The Most Important War
No matter how much I try to pack in it, I come undone. I may still start work on time, I may even do the dishes I had planned to or cook, but the lingering thought that I never fulfilled the promise I made to myself permeates ever so silently in my conscious.
To say it’s a slippery slope would be a lie. It’s a cliff. I drop, and by the time I get back up, it’s a week or a month. Tired and bruised, I creep up to the edge, a weary sense of success. Only to realize I am where I had started before — right where I should have been last year. Or was that 3 years ago?
I wish this was a nightmare I was describing to you.
I don’t see as many humans as I used to. Yet, I no longer feel lonely, like when working from home was no longer an option but the option. It left from blessing, to curse, back to blessing again. New schedules, adjustments to life, and the ability to adjust to change ever so human. I don’t see as many humans as I did, yet, I understand them even better now.
Maybe I’m delusional.
To understand others, I’ve realized that I must first find that which I don’t understand in me. Not in a cryptic mysterious sense. Just in an appreciation of the things in me that I seem to have no control over. Things like: why I act the way I do or react to certain things. Being alone forced this reflection upon me in a way that I didn’t think would be required.
Curse, blessing, curse.
I used to consider myself introverted. I often told stories of how when I worked as an event manager, I would need to physically extract myself from other humans to breathe by the end of the night. Now, that all seems like such a long time ago. I know I may still have difficulty with crowds of people. Nevertheless, this difficulty is no longer a personality trait — I realize it’s simply a fear.
I love to have an idea of what people think of me. The less pleasing term for this is that I seek validation. Or rather, I used to. And when there are too many people to track, my brain crashes. I needs to breathes. This means if I want to “enjoy” crowds, I need to stop trying to please everyone.
Introverts, you’re welcome.
But that is not entirely true. Working from home and having long moments of silence does provide the chance to reflect and review one’s actions. In fact, if you already had an introspective personality, leaning into it may prove even more beneficial after a year where the global narrative was impending doom and fear of the unknown. We spend so much time watching, listening, responding, reacting to the world outside that we forget where the actual battle, and our true strength, resides.
I wish I could say that I have figured a simple way to reflect oneself to self-knowledge and acceptance. Or that introversion can be flipped through meditation and journaling. I can only speak from my experience as someone who once saw himself in a particular light and now thinks differently.
The way we change the world — not with billions or a startup, but the environment in which we live — is changing by the world inside.
I wish I could find a powerful quote by Rilke or Hemmingway to buttress this. Still, because I’ve noticed my tendency to snooze alarm clocks and try to please people, I’ve made the subtle rebellion against my urge to procrastinate by finding plausible workarounds for legitimate procrastinatory steps ( like searching online for quotes). The way I do this is by simply staying on the page until what is done is done.
There is no fancy quote to describe the moment when you fully appreciate that you can choose your thoughts and that they can literally become your reality. You can practically “fool” yourself into becoming someone else — not someone you admire, but someone in your mind. It’s very possible to find attributes you will like to model and then find ways to model them.
Of course, there are limits to this simplistic approach I’m trying to sell here. You can’t grow taller or suddenly address a birth defect or break physics laws through introspection and action.
There is a lot that is impossible, but also a lot that is.
I once watched a documentary where I saw a lady without arms who became the first armless pilot. To say it was inspiring would be an understatement. Yet, in the face of such a miracle — someone who c was born with a disadvantage and ultimately chose to pursue a path we deem too hard — I still ended up snoozing my alarm the next morning.
This is why people say the self-help industry is a scam. There are millions of stories, hacks, methods, books, and courses, yet the obvious decline continues after the initial high. We blame the writers, say they want people to keep reading, so they keep making money. We make videos about how they’re scammers or secretly evil, abusive individuals who only care about our monies.
We forget the more important war.
Every morning, there’s a war. Every night, the same. Every time we have to choose between what we should do and what we must do. Every time we doubt our abilities or defer to someone else's. Every time we fall, every time we practice. Every time we open up our computers or write a new business plan. Every time we choose to buy the vegetable or the candy bar.
The more important war is not against the billion-dollar industry of self-improvement, it’s not against our families who don’t believe we can do what we say we can, it’s not against our governments and the people in power — the more important war is aligning our hearts, minds, and actions.
The thing about this war that I’m starting to understand is that it is a war. It never ends. You win some battles, you lose some battles. You regroup, make plans, and address any errors you may have missed. The war ends when you die, like every proper war. But you can hand over the mission when your time is over.
You only lose when you die, and that’s the thing: some of us may be walking around, building families, doing everything “right,” but we’re already dead.
I know that escalated quickly. But that’s the thought I woke up with this morning. For months, I knew I was dead. Between October 2020 and my birthday last Monday, I was a ghost.
I did my job. Cleaned my house. Roamed my environment judiciously. Working from home does that. You don’t see the time fly — and you know too well how humans can get comfortable with anything.
Did I get a sudden realization of this war? Did a dream bring me the message from God? Or a documentary jar me back to consciousness?
I don’t think so. I think I won a small battle this morning. I stopped the cycle that enabled me to snooze the alarm and wake up just in time to do my job. Maybe I needed just the right amount of dissatisfaction to do this. Maybe the stars aligned. Maybe someone is praying for me and sending me good vibes and strength.
It is clear, though — the one thing that I hope you get from all this — is that the war within is far more important than any war outside that you choose to drown yourself in or that the world throws at you.
You will never change the world around you if you don’t master yourself. Mastering yourself takes a lifetime of practice. And most of us are just too busy looking for things to be offended by so we can ignore the inconsistency of our thoughts and our behavior.
At this point, I don’t even think it's about self-improvement anymore. It’s just about being who you are.
And who is that? Who are you really? What’s your war, and how do you know you’ve won?
That’s up to you to figure out.
Kamga Tchassa is a Cameroonian writer and video creator. You can find him on Youtube, where over 1000 people are subscribed.