0309 – draw an arbitrary line in the sand

B: So what would you do if you could do absolutely anything you wanted, if money were no object?

A: Right now really there are three things on my mind. First of all, I would have a very clear gym / nutrition / sleep routine. I want to gain as much strength and muscle as I possibly can.

Secondly, I want to read pretty much every book I own. I want to watch all the most important movies.

Thirdly, I want to write about those things. Hopefully I will have some new and interesting ideas. Or maybe those things will trigger thoughts and get me thinking about different things, writing about different things.

I really just want to do what Tobi was talking about– I want to break the box that I’m currently in. I’m really tired and frustrated of being in this box for so long. [1]

B: Walk me through your reasons.

A: Well, I’m listening to my body, right? My body tells me that I’m edgy and lethargic– those two things seem to be opposites, no? Edgy = excess energy being wasted, and lethargic = lack of energy. So whatever it is, I’m having difficulty experiencing a sort of optimal flow condition. Part of this could simply be that the way I’m doing my work is suboptimal, and desperately in need of optimization.

I think this is true, and has always been true. But the question then is– why does this seem like more of a problem now than ever before? It could be that the problem is compounding, which is legitimate. It could also be that I’m just getting older and finding it harder to excuse or tolerate the way I’m doing things.

I suppose I should look to my relationship with cigarettes and with exercise. In both cases, I feel like I was always going to do something about it, and yet it also felt like I was approaching some sort of burning platform moment. With smoking, I knew I didn’t want to be a 25 year old smoker, or regular smoker. I would be getting past my quarter-life moment and I would be a smoker, and I didn’t want that. Similarly, I didn’t want to be 25 years old and unfit.

B: Heh. Are you chalking this all up to a quarter life crisis?

A: I wouldn’t call it a crisis. It’s more of a… looming realization that I’m not a child anymore. I’ve always thought of myself as a child, considering that I was the youngest kid in my family. When I formed a band, we were typically the youngest band around. When I joined my company, even though I was married, I was the youngest guy on the team.

We have a couple of younger guys now, but I still feel in some respects “younger” than them– at the very least because they did better in school, and doing well in school is a sign of semi-decent time management, maybe? I’m terrible at managing my time.

You can still sorta call yourself a 21 year old boy. I can imagine that. Students in University are boys and girls to me, when I look at them. If you’re still living off your parents, or they’re still paying your bills, etc, you’re still boys and girls.

The phrase “21 year old man” sounds odd to me. I think there are few 21-year-old-men in developed countries. You could call yourself a “young man” or a “young adult” or something. “Man”, in my opinion, seems to happen between 23 and 27.

B: So…

A: So it’s time for me to man up. I don’t want to be a 25 year old boy. A 23 year old boy I can still sorta understand. But at 25, I want to be well-adjusted on the basic things that count in life. I want to be able to exercise my will. I want to be able to be responsible for a child if I had to be.

I don’t plan on having kids until I’m REALLY good at being responsible for myself and others. But I feel like extended playtime is over. I can and should still carve out moments of play for myself, but I can no longer allow circumstances beyond my control to push me around, for me to stick my head under the ground and hide and wait for everything else around me to blow up and settle down. That was what I did when I was a student, a son, a soldier. The responsibility of others.

I am responsible for myself now, for my life. The expiry date for blaming anything beyond myself is coming to an end. The expiry date for excuses is fast approaching. After 25, I am completely responsible for myself.

I know, that’s a rather arbitrary line drawn in the sand, but it’s the line that I’m drawing for myself, and it’s something I intend to take seriously.


[1] Actually, I think that the box metaphor doesn’t capture it fully– though it’s really simple and powerful because of its simplicity. The next level of complexity I think is this– we experience freedom in many different directions, on many different planes. So I feel like I have a lot of freedom in terms of expressing myself with words.

My “range of expression” with words is quite wide. Expanding it further is costly, and doesn’t seem to make that much of a difference. On the other hand, I have very limited expression in terms of strength, cooking, emergency skills, discipline, time management, etc. If I break those sub-boxes, break down the barriers there that keep me from expressing myself more broadly, then I will have a lot more freedom overall.

And it seems like “total freedom” (total feels like a bad word to use– maybe “net freedom” or “cumulative freedom”) is compounded from having multiple freedoms on multiple domains. If you’re strong AND smart, you have more freedom than a very-strong-but-dumb person, and a very-dumb-but-weak person.

Well– it can get way more complicated, depending on the sort of contexts they’re in. You also have more freedom than a strong-but-dumb person and a smart-but-weak person have, summed up together. Of course, doing such summation is a bit of a parlor game.

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