0522 – strive to do more than ‘getting by’

It’s interesting to think about how many teenagers come to the conclusion that the world is full of mindless zombies, that most people are just plugged into “the system”. I’m thinking about the cliche perspective that people often inherit after reading Ayn Rand. And I’m curious about my relationship with that worldview. Did I ever take it seriously?

Looking back, I think sure, I definitely had some of that. When I was in Junior College, I felt incredibly uncomfortable and stifled, and I felt like I was on a sort of industrial factory-line, being processed. I was angry, upset, frustrated, bitter and so on. I wondered, how does anybody buy into this crap? What sort of life are you hoping to lead once you’ve gotten your results? The options seemed almost universally terrible, to me.

I was lucky– I got out of that ordeal reasonably well intact. I still have some underlying anxiety and stuff, but it’s not a big deal. I’ll work through that stuff over the next few years. Hopefully I’ll be done with it before I’m 30, and I’ll be able to be a “full, self-actualized adult”. I’m guessing this is something I’ll look back and laugh at as an example of hilariously naive, wishful thinking, but I also think it’s good to be naive and wishful about some things. [1]

But so what I’m trying to get at is… let’s start with where I am right now. I’m 25 going on 26. I’ve been married for 3 years. I’ve been a working adult for 3 years. I’ve been paying bills for 3 years. I’ve produced about $100,000+ worth of goods and services for the world, I think. I’m no longer obliged to listen to “authorities” the way I was as a child– if I wanted to I have the freedom to quit my job and just… do whatever I like, really.

Stop, rewind. There’s a quote somewhere that goes along the lines of– “Sometimes I look at birds and wonder, if they can go anywhere in the world, why do they choose to stay here? And then I ask myself the same question.” Some variant of that is on my mind. What is the present configuration of my life, my reality, and why do I choose it over all the other possible configurations? Inertia. Legacy issues. If I wanted to, I could change everything. Well, should I? I’m sure there are some changes that are worth making. What are these changes?

I find myself revisiting the basics. I should change the way I sleep. I should change the way I eat. I should change the way I work. I should change the way I write. I should change the way I consume information. I should change the way I get things done. I should change the way I see the world. I should change the things that I choose to care about, I should change the things that I focus on. The assumption underlying all of that is– that I’ve inherited most of these things, and if I’ve modified them any, it’s mostly through simplistic, small-time trial and error.

When I was 22, I remember thinking, “Okay, I’m going to transition into adulthood now.” Well, now I’m 25 and I’ve made the bulk of that transition. I know what it’s like now to commute to work and back day after week after month after year. I see how dehumanizing it can be. I get it now. That’s what I didn’t fully appreciate as an idealistic teenager– I didn’t appreciate how tired my parents must’ve been all the time, and must still be today.

Well, I think I survived the transition. This is my life now. Work and bills. I meet friends when I can. I watch a movie or read a book when I can. I write when I can. I get by. But I don’t just want to get by. I want to thrive. In my mind, I think that thriving was out of the question for the first couple of years– I was spending all of my time and energy just struggling to get by. And I’ve gotten by. And now I have a bit of time and space and energy that I can carve out for myself, and I want to use those limited resources to figure out how to make life better for me.

What would that life look like? What does a better life look like? I think the first thing is just waking up early every day and dealing with life before it comes to me. It’s better to do it early than late. [2] I’ve been trying to do that for the past couple of weeks. I’ve been sleeping earlier and waking earlier. I feel like I’m making progress on this front but it will take a few more weeks before I really adjust to it. Once I’m done adjusting to that, I’ll want to be more effective and efficient with how I spend my early mornings. I’ll want to get some reading done, some writing done, some planning and evaluation done. Figure out my commitments in advance– arrange my appointments and scheduling, plan my workouts, my meals and so on. That’s the biggest thing that will make the biggest difference to my life– to be prepared and to anticipate things rather than to meet them on the road and improvise suboptimally over and over again.

Okay, I’ve gotten a bunch of stuff out about what I want to do over the next few weeks, but I haven’t yet talked about what I actually set out to talk about, which is figuring out how and why I should change the way I relate to other people. That’s up next.

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[1] Well, it’s complicated. I don’t really want to get into that in the context of this vomit.

[2] There are reasons for this that I don’t feel like getting into right now, but it might be worth elaborating separately.

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