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Personal essay: “On structure”

Mankind is a creature of habit. When you look at any normal human life it is very much the same when you look at the basic aspects of it, no matter where in the world you are. There is a structure to it, a way it has always been since human societies were first formed.

You are born, you are raised into adulthood by a core family unit, and you go to school so might find a job, leaving the family home to discover yourself and your own place in the world. Perhaps you do not go far, marrying into a local family, perhaps you travel far to find the perfect partner for yourself. Many have kids of their own, who they in turn raise as they were raised themselves, then as we grow older we settle into some sort of retirement, and then eventually we die.

Yet there is more to it than those basic building blocks that constitute a normal human lifetime, most of them fitting well within the framework of a life. This is where our own personalities, our own skills, likes and dislikes affect us. And there are those who need and even more solid structure that affects even their day to day lives to keep them happy.

After much time I have begun to see that I might be one of those people who desire a structure of my life to keep me content. Not for me the jobs where the hours vary a lot, not for me the kind of occupation where I am not certain what I will be doing day to day. My weekends are sacred and any plans for them are made well in advance. Yet, I do like some wiggle room in my life, some gaps in my schedule, breathing room to just exist and after some thinking I have figured out why that is so.

A human life, as I see it, can be likened to a house. It has a foundation; built up of those basic things that all humans need to survive, like food, shelter and I would very much like to argue…love. Without those things a person cannot live and thrive and though some aspects can be compensated for, like cracks in a foundation, some gaping holes will inevitably lead to a sad human existence and most likely an early death.

Then there are the walls and the roof, the framework that props us up and these are the things that might be different from person to person, much like how there are different kinds of houses, from straw huts to huge concrete and plaster behemoths. And the walls of my house have been put up to my specifications, the solidity of a stable work routine, regular hours, a paycheck I can depend on, the ability to plan my day, when to have dinner and when to go to bed, the knowledge that I can afford certain things, a cat that waits for me every day and friends that I can talk to if I need them.

It is only when all these things are in place, the sturdy foundation, the walls and the roof that you can begin to fill up your house with the things that you most enjoy, whatever they might be. These might be different hobbies or interests, sports, basically all those technically non-essential things that keep you going. But, and this is the big thing that certainly affects me, that if there is something going on with my support structure, my walls and my roof, then that deeply affects my ability to enjoy the things in my rooms. That does make sense, really. If your roof is leaking you will be less likely to enjoy playing video games on your Xbox or work on your computer. I have friends who have commented that they do not quite get my need for structure, the way my walls are raised up or how my roof slants, but that is because they are uniquely made for me. My friend has his own walls, his own roof that he needs to make him happy, allowing him to enjoy the things in his rooms to their full extent.

And this is what brings me to my conclusion, that we need to see and respect these differences in each other and that these needs we have are not obstacles per se. I am only limited by my walls if someone comes up to them with a pick axe and starts to hammer away at them. Sadly, our society, at least our modern society is shaped around people with a certain sort of walls I have found. Those, whose walls are flexible, made of wood and plywood, reeds and other bendable, softer substance, adjustable walls or those whose walls can just plain take a beating and remain standing, rain or shine, they are the ones who get on the best in this world. The rest of us…Well, we just have to keep going, even if we might need outside help at times, to patch up the cracks in our walls, or to get new shingles for our leaky roofs. For some it might be enough to have friends to help, while others might need professionals to come in and do it.

But I am certain there are many out there like me, with walls much like mine and a similar dependency on structure in our lives.


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