of getting older and paying more attention, but it feels like so many more bad things happen on a daily basis now than at any point during my life. Then again, I’ve been paying attention to the world for a good many years now, and these feelings are definitely a new thing.

I think the problem might be that I think too much. Actually, I know I think too much. I don’t mean that to sound self-congratulatory, because thinking too much isn’t always a good thing. Over-thinking an issue tends to get you only so far, and often it just gets you back to where you began. I can argue myself in circles for as long as I want, but that doesn’t mean I’ve ever made a decision.

Some of this may be rebellion, though. We have a president, a system, that generally encourages us not to think. We are shown a world of black and white, with prompts that make it clear which one we’re supposed to support. “You’re with us or against us” makes a great sound bite, but that’s only as long as you don’t stop to ask why they’re against us in the first place.

We’re told that we should work as many hours as we can to make sure we can afford that shiny new television, or that fancy new mansion on 1.5 acres of land that used to be a forest. And when we’re not working, we should be at the mall buying other fancy new things, or at the movies enjoying the latest film from Jerry Bruckheimer.

It probably doesn’t help that I have grown restless, too. It is a feeling I have most definitely had before. Some might call it wanderlust. It’s that feeling that I need to be someplace else; that there is so much else out there to see and do, and that life is just passing me by while I twiddle my thumbs and think my many thoughts.

When I was younger, it was enough just to go take a long hike through the woods and pretend I was on some great adventure. When the feeling struck me in college, it was easy enough to sign up to be an exchange student to somewhere far away.

But now I am an adult. I have bills to pay and expectations to live up to. But is it truly what I want? The wide world calls to me, and all I can do is sit and think and talk myself out of things. On the edge of my thoughts hover visions of other versions of me: a me that was accepted to grad school; a me that stayed in Japan. I think of these other phantoms of possibilities not resolved, and I wonder what kind of life they are leading. Are they having these same thoughts?

It does no good to dwell on it, though. This is not something we are meant to know. Everyone has to live with the what-is, not the what-might-have-been.

You may wonder why I speak of such things as this. It’s a new year now, and though that may not mean much in the grand scheme of things, a new year can mean a lot if you decide to make it. A chance to get things off your chest. To start off fresh. And I have a feeling I’m not the only one in this world with troubled thoughts and a sense of something missing from life.

So just think of this as catharsis, or self-reflection, or maybe as call to thought. Thinking too much may be a problem, but not thinking at all is far worse. Take a look at yourself and the world around you and ask yourself: are things really how they should be?

If enough people start thinking, then maybe some things will be changed for the better. Then maybe I can start to think about thinking a little less, and finally find some peace of mind.

Article © 2004 by Joel Haddock