Day 9: Proud

Every time I sit down to write, I want to write about the same thing. It weighs on my minds, and like most things that weigh on my mind, it lingers like a cold sore.

It’s this idea of not knowing what I’m doing in life. I have no definitive goals or desires. I feel don’t feel strongly about many things, which is odd considering I used to feel strongly about a lot of things. I used to know where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. I used to have dreams that weren’t tied to practicality or the unpredictably sychopated rhythms of life. In these dreams, I had no other concerns other than myself and my dreams. But the biggest difference between then and now is that I now have people I care about so dearly that these dreams are only the preferred journey, rather than the necessary destination. In fact, I’m learning that describing the situation as a journey is productive. It implies forward motion; it implies that I’m building toward something — and I have to believe I am.

I often think of Moses leading the Israelites through the desert. They wandered for 40 years, questioning whether it was a journey or a long, drawn out death. But of course we know there was a Promised Land. I used to think it was the actual location that was so special, but I now wonder if it was the idea of a promise destination that was more powerful — that gave meaning to their lives.

But no one has promised me anything, and it’s possible that I’ll live out a relatively boring life making a survivable income and never feeling strongly about anything. I keep reminding myself of this possibility, because I meet people like this all the time and it terrifies me. I’m sure their lives changed in the same way mine did. I’m sure there were people and things that they suddenly started to care about, and their dreams were culled until they looked unlike anything they sought out to find. But it terrifies me, and I figure if I keep reminding myself of this possibility, then the fire will stay lit.

I’ve been trying to learn new things to give me a sense of purpose. Today I watched a whole bunch of videos about calculus, because I thought it might give me some direction. But learning something so complex required the kind of commitment that I’m not willing to give to something that is merely a whim. Perhaps my problem, though, is that I’m too hesitant to enter into something without knowing exactly its payoff.

I’ve also been trying to read about people who care deeply about anything — people who are passionate about the mission of their lives — and it excites me for the possibility that I could one day have this type of mission. I have vague ideas of where this could go, but that’s all they are. I consciously think about how to whittle down this my massive, unformed block of energy and frustration into something that resembles an action with a purpose. Often I use this energy to play video games or browse the internet — things that waste the time, because I feel too defeated to do anything else. But in my good moments, like this morning or right now, I find ways to funnel that energy into something that I feel proud of.

And, honestly, I think my only desire is to be proud of myself. I see other people I am proud of all the time, and I look at myself and feel as if I’ve made decisions that are safe and cowardly — or maybe just not brave. I feel as if I’m slipping down a hole I don’t want to be in, and I’m trying desperately to climb up the mud and toward a better place. As long as I’m climbing — as long as I haven’t given up — I think I’m OK.

I’ll probably sit down to write tomorrow, and want to write the exact same thing. The thing about these lingering sores is that, even if you want to dissolve them, it requires that you think about other things — things that are less idle, less pathetic. But when you’re falling into a hole, it’s hard to think about anything other than falling into the hole — even though getting out requires such an act.

So my goal going forward is to avoid talking about such things, because I’ve done enough of it. I’ve moped and ambled and dillydallied enough, and I think it’s time to put my mind to something else, even if it is calculus.

I’ve felt my best when I was brave. I’ve felt my best when I approached life with a reckless abandon. What made me proud of myself was that I did things that I believed in — not things that were comfortable or self-indulged or vengeful. Only recently did I realize this was my problem. I’m good at solving problems, once they are diagnosed. For once, I need to use that to help myself.

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