Lessons from Gus Gus

Life is full of lessons. We learn them mostly through experience, thoughtful advice of friends and family, and thought-provoking literature. Yet what I find so amazing is that we sometimes look past some of the best models for a fulfilled life, which just happen to be right under our noses.

For me, that would be Gus Gus.

A disgruntled Gus Gus after his bath, vaguely resembling a very angry, wet chicken.

We acquired Gus Gus nearly two years ago. At the time, he was only two weeks old, and could fit in the palm of your hand. From early on, we discovered that he was an adventurous kitty, often surpassing any blockade we may have put up to prevent his pint-sized self from getting into places not safe for kittens.

Nearly two years and almost fifteen pounds of pure man-cat muscle later, he continues to be the poster child for adventure and spontaneity in our house. A normal day would be waking up to him watching closely for the perfect opportunity to indicate that he is hungry, followed by deep, sorrowful mews from outside the bathroom door. After that is a persistent effort to flatter us into giving him something other than his usual dry kitty cereal.

Observe as the tom demonstrates his dominance over other cats by...sitting on them?

The afternoon/early evening is followed by a flat-out kitty marathon. This young fellow never seems to stop moving throughout the day. His usual daytime activities may include dashing from one end of our shotgun-style apartment to the other two or three times, sans provocation. This may be followed by either a rough-and-tumble tussle with a sock (which always seem to come from my drawer), or a high-energy freakout in the bathtub. He takes his breaks by chasing down Lexie,  and sitting on her. He also intently watches the squirrels and birds outside our living room window, chattering and pawing at the window like some crazed wild hunter.

When he desires attention without necessarily wanting anything, he will ¬†climb up on the TV stand right in front of the TV, as if to say “Hello. You know I’m handsome. Look at me! Look at me!”

And unless he’s just woken up or wants something, he refuses to be pet like a normal cat. He’s not into the chin scratches, or long, graceful strokes from head to tail, or even belly rubs.

After this long description, you may think to yourself, “This cat sounds like a monster! He’s only nice when he wants something, constantly terrorizes the other cats, and doesn’t ever seem to stop being a holy terror.”

And I would say that’s about right.

But just this morning, after he batted my hand away when trying to show some sort of affection, I realized something: Gus Gus is his own cat. He doesn’t give in to the typical “cat” stereotype. He is not afraid to bite the hand that feeds him (unless that hand happens to be carrying tuna, of course).

He is still a young beast, with much room to grow and gain experience in this cat-sits-on-cat world. He is not worried about what is going to happen when his daddy gets home, or what the other cats think of him when he’s momentarily lost his calm. He is a strong individual with his own goals and desires, and there is nobody that will stand in his way of achieving those goals. It doesn’t matter how many socks he has to drag into the bath tub, or how many other cats he has to sit on, he will get what he wants done.

I will be graduating college in May. I am scared to death of what is to come. I do not know where I will end up, when I’ll find that first “real” job, whether I’ll stay in touch with my friends, or how I will survive without my refund every semester. All of this requires planning, foresight, and anticipation.

But for all the things I have to worry about, there is so much more that I should just live through every single day. Like Gus Gus, I should remember to keep that spontaneity, not worrying about what others think. Running down the street with a (metaphorical) sock in my mouth isn’t going to make my life any worse, it will only make it better, with more memories to reflect on as I get older.

I believe being spontaneous and unafraid to make mistakes is the key to a life well lived. And I truly believe that Gus Gus holds that key.

 

Did I mention he's really good at Battleship?

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Is Your Identity Really Yours?

With news breaking last week about the supposed change in the signs of the Zodiac, everyone’s throwing a hissy fit.

Why? Because we depend strongly on identities: names and titles and labels that often influence our everyday lives. Our behavior, relationships with others, and even belief systems are dependent on how we identify. Rather than looking inside ourselves for finding the answer we think is right and then establishing our identity, we make decisions based on our identities.

But isn’t that backwards?!

Here’s an example: When the word got out about the shooting in Tucson, every news station was covering it at the same time. I had read several articles on Yahoo, MSN, and my local newspaper. On every single article I read the reader comments, and found myself disgusted by what I read.

I found several comments regarding Gabrielle Giffords that were filled with nothing but hatred. This includes, “Thank God, one less Democrat to worry about,” and “Obviously, the shooter must be Republican.”

My immediate thought: This is not a bipartisan issue. This is not about who’s a Republican or Democrat. It is about a human being opening fire on a crowd of people.

This is what happens when we choose our identities before we act. We let our affiliations direct our actions, and in turn make us seem like out and out assholes. Just because you don’t identify the same way as somebody else does not mean that you need to lash out and ridicule that person, particularly if they’ve just been shot.

I understand the feeling of belonging. We all want it and need it. We like having things in common with other people; we like having friends. But just for that, we sacrifice what we truly believe just so we can have another label plastered across our foreheads. We sacrifice our own identities for ones given to us by somebody else.

Hence why I do not identify with any political party, religious group, or otherwise. I have my political beliefs, and yes, they do lean more on the liberal side, but that doesn’t make me a Democrat by any means. Just because I identify as a homosexual does not mean that I behave in the stereotypical “gay” ways.

I live my life based on my own experiences. And I know that I can’t make everybody happy with what I believe, but hey, that’s life. That’s why we are here in this country. We have inalienable rights to think, say, and believe what we want. This is a freedom of choice.

So why waste it on what a man behind a pulpit or big time political leader says?
Why not make decisions on what you think is right?
Nobody is going to give you all the answers. You have to do some of the work yourself.
It’s time for you to make decisions for yourself.