Reaching that age where “maybe they’re older and know something I don’t” is starting to be replaced by “nah they’re just as dumb as I had originally suspected but could not prove”.
On a less antagonistic note, seeing fear and uncertainty in people’s eyes. Recognizing when people don’t have the answers.
I guess all of this is a part of me growing up. I might be narrativizing here, deliberately, hopefully. But we’re always narrativizing all the time whether we like it or not. The story for me was always, “one day my prince will come”, where the prince is a smarter, wiser, more powerful and enlightened version of myself. Who’s grown past all the childhood slights and insecurities and worries. Princely Me is confident, speaks clearly, has a deep voice, no anxiety in his face. He’s physically strong. Disciplined, attentive, efficient. Internally driven, internally validated. Unfazed by stupid bullshit around him.
He has to be committed to something. I imagine he’s committed to serving the ideals of great men throughout history. Not in arguing on Internet forums about what these men had to say, or what they really meant, or what was right or wrong about them. That’s a losing battle, one without stakes, devised and perpetuated by the disenfranchised to feel an illusion of significance. Yes, everything is ultimately illusory, but it isn’t cheesy smartassery to recognize that some things are more illusory than others. Things that- when you stop believing in them, or you walk away from them, cease to exist, cease to be significant, cease to be meaningful. Theoretically if I could walk away from all my nonsense neuroses they should fade away. The problem is that the idea of walking away still seems to be just that: an idea.
(Just felt a momentary impulse to tab out and check social media. Acknowledging. Allowing it to fade. Back on track.)
If I am to grow and learn as a person I need to figure out how to actually leave all my old bullshit well and truly behind. Is a writing project like this directly in contradiction with that goal? I don’t think so.
Am I being unkind by calling it BS? (Does it matter? Probably not, but I can allow myself to explore the idea within the context of one vomit. I just need to pay attention if I’m repeating this over and over again. Which I might.) I guess it’s just a lot of details in a space that will ultimately be inconsequential to anything other than my own ego. I keep hoping that there must be people who relate exactly to me, who are already giants in their own ways, and that than will be interested in all the sordid details, that they will validate me for all of that. “Oh, poor baby,” they will say, “my life was just like that too. Let me love you.”
Writing it down reveals how silly it is. It’s cached childish stuff. I don’t want to be babied by my future peers. And there’s no need for us to go into all the little details of each other’s childhood pains. The point is to be actively doing things about them. The point is to be working and growing.
I’m thinking now about the loyalty missions in Mass Effect 2.
A part of me wants to be Shepard, earning the loyalty of high-quality people around me. A part of me wants to be one of the crew members. To be visited by a Shepard who, in service of his quest, is willing, able and eager to listen to your problems, and to help you resolve them so that you’re able to join and serve the mission better. But I think even then the most important thing to realize is– Shepard wasn’t running around solving everybody’s problems, she didn’t have time for that. She only solved the problems of the people who were already identified as the most powerful, useful people in the Galaxy to help her on her quest.
So if you want to experience something like a powerful Loyalty mission dynamic (and I feel like I’ve experienced a 1.0 version of that with my colleagues), you need to be someone worthy of it. We’re all the way back to the Cracked article about harsh truths.
The harsh truth is– nobody in the world is naturally inclined to care about you beyond more than what you can do for them. Relationships can begin in functional, transactional ways and then develop into something more– that’s a sort of elaborate ritualistic commitment device, sure, but fundamentally the important thing is to be able to deliver value. To earn your keep.
Perhaps there might be some magical people out there who don’t try to optimize in the slightest, but it’s cruel advice to tell somebody to hold out for someone who’ll magically love them for who they are.
I also find myself thinking about old friends I no longer have active relationships with, people I parted ways with. Do they think of me as much as I think of them? Is it weakness on my part if they don’t? Does it even matter? No, it doesn’t. “You foreign fuckers care more about dead buildings than living people,” said some graffiti in some place with ancient civilization as a tourist attraction. Isn’t this the same with our memories? Am I not guilty of doing the same- prioritizing perfect (or perfectly imperfect) memories over real people, problems, challenges? It’s a sort of perfectionism, a fear of loss and failure.
But we have to fail our way forward, it’s the only way. Otherwise we’re trapped. I may have gotten good at rationalizing and romanticizing what it’s like to be trapped, but let’s be honest- it sucks. Just because it might be possible to find meaning in life in prison doesn’t mean you should go go prison to find meaning. The world is a big place- nasty and dangerous but also full of opportunity and wonder and lots of laughs.
Okay, I’m getting too far out of my head and environment here. Talking about “the world” is usually a sort of escapism. All I’m trying to say is that I should focus on the challenges in front of me rather than the memories behind me. I can always reminisce later, or I can always make time to reminisce if I really want to.
And there’s only so much juice you can squeeze out of old stuff anyway. And nobody really cares about those little details until you’ve accomplished something significant. I was looking through old posts on Facebook and found an old discussion about a rich doctor (I think) who got cancer and gave a really inspiring speech before he died. And he talked about how materialism is bad and how he regretted it.
The interesting thing about humans is we don’t really pay much attention to the people who were non-materialistic from the start. They don’t really seem to show on our radar. Even Buddha started out as a prince before he gave everything up. Maybe there are some exceptions to this rule… but okay, zooming out, why does this matter?
Right, trying to figure out what I should focus on, what I should work on. Well I have certain obligations to fulfill in order to earn the living that I earn, and when I don’t fulfill these obligations my body feels it. It’s a nasty feeling. The same feeling I had when I didn’t do my homework as a kid.
(Quick thoughts about the feeling in school- I suppose it’s clear to me now how I feel about school now, and if I could go back in time I might not feel anxious because I’d know that it wouldn’t really matter. But I didn’t know back then. I just felt like I was disappointing people. Does it matter if you’re disappointing people? That’s up to you, I guess. Disappointing people you care about, that always sucks. You get to choose who you want in your circle.)
I suppose in general I have this weird habit of distrusting my biology. I don’t eat when I’m hungry. I don’t sleep when I’m sleepy. I don’t exercise when I’m lethargic (and for the longest time I didn’t even equate the two together.) That needs to change. I make it out to be big philosophical or complex problems but really, what does my body want? I should listen to that.
Right now my body wants to be done with this vomit, to publish, to X the box, to strike off the date on the calendar, to crack open a cold beer and have a good night’s sleep. Today’s fight wasn’t perfect, but it’s been better than most. We’ll do even better tomorrow.