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Photo by Kate Gross-Whitaker

The Problem with Being Human

In video games, your character starts off much like you do in real life- at level 1. Gradually, as your character puts in work and time, that little bar over your head gets filled and in an eruption of digital confetti you reach level 2 and then level 3 and so on and so forth. The problem with being human is that there is no floating number above your head to let you know what level you are at, and no confetti erupts every time you reach a new level. So how do we know when we’re improving?

At the beginning of every new year we make resolutions because a new year is a new beginning, a new opportunity to be better. We embark on quests like learning a new language or a new instrument, exercising more, learning how to cook or how to dance and we all start at level 1. In the beginning, it’s easy to put in the time and work that you need to, because its new and fun, because it’s easy to see the improvement from no skill to some skill. But the problem with being human is that we want improvement fast, we live on instant gratification, and patience is difficult for all of us. The gap from level 1 to level 2 is small, but as we move from level 2 to 3, level 3 to 4 the gap slowly gets wider and wider and our ability to see ourselves improve starts to disappear, we feel like we’re stuck in mud and trying pointlessly to move forward, and we give up. In other words, we rage quit. The problem with being human is that it is much too easy for us to find and pick at our faults and our shortcomings, too easy for us to compare ourselves to everybody else and feel like we’re failing.

If life was a video game, maybe we could peek at that little floating bar above our heads and see ourselves get closer and closer to that next level or pull up a stats screen and see how our strength, speed or intelligence has improved and how far we still have left to go. But since life isn’t a video game, we must hold ourselves responsible, we must force ourselves to see improvement where there is some. If you’ve made a resolution, if you have started a new language, if you are learning an instrument, or how to cook, how to dance, or how to fight, then you need to take a step back and look at where you were in the beginning versus where you are now. You’ve leveled up. Be proud and keep going. Don’t be afraid to take it slow, the only person you need to measure up to is yourself. If you haven’t made a resolution yet but you want to, don’t wait for the big beginnings- a new decade or a new year. Those are delays you are giving yourself. The small beginnings are all the opportunity you need, because every new day is a chance to be a little better than the day before.