There’s a student who wants to go to a sundowner.
This student is a bit intimidated by the sundowner because they don’t know anybody who’ll be there. The interest that the club is created around may be of no interest to any of the student’s mates, meaning the student has nobody to accompany them.
The trek down to sundowners is often generous in the time it gives nervous students to think of more comfortable ways to spend the next couple hours. A common one is to head back to the table their friends were studying at. The student already arguably has enough friends.
They get blinded by the fact that social tension usually dissolves after the first two minutes. They’ll likely meet a student who also bit the bullet and came down alone. Or, there may be an outgoing person from the club, who makes the student feel at home.
It’s only in the distance that the sundowner looks daunting, but this is often overlooked. The student chooses to stay in the library and study because there’s an assignment coming up; they could start tomorrow, but they have the urge to do it now.
The student, due to carving out that last-second study block in their routine, may get a fantastic mark. This mark may have saved the student from failing the unit and needing to retake it. Had the student behaved more bravely, though, they wouldn’t have spent that evening writing their essay on some niche topic.
There’s nobody to scorn the student for their decision. Many would commend the student for their decision, and not care about the sundowner he bailed on.
When I was in year seven, I faced an early version of this sundowner dilemma. I chose the equivalent of the assignment option, and something similar happened. It was the first few weeks of my cohort existing, and people were yet to form cliques in my school. There were two choices for where and who I could hang with on breaks: the library with a bunch of shy and studious guys who were funny and enjoyed messing around on their school-issued laptop, or the guys outside, who had charisma beyond belief – and girls.
The library-yard commute was only fifty metres, nothing like the several hundred metres it’d take to the Goonzebo. In year seven, though, I didn’t need to take a step out the library, to come up with enough excuses. The excuses kept me in the library for the first six weeks of high school, enough for the yard group to harden like clay and become impenetrable. Those six weeks led me to grow for the next six years with the library group.
By graduation, the library group became a band of brothers. They were irreplaceable with how much joy they gave my high school days. That decision somehow ended up giving me a great gift. I wouldn’t ever take those boys away from my eleven-year-old self.
I wasn’t cursed with anything for being a coward. The lack of boldness during high school, which my whole squad had, spurred us to hungrily chase other opportunities after we graduated.
Now, every time I try seizing some bold opportunity, the decision is rooted in a need to compensate for picking the yard squad, however loosely. It massively shaped how I acted when I left high school, and that iteration of myself in turn influenced the many following iterations of myself – like a domino effect – leading to the one I am currently trying to improve upon.
There are wonderful opportunities that open up to us as a result of varying circumstances – which can be the result of making poor decisions. We may have been overcome by an urge or fear we should’ve kept at bay, and that may have massively affected the choice we made at a crucial moment. Yet, a whole new wonderful world may have opened to us.
Lots of my decisions have not resulted in what I imagine would be written on the tin. I’ve made thousands of decisions I’d class as poor, yet they have all set up something great later. Nothing I like about my life has been untouched, however indirectly, by some poor lapse of judgement that was nonetheless crucial to that goodness existing.
Our ancestors’ decisions were also imperfect, and have touched us in some way. Blunders they’ve made have all conspired for centuries, resulting in us being here, as we are today. Their actions have resulted in the foundation of our society.
I don’t know what perfect looks like. I don’t know if there’s a way to define a good decision: the right proportions of courage and emotion we ought to use. When I refer to decisions that I’ve made as being poor, it only means that I would’ve preferred not to have made them at the time.
If the universe spoke to me about a perfect world, and what the perfect person looked like, I don’t think it would be recognisable for me, given my current way of life. The proportions to which certain traits make up who I am, and my way of life, would likely be nothing near the ‘perfect’ me. It might as well just be death. There are imperfect parts to myself and others that I look at cheerfully, because these imperfect things are so beautiful to watch and interact with.
My net satisfaction, looking at the decisions I’ve made in my life, is not shared with every person on the planet. I am only twenty, and I’m blessed to have had an untragic life so far, despite having made blunders throughout most of it. This is not common at all in the world, and I’m not guaranteed to always have it. My love for poor decisions is highly naïve and out of touch with many people.
There are people who’ve made what they see as poor decisions, which have birthed to them circumstances – loss, trauma, and suffering – that are unbearable to this day. The origin may have been others’ decisions, but people often find a way to make themselves culpable. They pick holes in their past behaviour, agonising over what they could have done differently, and would jump at the chance to rewrite their part in it.
These people might have gotten some small gifts from the rubble. They could’ve made a lifelong friend, or discovered a new calling in life, as some loose consequence of the hell that they lived through. These gifts may have grown into things that are now essential to their life, for its healing properties, which they appreciate a lot.
This doesn’t stop many suffers from believing that there are infinitely more gains in the world where their loss never happened. The friendships made at a homicide prevention fundraiser, which you were moved to attend after your friend was killed by her meth-fuelled partner, may be warm and beautiful. They may also hardly fill the hole in your heart. The amount of damage done to your mental health may be irreversible, and your overall lifestyle may never get better than “hardly bearable”.
But when these poor people express their wish to undo that pivotal tragedy, which ruined their lives to a degree, I don’t quite believe that they are saying that they’d return those gifts to the rubble. They aren’t asking to undo those friendships at the fundraiser, or unhear a life calling. If time could be rewritten in a way that undid these people’s decisions, while keeping the friends they made and the personal developments that came as a result, then that’s what I believe they would ask for. The good is worthwhile no matter the origin, and its light in their lives shouldn’t be seen any dimmer because of how it emerged.
I don’t see any gift I’ve gotten as stained by its origin. If I’ve become a part of a lifelong brotherhood because I was a wuss in year seven, so be it. I was eleven. It’s common to give our eleven-year-old selves more leniency than our current selves. It’s common to look at our earlier mistakes much more endearingly, compared to our latest ones. We see ourselves back then as more malleable to urges and more easily imprinted upon, which we hope we’ve gotten well away from.
Past some point of growth in my life, I, and I suppose many others, decided that my decisions weren’t to be looked at endearingly anymore. I crossed some notable threshold of growth that I laid down on a whim, and decided that on the other side, every pivotal thing I did should be done without weakness. I started grilling myself for every pivotal thing I did that wasn’t planned out in the perfect headspace, or had the ideal proportions of logic, integrity, or compassion to them.
I stopped excusing myself. I gained the nerve, at some arbitrary point in time, to declare myself as a big boy, strong enough to avoid blunders.
As much as I’ve been hard on myself, and failed to align myself with this declaration, I suppose since everything I know and love around me is currently intact, despite being from a history of infinite flaw, I don’t believe I’ve been cursed by the universe for this imperfection. It’s possible though, that the curse could simply letting me live with my mistakes.
The universe is nonetheless letting me move forward. There seems to be more days ahead to do good with my life, just like there was when I was eleven. The universe doesn’t seem to see me any less hopefully than it did back in the day.
If the universe is still letting us move forward in our lives, then it may forgive each of our entangled lifestyles as forgivingly as an eleven-year-old’s. It looks on eagerly, at what we can do in the future. The worth of what we can do in the future seems to stand on its own. The value of that doesn’t drop in the slightest, just because our better future selves were once us.
It might be helpful for us to sometimes share this cosmic perspective of ourselves. Seeing ourselves as grown-ups might mean nothing, if the universe treats us each no differently than an eleven-year-old.
Jacob is against comparing indoor skydiving to the real thing.
Words by Jacob Cerin
Image courtesy of the UWA Slavic Society