Past-Me Is Always One Step Ahead

Do you have little habits that you find make your life just a little bit more difficult? Here are some thoughts on that…

I often find that Past-Brian does little things throughout his day to make me, Present-Brian, have to work just a little harder (which is already a struggle). When it’s Future-Brian that does it, I’ll definitely let everyone know because that would be big news and certainly a more exciting story. For now though, I would like to write a bit about those things, habits and character traits that we all have that, while not particularly damaging to ourselves or to others, tend to make life more difficult than it should be.

I always take the little notepads from hotels. They are usually pocket size and easy to carry with me when i can’t have full-size notebooks.

In the picture above are two writing samples, both the work of my right hand. On the left side of the picture is a scribbled note from about 2 years ago that i found in my book-bag tonight (not sure if that’s good or bad) from when I was working out of town and had to utilize the local laundromat. At about 25-26 years old, this was the first time I had done this, that I know of, and it was unreasonably complex for me. I’ll add in transcript of the note below (if I can decipher it) but that isn’t the focus of this post. If it was, it would have been part of the thesis in the introductory paragraph.

When i came across this note, as I do fairly often (not this specific note. That would be asinine. Rather, i have many little notes that I write and leave scattered in just as many places only to be much later found, read, pondered for a short amount of time, and then set back down to discover in another few years), I spent a couple minutes looking through the scribbles trying to figure out exactly what I had wrote down. It took until the word laundry before I recalled the context of what was written. Past-Brian didn’t really make it easy on me. It was pretty rambling (which i think is fair considering that it was stream of consciousness writing) and barely any sort of intelligible script.


Other than the content of the note itself, my mind was immediately bombarded with the familiar thought of “Why don’t you  write a little more legible on these notes. One day you’ll write the best thing you’ve ever written and you won’t be able to read it two weeks afterward.” I tried to explain to my mind that it wasn’t my fault. “You saw me, brain. I’ve been sitting here in Starbucks the whole time. It was past Brian. He did this to me. To us. In fact, you were there when he did it. Why didn’t you do anything?”  My brain darted its metaphoric eyes across the room, stammered a muffled response and promptly blurted out “Uhh…got to go.” He always leaves me like that. Now that I think of it, that is probably what happened in the laundromat. I digress.

All of us have certain behaviors that we do which end up circling back around and make our lives a little more difficult. Scribbling messy notes is just one example for me. Some others I can think of would be: leaving keys and other items in random places and then not being to find them when in a rush, saving tasks for the morning that should have been done the night before and coupling that with oversleeping, trying some party drug at a night club and winding up in Tijuana without any credentials or knowledge of the Spanish language. That last one admittedly has never happened to me, but I imagine a person would have some choice words for their past-self if they found them self in that situation. (Note: I use ‘past-self’ not ‘former-self’, as I am simply talking about a change in time and ‘former-self”, I believe, has a connotation of a person who has had personality and character changes)

The point, as I am sure most of you have been trying to figure out, is that we have these behaviors that have negative, albeit usually minor, consequences on our lives and yet we continue to do these things and rarely change our behavior. I like to joke (kind of) that since past-me screwed present-me, I get to screw future-me because why not? I need to punish someone for my mistakes and I’ll be long gone by time he gets on the scene. Have fun, future Brian. Godspeed. (Everyone has conversations with themselves through the time continuum, right?)

I can’t really explain why we continually make poor decisions (small or large) — well, I can, but I don’t want to ramble on for too much longer. Suffice it to say that in the same way these things become bad habits, we must, if we want to, move in the opposite direction and replace them with good habits. Whatever it is, we can’t simply rely on the plan that we will remember in the moment and be able to alter our ingrained behavior. That rarely, if ever, works. Good habits are the key so that the positive decisions don’t have to be consciously performed. The bad ones aren’t. This takes work and is often more difficult as we are not starting at zero on the scale. If you’re like me, we have managed to put ourselves somewhere in the negative numbers. First, we must do an about-turn and work our way back to net-zero. Then from there, in an uphill struggle, we may begin to build a positive change in our own lives. Once the good becomes habitual, more good behavior starts to become easier. Little goods lead to larger goods the same way that little bads lead to bigger bads. The timing and difficulty will vary from person to person and with each behavior.

Suffice it to say that in the same way these things become bad habits, we must, if we want to, move in the opposite direction and replace them with good habits.

So, while I do usually carry around notebooks to help keep my notes in one place (for whatever reason I have never got in the habit of just using the notes app on my phone. It’s probably related to the reason why I prefer actual books over E-books and pen and paper to typing), I’m going to start writing a little more clearly. It’s just some very, very small steps, which I often find to be the best type of steps when working towards self-improvement. If you notice, back in the top photo, on the right side, in one of my many notebooks is a brief entry. While it was still a free-write with no clear direction, I wrote in all capital letters, as I tend to do when not in a hurry (also not unlike a sociopath, or so I have been told). This is harder than jotting things down quickly and makes my hand cramp up about twice as fast, but I can always read the notes and it looks nice and neat. I actually started this practice when working in the scene shop for the Theatre Department in college. When doing construction, it’s best to write in capital letters as it helps eliminate confusion for you and others when reading notes.

What about you? What is a small, annoying habit you find yourself doing and what are some small steps you can do to help break it?

Here is the transcript of the note, which I’ll probably write about in another post someday. And yes, the poor grammar hurts me, but I gave you a photo so I don’t want people to call me out for editing it.

 “Man, what an exciting moment it is when you are faced with a pretty trivial, common experience but feel lost doing it because you never had to do it before. It should be pretty simple. Go in, find a machine, put clothes in, pay, do that twice. Oh, it is that simple. But there’s hidden curve-balls. Buy detergent, so many buttons to push, lots of directions to read. All the while looking like an idiot because you don’t know how to do laundry. Still easier than doing taxes for the first time. “


**Note: There is more on the back that seems to be related but isn’t pertinent to this post and it almost seems like there is a missing page, which i’m not sure how that happens between the front and back of a page, but if I do write a post regarding this, I’ll include that content.








Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.