Chapter One – The LIT Moment Manifesto

The Life of Faolan


Chapter 1

The LIT Moment Manifesto

It is the art of making peace with my actions that allows me to move forward, to grow, and to feel fulfilled and satisfied with life. I have always taken life as it comes, adapting, adjusting, and being inspired by my current situation. Today, a friend of mine told me that I can’t always live in the moment, that sometimes it is better to live with my future in mind. It has stuck with me since he said it. I realized that this echoes what I have heard from many people who care about me, throughout my life. Just last year a girl who I was kind of seeing told me that my detachment from the future was terrifying for her. My family has always attempted to dissuade me from my live-in-the-moment (henceforth referred to as LIT Moment) way of thinking because of its lack of stability. My boss in my current job said that she can’t rely on me or trust me if I continue to live in the moment. All of these arguments are valid and sound. Every time someone tells me that this way of life is dangerous, I have an existential crisis. Sometimes I simply withdraw into myself to find my inner strength, sometimes I have full on breakdowns when I must seek out those who I trust more than any others to bolster my self-confidence, and just once I fell into a depressed state for a few weeks, where my heart felt unlike anything I had ever experienced – in every waking moment I could feel my heart weighing me down, fighting back against my choice to go against who I am. I have had to evaluate and reevaluate this piece of myself over and over again. In the past, I have always been able to move through the criticisms by identifying them as fear-based or as worrisome, or even as an incapacity to understand who I am and how I function. Whatever the case, today I am digging my feet in and I am choosing to believe in who I am.

I have learned that there are three core principles that must be followed when adhering to a LIT Moment lifestyle. I will state them and then continue by explaining what they mean. The principles are as follows:

  1. I must be intentional, honest, and unwaveringly compassionate;
  2. I must make peace with my actions and their repercussions; and
  3. I must follow my heart and actively seek to grow both for myself and so I can inspire every person who my life touches.

Principle number 1: I must be intentional, honest, and unwaveringly compassionate

When I choose to live in the moment, my guiding core values become more important than anything else. My core values are intentionality, honesty, and compassion. These three values all line up with my way of life as I will explain.

Intentionality: In order to live in the moment, I must be always thinking of where I want to be after the moment – I essentially must be living the moment with a purpose. When I become passive in my life and I miss moments, I begin to lose track of who I am and what I am living for. People who live with plans in life (henceforth referred to as PLAN People) are more easily let off the hook when they are passive with their lives because the only thing that matters is the end goal and not the journey to get there. For me, I often figure out the end goal by partaking in the journey and so it is important to constantly be searching for that end goal in every moment and it is important to make the most of every moment.

Honesty: I first discovered the power of honesty because of my parents. When I was in high school I realized that by being honest with my parents, I could avoid getting in trouble for things. I distinctly remember one of my first days driving by myself after I got my license, I was changing the song and I skidded against a guardrail, scraping the whole right side of the car. I remember reaching the bottom of the hill after passing through my immediate panic and thinking, I should be honest because if I am anything but honest something will come back to bite me. I later evolved my reasoning for honesty. I would eliminate the need for people to worry about me and I would create a more efficient way of communication. My first theory was one based in panic and my second theory was one rough around the edges but on the right track. I have now grown my reasoning even further. By being as honest as possible in life, both with myself and with others, a few things tend to happen consistently:

  1. I am forced to hold myself to a higher standard than I otherwise would;
  2. I consistently evaluate myself and my position in life; and
  3. I end up in situations that are most parallel to who I am.

These things all contribute to why it is important to be honest. Without number one, people lose faith in the LIT Moment mentality and hence lose faith in me. I have experienced the backlash of losing my morals and making poor choices. Without the second one, I lose touch of my intentions and drift into a stagnant, passive life, quieting my heart and silencing my dreams. And finally, an advantage of honesty combined with the LIT Moment life is that I almost always end up where I belong. Over and over I have found that by being honest, I am almost pushed by some outside force to the place where I need to be. Without honesty, I lose number three, which, ultimately, is the biggest advantage of a LIT Moment life.

