0529 – gently calibrate your expectations

I’m in an uber on the way home from meeting my friends. My battery died but I just remembered that I have a fully charged macbook air in my bag. How amazing it is that I can pull this device out of my bag that’s light enough for me to lift with my thumb and two fingers– and I can open it and instantly start typing straight away. How magical it is that I’m on the way home right now because of a button that I pressed on my phone, and I won’t even need to pay any money for it because it’s all digital, it’s all online. Amazing stuff.

I’ve been feeling some feelings. I’ll always be feeling some feelings. A part of me has been feeling a little melancholic– not VERY melancholic to the point of being forlorn and incapacitated, but enough so that I don’t reaaally feel like doing work, and I think thoughts like “choosing to stay alive means believing that the juice is going to be worth the squeeze – that somehow the pros are going to outweigh the cons. The cons keep mounting. Bodies start to fall into disrepair. Bills pile up. We get tireder. We get more obligations and responsibilities. If we have kids, it gets even more challenging. The pros on the other hand don’t seem to increase all that obviously. It requires imagination, faith, hopefulness, and perhaps all of that might be contingent on some sort of biological will to survive. We’re the ones that have survived, and so we’ve inherited some sort of itch or craving to stick around. Well, most of us seem to have.

But when I really sit down and meditate on it I have to acknowledge that life at least gets more interesting, if not capital b Better. Things get more nuanced and complex. Circumstances change. Everything changes. Things that seemed flat and boring before become more interesting when looked at from another angle, through another lens, or in aggregate or when juxtaposed against something else.

But there are also some things that have been lost. Illusions and deluded expectations, maybe. The idea that there will be grand achievements. With each passing day, it feels like the probability of me achieving something on a grand scale is diminishing. Realistically, though, the probabilty of that is a function of my knowledge, my skills, my relationships with other people, and even things like the progress of technology (which I enjoy the benefits of despite my negligible contribution to it). But as each day passes, I’m reminded that my chips are finite, that I have limited time– and less every day. I’m still young enough that I can influence my health and boost my odds a little– perhaps quite substantially– but all of that feels rather wishy washy. The reality of it is that right now, I’m a wage-slave with bills and a daily commute. I’ve been this way for 3 years. I maintain that I love my job, and I do. I just hate bills and I hate commutes. But that’s life. Maybe with time and effort I will be able to break out of these circumstances and reconfigure my life. And indeed I have reconfigured my life gradually over the past 3 years. While I still have my slips, I am largely more disciplined, more focused, physically stronger (though maybe not faster, not yet).

I’ve learned more about my body and my mind, though it always feels like I’m slow to apply the lessons that I’ve learned. [1]

I guess my question to me right now is, what am I doing here? What is this for? Right now, I’m almost home, and I’m about 200 words away from finishing a word vomit. I’ll probably get home before I finish. But I’m writing this not because I have any particular insight to share. I haven’t learnt anything amazing. I haven’t even reall ruminated on anything particularly interesting. This is just me signalling to myself that I care about making progress on this thing that I’ve committed to doing.

I guess the thing here is a nuanced sort of self-doubt. There’s the crippling sort of self-doubt that we’ve all probably encountered before– a sense that we can’t do anything, that we’re worthless frauds about to be found out at the next moment. I’d like to think that I’ve sort of dealt with that (though I imagine it resurfaces every time you attempt to go substantially outside of your comfort zone), and that I’m now navigating a more moderate sort of self-doubt. It’s not so much doubt as it is the realization that I have limitations. That I’m not going to do 10,000 things. That if I’m lucky, I can do maybe 10 good things. And I should start by finishing up and polishing off the things that I already set out to do that I think are worth doing. This word vomit project is one of them. I’m more than halfway through it. To earn my own self-respect, I’m going to have to carry it to term, to follow through and go past the finish line. It doesn’t matter if I learn everything that I want to learn from it before that – if that happens then I’ll just enjoy playing around with some happy little experiments. But if I am to have substantial happiness in this lifetime, it seems like I’m going to have to get these things done.


[1] What are these lessons? It’s always worth repeating them. That I need to manage my energy levels, that I need to work backwards from desired outcomes, that I need to plan and schedule things in advance, that I need to keep track of things on calendars and schedules, that what gets measured gets managed, that exercise is powerful and important, that it’s good to eat healthy– more protein, less carbs. That I need to communicate with my team about whatever it is that I’m working on. That I need to learn to eat the frog, and move fast and just do it anyway. And just start, damnit, over and over again. When you’re eating shit, don’t nibble.

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