Choose And Lose
I had a friend, once, who wanted to be a writer. All she ever spoke about were the poems she’d written a few years ago that had almost won a prize in a competition, her short story ideas that she needed to revise. She’d read books and talk about them in relation to her writing classes, the lessons she’d learned, all the time she’d spent writing.
Yet she never wrote.
There’s nothing wrong with not writing, of course; billions do it daily. But she wore a strange hair shirt as a not-author. It clearly pained her to not be a writer, for she’d lament the many ways she wasn’t producing fiction, and sigh at the end of the week and complain that she’d wasted yet another week not getting there… but it also pained her to be a writer, for sitting down in front of the keyboard was discomforting. She had all these perfect ideas in her head. Nudging them into the real world would chip them, make them sadly flawed in ways she didn’t know how to fix. How much easier to just sit down in front of the X-Box, where all the achievements are easy and you get little pop-up windows to cheerfully inform you when you’ve levelled up.
Her life was spent oscillating between two discomforts, and she was never happy.
Likewise, I have a dear friend who likes company, but not really people. He hates to be alone, but finding groups of friends drains his batteries. So he makes these stabs at finding a social group, and almost gets to the point where he can get out every weekend with a bunch of buddies… but then he finds a girlfriend, and you can practically hear him go Oh thank God I don’t have to do that any more, and he abandons them all to spend all of his time with his new sweetie. Who breaks up with him after a few months, and then all he complains about is his loneliness.
I think a lot of life is choosing between two discomforts, the easy one or the hard one. My friend can have either the easy discomfort of loneliness, or the hard discomfort of maintaining a web of social connections. My old maybe-writer-friend can choose the easy discomfort of I’m not really working up to my potential, or the hard discomfort of sitting down and discovering just how much work you have left to do. Right now I can have the easy discomfort of being easily winded and prone to heart attacks, or the hard discomfort of exercise and these goddamned berries.
Or you can rest easy with the discomfort, to acknowledge that yes, maybe you’re lonely or not a writer or pudgy, but of the two alternatives you have, this is the one you actively chose. And that’s good, too. And I think both of my friends would be much happier if they accepted that really, they don’t want to work for what they claim they have and learned to be okay with the consequences of it, and be at peace with it. To settle down. To accept.
As it is, I see them endlessly chafing at the restrictions of their life, complaining and never choosing, and I feel sorry for them. I know what it’s like. I just wish they could be happy with what they’re not doing, or find the strength to do the long-term thing that would get them to where they claimed they wanted to be.