Compassion: Being compassionate is not a must in life when a person is living for the future. Often people who focus on an end goal (PLAN People) lose sight of that which is in front of them, forgetting to be compassionate and present. When I lose compassion, I lose every benefit of a LIT Moment life because the biggest fallback and risk of this lifestyle is losing the people who are choosing another way of life. While discovering the truths about my way of life, I have lost friends and opportunities along the way. These fallbacks were the kinds of things that kept me up at night, thinking, longing for a way to understand why they continued to happen. I have always tried to be nice, but it wasn’t until about a year ago that I finally had an experience that showed me that what I thought of as “being nice” is actually a lifelong commitment to compassion, without reservation. One of my closest friends continued to get hurt by things that I would say – things like: “Man, you look rough today” or “You haven’t eaten anything today?! What are you thinking?” My outlook on life lacked empathy, I saw the world from what I thought was a superior place of understanding and rationality. It wasn’t until she finally broke down in front of me, explaining what I had been doing was causing her to stress, to lose touch with herself, and to ultimately spiral her into an almost depressed state that I realized how awful my consistent rationally spoken, emotionally based statements had hurt the people around me. I was shocked and appalled at what I had been doing. In the year that has past since I have shifted my perspective to one of compassion and grace founded in real empathy. I have seen people around me blossom and come alight when we talk, falling quickly into a trusting, unhesitating honesty and comfortability with themselves. I am so grateful for this ability that I have cultivated. I love, more than anything else, watching people feel comfortable and inspired to be themselves and to connect with the deepest and most vibrant part of their spirits and hearts. I am privileged to be able to experience the profound beauty of this expression from people in the multitudes that I do. To summarize compassion, with compassion people around me blossom, without compassion people around me shrivel. For a person living the LIT Moment journey, it is of the utmost importance that I am surrounded by people who trust me and understand that I will drift in and out of their lives but that I will love them unhesitatingly whenever life brings me to them.

Principle number 2: I must make peace with my actions and their repercussions.

Some of the hardest lessons in life can only be learned when we internalize our actions, accepting all responsibility for their repercussions. For PLAN People, often actions and repercussions are, well, planned. This type of person has a destination in mind, with intermediate steps and goals. Each action is webbed into the grand scheme of things, intentionally placed to further that person towards their final goal. These actions can range from the simplest thing – brushing and flossing one’s teeth to reach the goal of having good teeth for life – to something much bigger – finishing a degree in bioengineering in order to place one’s self in a position to achieve fulfillment in a projected passion based profession. These are examples of the ideal PLAN Person because their actions are laid out based on an authentic self-reading of that person’s heart and dreams. However, there are many people out there who unknowingly identify as PLAN people and these people can sometimes lose track of their meaningful and authentic end goals, leading to a dismissal of repercussions and ultimately to a plateau. A common example of this is seen when people set goals without taking the time to self-regulate their intentions and without understanding if their goals actually line up with who they are.

Let’s look at your typical student for a moment. In my time at college, I have found an overwhelmingly large amount of students with little to no idea of why they are in college, beyond the incredibly lame reason of: because society told me to. Our modern-day America has set up students (I must interject here and say that this often only applies to the more financially or opportunarily privileged demographic of student, myself included) to enter into college without a real reason, without asking these people to identify in themselves what impact they want to have in the world or why they are even choosing to be a Coen major. The reason is almost always: “I want to be able to provide for my family. I want stability.” For those who have thought it out and who have decided that this is the most important thing to them, I have no argument. For those who have only been subconsciously funneled into this way of thinking I would like to provide a challenge.

What if you could provide for your family and be living the life of your dreams while making an immense, positive impact in the world? What is stopping you from becoming the very best version of yourself but the very restriction you place on yourself by thinking that to dream is to lose stability. I have little proof, but from what I have seen and read, the people who choose to commit to their dreams are almost always successful and fulfilled. I don’t mean the people who halfheartedly commit. I mean the people who dive in headfirst and never look back. These people find themselves and they find the meaning of life. In order to further disprove this stability based goal, imagine now your future child.

Let’s say you have enough money to provide everything your child could ever want – you are the paradigm of stability. There are many children who grow up in this lifestyle who completely miss the pith of life, the reason for being alive. Since being in college I have experienced first hand the lack of commitment to growth and to intention that some people who have come from ultimate privilege have (not all, certainly, but enough to show a trend).

Now imagine that you may not be able to provide for your child in every way that you want.

First of all, as a person who came from a single mother household, in which we lived paycheck to paycheck I can guarantee that in the ways that it really matters, I am proud of myself and I long for nothing that I cannot actualize in myself. Sure, I can’t have all the possessions and experiences that others can have but that doesn’t mean that I can’t find fulfillment or happiness. Even the people living in the harshest conditions in the world somehow find their own ways to be happy.

Second of all, imagine the vastness of opportunity that you could provide to your child if you had committed to your dreams, growing, learning, and bettering yourself all along the way. I am 100% sure that I would rather have a parent who had traveled to the ends of earth searching for what really matters (whatever that might be). I would rather have a parent who when asked about something could look at me with a glimmer in their eyes and tell a story about one time when they were in Tanzania and a monkey came down out of a tree and handed them a banana. This experienced shook them to their core and taught them the meaning of sharing (Just to be clear I’m making all of this up).

