Aimless Reflections on Accountability, Self-Awareness, and Identity

Several months ago, whilst vapidly drifting through an inane corporate meeting, I felt a distinct sense of revelatory self-loathing. Bleary eyed and hunched into a leatherette office chair, I shed my dogged feelings of self-pity, and found the means to move on with my life. Strangely enough, it wasn’t until this afternoon that I truly came to appreciate the gravity of that moment.

For months, I misperceived the windowless offices, darkened conference rooms, and imitative wood surfaces as the culpable agents of my frustrations. Harboring intense feelings of resentment toward the hierarchical establishment, I projected my fears and emotions onto the most willing candidate in my life: my work.

I suspect such a miscarriage of blame is not uncommon for a great many people that choose to read this website. Whether bathed in the dull din of the ubiquitous Dell monitor of the modern office or sifting through an Instapaper queue whilst on a coffee break, a great many of you will be actively harboring a strong emotional anger — be it conscious or sub-conscious — toward the working context in which you find yourself.

And yet, regardless of the perceived malevolence of any authority figure or soul-draining nature of any given office, what so few of us tend to comprehend is that the culprit for such a situation is precisely ourselves. The sole reason any person finds his or herself in a particular job is traceable to personal decisions alone. For me, the environment I had grown to loathe was not thrust upon me. Quite the contrary, I worked extraordinarily hard to insert myself into that company. I dedicated significant portions of time and psychological effort toward the insurance of my compatibility and likability for their recruiters.

Despite this obvious and irrefutable fact, however, I had somehow managed to delude myself into projecting my resentment onto the stark walls of my cubicle, onto the faces of my superiors, and onto the near endless heaps of lifeless paperwork threatening to smother me.

ONE37 was born in this environment, and is presumably the manifestation of my most obscured hopes. From within those dull grey cubicle walls, ONE37 emerged as a beacon of potential for what I may potentially grow to be. With each article, image, email, and Tweet, I edged closer to the freeing of the most stifled and quieted element of my psyche: my true self.

Having forced myself to adhere to the societal norms instilled by years of parental, peer, and schooling advice, my mind had been ushered into a dogmatic subscription to the typical working world. Somehow, I was prepared to live an awful, stifled existence for decades purely due to what others had told me I should do. Simultaneously, I had paradoxically convinced myself I could be the exception to the rule. (Such delusion amounts to a loose and rudimentary form of insanity, and continues to utterly baffle me to this day.)

Writing for ONE37, I spilled thousands of words for the sake of the endeavors of others. I wrote lengthy articles arguing for the betterment of individuals elsewhere in the world, all the while unaware that I was writing about myself. In the darkest depths of my sub-conscious, ONE37 had become a treatise for the subversion of this deluded, self-absorbed person that seemed to be inhabiting my body.

Today, as I delved into the (relatively shallow) depths of the ONE37 archives, I was taken upon a path of self-recognition. Right before my eyes, I had constructed a written monument to my true personality. Regardless of the best and worst of my writing, this weblog exists as a resounding and endlessly poignant reminder of what I had so sorely hoped to accomplish. Perhaps there is plenty more to be done before I might reach my destination, but today marks a moment of utter importance and value that I truly cannot undermine.

For all of the discussions of mindless link-posts and the incestuousness inherent to the technology community, regardless of whatever lapses I may have committed in the past, I can proudly and confidently state that this weblog is solely a projection of my personality. Beyond any advertising, paywalls, memberships, subscriptions, newsletters, and podcasts, ONE37 is — and always shall be — simply a product of my true self.

Without any semblance of accountability for our own actions, we cannot come close to the realization of what we might hope to be. Lacking comprehension of our own self-inflicted ills, it is impossible to assume control over our trajectories. Sometimes all we need is a nudge in the right direction. A subtle pang of yearning or desire — a twinge of hope for change. For me, all it took was allowing myself the freedom to write without the restrictions of page views and advertisements. To simply carve a niche for my voice online, and to stick to it.

Perhaps I’m not the best example, but I can unquestionably tell you that I feel the best I have in years. I’m familiar with myself, and I know what I want from my life.

The lesson I’ve learned is that the environment you find yourself in is irrevocably self-inflicted. Venting frustration for a lack of time, excess of email, or obligation to deal with certain people is an exercise in self-medicating nonsense. If you’re receiving swathes of email, the default emotional response should not be negativity, but pleasure and pride that so many wish to speak with you.

In an existential sense, it’s of paramount importance that we sustain self-awareness and understanding. Without it, we lose track of our accountability, we do not keep up with ourselves, and we release our grasp upon our deeper identities. Thus, whether you’re life is encumbered by office walls, emails, or meetings, I suggest that you try not to focus upon what the environment is doing to you, but more what accountability and responsibility you may hold toward it. Rather than gaming productivity, instead consider why such means have become necessary for you to do what you have chosen to do. And if it’s not what you’ve chosen to do, then you should unquestionably re-adjust and move in the correct direction.

Our respective contexts need not define or hinder our progression as individuals, rather, they should exist as tangible extensions of our innermost hopes and desires. For all who harbor resentment toward such extensions, the question that must be introspectively posed is simply, “Why?”