During winter break, with the chance to relax a little, I indulged myself in the sweet trappings of television. During this period of mind reorganization – killing brain cells – my brother and I spent quality time together watching the entire fourth season of “24.” I savored the irony of watching Jack Bauer save the world multiple times from Islamic radicals, while I stuffed popcorn into my mouth.
I don’t profess to know anything about how our national intelligence and security agencies work, but if it’s even close to the level of “24,” I’m impressed. I even questioned switching to a computer science degree because I was so intrigued – before remembering that I utterly hate math. But posing this question was just enough to give me that awful self-doubt. As my mind went along this tangent, it couldn’t stop. Where am I going? Where have I been? Why haven’t I read more Joyce Carol Oates? Why is Braille on drive-thru ATMs? The questions just kept coming, with no answers in sight. Then I had an epiphany – winter break is not a time to become philosophical. Winter break should not involve any thought at all. We think enough during the academic year. With that, I watched as Jack Bauer electrocuted a man using a lamp cord.
If dozens of motivational speakers have taught me anything – and that’s questionable – it’s that we are bound to question ourselves once in a while. Sooner or later everyone doubts his or her actions and ideas. The key is realizing when you should turn that bright spotlight on yourself. As Jack Bauer prepared to infiltrate the Chinese Embassy, he probably wasn’t thinking, “Is this really who I am?” No, he remained confident, invaded the embassy, extracted his target, and evaded two-dozen highly trained Chinese guards.
Similarly, as we accept the responsibilities of life, we cannot falter nor succumb to pressure in achieving our objectives. Only by being steadfast can we finish our tasks with pride.
Yet at some point, if you find that, confident as you are, nothing is going right, then that is the time to stop and ponder your actions. If, for example, you invaded a country, toppled its government, and then found that a persistent insurgency refused to stop assaulting your army, perhaps it would be time to rethink your battle plan. Or, if you are a political party in the minority, and find you can’t get any of your goals accomplished because you can’t learn to negotiate, perhaps it’s time to stop and come up with an alternative agenda.
There is nothing wrong with self-examination. But it’s at what time we go under the microscope that matters – timing, really, is everything. Knowing that a whole new year lay ahead to think about life, I once again settled back, gazing as Jack Bauer’s broke every finger on a man’s right hand.
Brenneman can be reached at email@example.com.