Which parent would you rather be? The answer for me is clear.

ANYWAY, all this to say that I think to aim for stability, while valiant, ends up often leading to missed opportunities to be one’s most authentic self. And so, to finally bring all of this gobbledygook into its importance for those like myself who are living the way of the LIT Moment, I can provide the following pieces of thought. I have clearly identified the strengths of aiming for meaning over stability for a PLAN Person. Imagine now how the differences between a PLAN Person and a LIT Momenter would emphasize the importance of meaning over stability for someone living in the moment. If I chose stability while living moment-to-moment, where would I be in the next moment or the moment after that or even thousands of moments down the line? I would likely be in a very similar spot to the one I started in. If, on the other hand, I live with meaning, choosing to follow my heart in every moment, how can I possibly stay still?! No one’s heart ever says, “Okay human, we have come far enough, let’s stop here.” The human heart is our most powerful asset. If I listen to my heart, I can always hear it pulling me, edging me on, urging me to continue my journey of self and worldly discovery. When I stop listening to my heart and settle for stability, I instantly lose every single chance to progress in life. It is as if I no longer am living for a purpose.

I experienced this about a month ago when I realized that I no longer wanted to be in school. I came to understand that I wanted to explore the world, searching for myself along the way, learning, growing, and coming into the best version of myself, on my own terms. It wasn’t rational, it wasn’t necessarily smart, but it was how I felt. I was suddenly lit up with a joy I had never felt before, it was as if something inside of me had finally clicked. I was exuberant, overjoyed, and excited! I remember running to tell my friend and telling him all about my newfound destiny. He said something along the lines of, “Faolan, you can’t just drop out of college, that just won’t work.” It was as if every ounce of my excitement had been ousted from my body like the wind being blown out of me, like a punch to the gut. I had been weighted back to the ground, shackled once more to my mediocrity. I immediately began to look for solace and understanding in every person I could find, attaching to those who encouraged me and detaching from those who said it was impossible. Eventually, I convinced myself that to dream something like this was wrong and it wasn’t my place to think that I could escape the system of hoops set up for me from birth. I was faced with the most personally, emotionally trying weekend of my life in which I considered not suicide, but death, for the first time in my life.

I remember sitting on top of the monkey bars at my university, panicking, coming infinitely close to tears before shutting down my ever so tenderly aching heart. Feel, ache, shut down, repeat. I continued with this, wondering why I was even alive if I wasn’t doing what my heart had told me to do. With what purpose was I even there? I remember thinking about dying. It was at that point that I had started to scare myself. I called my mom and my dad to no avail. Finally, I called my grandma who picked up and let me talk. I don’t think that I would have done anything that night, but I’m not sure.

This experience forced me to reevaluate my life. I shut down my heart at that point and stopped dreaming. I had scared myself into meaningless once more. Over the past few weeks, I have been reading a book called The Happiness of Pursuit and it has once more awoken in me my dream to lead a self-guided, fulfilling life. Ultimately it is not what we want to achieve but what we actually do that defines us. Right now I am fighting a war inside of myself to commit to my dreams and to believe in myself. I know that my path to fulfillment as a LIT Moment kind of person is simple – Listen to my heart and see where it takes me, knowing full well that I might be faced with challenge after challenge, but that I will grow in ways that are unimaginable by most. If something goes wrong, I will accept it, and when things go right, I will be proud of who I have chosen to be and how I have chosen to live.

Principle Number 3: I must follow my heart and actively seek to grow both for myself and so I can inspire every person who my life touches.

Finally, as has been evidenced in past 3000 words, everything in life has lasting meaning only if a person commits to a life of learning, adapting, and growth. As I have written this, I have come to understand a little bit more about myself and about the world including a tentative, wait for it, meaning for life. In my favorite book, Coelho’s The Alchemist, he, creates the idea of a “personal legend,” defined by many as a destiny or purpose for life. I instantly fell in love with the idea of a “personal legend” even though it seems to conflict with the idea of living in the moment. For me, a “personal legend” is not just a destiny or a purpose but it is a very personal self-discovered conduit for my life energy to form in this world – eventually it becomes the world in which I leave my legacy. My personal legend is to never stop growing, to never stop learning, and to always be pushing myself to greater heights, pulled along constantly by my audible and powerful heart. To quote Coelho himself,

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

I recently became rather obsessed with the idea that by living as the most authentic (in touch with my heart) version of myself that I possibly can be, I would inspire others around me to do the same. I fell into the excitement that came when I watched people around me strive to change and to grow because of something that I had done.

