Don't be an asshole: A guide to being present


By Jarrett Bellini | @JarrettBellini
Apparently This Matters: The Column

I'm an asshole.

Allow me to set the scene.

Friday night. We're on the couch drinking wine. Probably pretty good wine. A nice Malbec. I don't really know. All wine tastes the same to me. 

I was raised by wolves. Wolves who drank Carlo Rossi.

On the couch it was me, my girlfriend, and an out-of-town guest who was in the midst of telling a story.

Suddenly, my eyes and mind drifted over to my open laptop on the side table next to the recliner. I instinctively checked my Twitter feed, diverting all attention away from our guest and his story and, instead, to a photo of the cockerel mascot of my favorite soccer team in England.

"Look," I said like a stupid and excited small child. "It's Chirpy!"

I'm an asshole.


I've always had a wandering mind. But these days it's gotten decidedly worse. And I don't even need nearby technology to steal away my attention. 

Mind you, it helps. Considerably.

But zoning out isn't necessarily a bad thing. It can be a lot of fun, actually. And it's the closest I come to being a pro athlete. Or a touring musician. Or a tall man with hair, hope, and obtainable dreams.

It's just that in social settings, letting your mind go off the reservation is generally impolite. So, all I'm left to do is shrug and write it off as the unfortunate plight of a (debatably) creative mind. 

But that's not really the case. It's far more simple.

I'm an asshole.

And it's getting worse. And worse. And worse.

Being present in the company of others is, undoubtedly, my ugliest social deficiency. 

That, and wandering around in public without pants. 

















So, how do I (and others like me) win this battle? How do we stay present and in the moment?

Easy.

Just look in the mirror, reach into your soul, and say these three very simple words.

I'm. An. Asshole.

Because the 'creative excuse' is utter nonsense. And you shouldn't allow yourself to employ such things as an over-active imagination or ADHD as easy outs. They're real and legitimate. And it's easier to say than to do. But leaning on them is cheating. And you're better than that.

I'm not.

But you are.

And know that there are lots of creative people in this world who can sustain perfectly normal, polite conversations without being distracted by something shiny. 

Be one of those people. Ignore the shiny thing.

Unless it's somebody coming at you with a fork.

But speaking of shiny things, I do suppose it's fair to say that our brains have, at least to some extent, been haphazardly re-wired by modern living. 

Technology. Social media. Reddit. 

They're all slowly killing us. It's actually quite euphoric. I like it.

But if you truly want to be more present - to be honest and in the moment - you will, again, have to resist the urge to use outside influences as a crutch. 

Instead, transcend these realities and actually take some responsibility. Which, unfortunately, may require effort. So, I've simplified this idea in the form of a dank meme.




When it comes to the ever-present distraction of social media, these days Twitter is my primary go-to wasteland. I don't spend much time on Facebook. I'm sort of over it. 

Sorry, Mark.

But despite how often Twitter steals my attention, I'm not giving up on it. I like my news. I like it fast. And preferably delivered first-hand by the President of the United States while he's taking a dump. 

(Seriously. He might want to see a doctor.)

So, I'm tackling my obsession with Twitter by way of moderation. That's my approach. Which is to say: I'm not going to change a goddamn thing.

Because being present doesn't mean giving up the things you enjoy.

Instead, when you're around others and start drifting off or peering over to your TweetDeck, simply recognize the fact that you are, in fact, being an asshole.

Then say to yourself, "Hey. Don't be an asshole."

Theoretically, that tiny little act of self-awareness should be enough to at least temporarily shock you back to the present moment where you, henceforth, cease to be an asshole.

Inevitably, your mind will once again start to wander. Note this feeling and gently remind yourself, "What did we just say about being an asshole?"

Keep repeating this until you are fully present and no longer being an asshole.

Then celebrate your achievement with a glass of wine. Maybe a nice Malbec.

Or some Carlo Rossi with the wolves.

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