By Brianna Wiest

Brainy modern people like to think in symbols, though of course, they never realize that makes the entirety of their experience symbolic.

They chase money as though it is wealth, when it is really just symbol of wealth, a resting potential for what could be. They chase fitness as though it is health, when it is just a symbol of health, and we know this because if every person who was devoted to their physical fitness actually cared about health they’d be equally focused on their mental and emotional health, or eating cleanly, or removing negative influences from their lives, as often the reasons people get unhealthy in the first place is that they never address their mental illness, stress until they overeat, live a sedentary life because they’re more concerned about money and image than actually living, and so on.

In living lives that are just about compiling sweeping symbols, we focus on the grandiose, as opposed to the everyday. We attempt to craft images because that’s the only place we’ve learned to find our quick fix happiness. The stuff that makes it better in the moment, but does not prevent a breakdown thirty seconds or years down the line.

So long as we are focused on the big picture, we forget that the sum of the parts of our lives is greater than the whole.

If you want to think about it in a really, really practical way: consider how much every dollar matters. Every moment is a moment of your life and you are living it, whether you’re only thinking about living it or not. Every 100 calories adds up. What you’re doing in this moment, and in the next hour, that’s what you’re doing with your life.

If you spend $20 mindlessly each day when you walk out the door – for a coffee, for a snack, for a subway ticket, for a random something or other you picked up in the store – for the next 30 days, at the end of the month you’ve spent $600.

If you overeat by 300 calories/day for the next 30 days, you’ll have gained 2.5 pounds without ever having realized.

If you do [whatever it is you do] for the next [however much time] and never look back and evaluate how you’re spending the moment-to-moment of your existence one day you’ll wake up and realize your 20s were defined by a job you hated or how alone you felt.

The point is that it’s easy to say something small doesn’t matter, it’s easy to write it off. It’s easy to grab a cookie and say “it’s just a cookie,” throw a few dollars out here and there. It’s easy to justify a long day of hard work, because there’ll be a payout, someday. Eventually. Maybe.

We waste our little things in hopes that they’ll create a pretty, worthwhile bigger thing, is what it comes down to. We disregard how crucial every moment is, because we can mentally sweep over it.

And with each moment of unintentional self-sabotage – another day at the miserable office, eating terrible things, wasting the money you’ve earned – you dig yourself a little deeper until you’re so far gone you have no choice but to implode. This is the makeup of breakdowns. This is what happens to people every day.

This is what happens when you don’t realize the simplest, and most stunning fact of our reality: the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. The bits of your life will mean more than the symbols of them. You will not remember years, you will remember moments of them. The only time you’ll ever think about the overarching, sweeping idea of what you were doing… is while you’re avoiding doing it.

Photography: Franca Giminez

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