Some number of weeks ago, before my fiasco on the monkey bars, I went hiking with a friend of mine. I had been trying to go on this hike for weeks and finally things seemed to line up. We left school, almost immediately feeling the relief of connecting with ourselves without the constant pressure of conformity or fear of being judged. I remember the drive: it was full of loud (probably poor) singing and a lot of laughter. The world was our oyster and we were on top of it. At one point, my friend hesitantly asked if she could show me this song. She prefaced by saying things like, “if you don’t like it, we can totally play something else” and “no one really listens to this.” She seemed scared to show her true self to me, to put her passion on the line, something I have experienced countless times. Finally, when the song she had queued started to play, I immediately recognized it as Will Smith’s “Get Jiggy With It.” I almost yelled with excitement when it started! It was, at the time (and still is), one of my favorite songs. I looked at her and smiled so fully I’m surprised it didn’t get stuck on my face. We both sang at the top of our lungs, sharing this experience of connection and empowering affirmation of self. I remember this moment so vividly. (Remember how she inspired me and excited me with her risk to be herself, it will be important later in the story.)

When we got to the parking lot where the hike began, I decided, as I always do when it is warm enough, to hike with no shoes on. She looked incredulously at me, as most do, before laughing at the sheer weirdness of my choice. We took off down the trail, me with my eyes to the ground so as to not step on anything sharp and her with her eyes to the future. Both of our hearts were full and hopeful. We arrived at the summit in no time and spent the next two or three hours talking about life. At one point she mentioned how she feels like people don’t see her for who she really is. She spoke to this concern as if she secretly was hiding herself from everyone. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. To me, she had just that day and many days before inspired me so much by simply living authentically and with courage. I tried to convince her of this and I’m still not sure that I got the meaning across. After a while, it was time to leave. As we hiked back to the parking lot, I remember passing by an elderly man who was walking rather slowly down the path. When he got closer he looked with amazement at my lack of shoes, exclaiming, something like “Wow, honey (presumably to his companion), look at this guy! He’s hiking without shoes! Anything is possible!” I laughed and shared a moment of inspiration with this man who I had never met as he bounded past me, reinvigorated and reenergized. I couldn’t help but feel proud of myself in this moment.

However, as we started our journey back towards reality, both of our spirits started to sink back into conformity, back into a place where these already rare moments of personal inspiration are almost inevitably nonexistent. We returned back to our stable lives of school, our planned and scheduled lives, absent of the excitement of possibility.

This day, for some, would be a fond memory but for me was a profound lesson in meaning. I realized two important things.

  1. In order to be truly fulfilled, my life must be absolutely self-directed and free and
  2. When a person is unwaveringly authentic, they inspire everyone around them to do the same.

I made this day into an experience that I could grow from. This is just one example of how actively striving to grow, allowed me to gain a better understanding of myself, others, and the world we live in. It may seem like anyone could benefit from having this principle in life, which I agree with. However, for a person like myself who has adopted the LIT Moment lifestyle, it is even more important. If at any point in time, I stop growing, if I ever stop reflecting on my life and really yearning to become better, every moment until I return to growth becomes meaningless. For a PLAN Person, an action can still be going in the right direction, even if it there is no growth because the end goal is still the same and the direction in life is still defined. For me, when there is no growth, there is no direction and thus my life has stopped. To live a life that I can be truly proud of I MUST adhere to my personal legend. I must always follow my heart and grow from my experiences. In the classic sense of the world, I might fail, but for me, I can never fail because I will always grow and I will always move forward towards a life empowered by every moment and held together by my three core principles.

  1. I must be intentional, honest, and unwaveringly compassionate;
  2. I must make peace with my actions and their repercussions; and
  3. I must follow my heart and actively seek to grow both for myself and so I can inspire every person who my life touches.

To summarize, living with these core principles and living in the moment culminates in a fulfilling life of growth in which I am constantly helping people and finding my way to wherever it is that I belong. I’m still learning to live like this, as I have no doubt I will continue to do so the rest of my life. I will have struggles, I will have pitfalls, there will be moments of doubt but in the end I will have lived how I dreamed of living and that’s good enough for me.

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Some things to think about:

Whatever you think drives you can be and should be different than the things that drive me. That’s why it’s called a “personal legend.” I would encourage you to think about what makes you unique, about those things that might inspire the people around you that you take for granted in yourself. Every person has something to offer the world and it only takes some introspection to figure out what it is. For me, I live somewhere on the spectrum of LIT Moment and PLAN, leaning towards living in the moment. I have no doubt in my mind that there are many other ways to live. My advice to you is to think about how you make choices in your life and then reflect on if that is how you want to make choices or if it is simply what ends up happening.

 

Chapter Two – The Art of Mountaineering

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