0.0 - Everything looked right, so what was wrong?
Updated: Jun 14, 2018
“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine - it’s lethal.” – Paulo Coelho
There is something to be said about how risk averse we become the more comfortable we get.
Thousands of years' worth of evolution seems to have done its job in this respect. My personal experience this past quarter-century has consisted of studying hard throughout high-school and university, agonizing over which "career path" will "make me happiest" (but also kinda sorta line my pockets somewhat 'cause who doesn't love not being broke am I right hahaha *awkwardly breaks eye contact*..), and clawing my way into a comfy position as an analyst for a Solar company in the NYC area. That was almost two years ago. Status update?
It's been great.
..What? Okay, Maybe that was unexpected given the context of this post and this site. But really, I love New York (especially Brooklyn), and I've really enjoyed my time spent working in the renewables space. I specialized in environmental studies and economics, and when I landed this job I was thrilled. Everyone I've worked with has been exceptionally kind and the work impactful.
So what's been the problem? Goood question.
About ten months ago I was wandering around an airport bookstore, waiting to board my flight home after a friend's wedding in South Carolina. I was totally depressed. The wedding had been amazing - great friends, both old and new, gathered in a beautiful sun-soaked setting drinking and toasting to one of life's rarest feats - but in that airport bookstore, all I could think about was how it had used up the last of my remaining vacation days for the year. Three weeks. More than average, and yet I'd be spending ~40 hours/week the next 49 of 52 under those bright, fluorescent lights in the office.
"Work is great" I reminded myself. "It'll be a fun summer in Brooklyn with your friends". Also true. But nothing seemed to really snap my hungover mind out of the funk. Impulsively, I grabbed a self-help book titled The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k, by Mark Manson, paid the cashier, and boarded.
Some water and a nap on the plane helped, but that feeling stuck with me. For the next few months it subdued as work picked up and I became more acclimated to daily processes and my responsibilities. But it lived on, floating around in the back of my mind, occasionally reminding me of its presence. Eventually it became simply possible to ignore. I was bored.
That terrified me. Great job, meaningful work, happening social life, financial security - I had it all, and I was bored. What was wrong with me? Getting here had been the goal for nearly a decade, and now that I was here, I tried doing everything I could to convince myself that I was happy. But I wasn't. All around me were ambitious millenials, pushing pen to paper 6 days a week for 10+ hours a day just to get a step ahead.
On the other end were, mothers, fathers, family men and women comfortably settled into their suburban home life and living the American dream. I was peering into the tunnel that was the next 10-15 years of my life and through to the other side. It all felt so...premeditated. I felt trapped.
Motivation tanked. Anxiety spiked. Energy levels plummeted. I stopped going to the gym. No longer could I see the point in trying to keep the aggressive pace being pushed by those around me. Selfishly absorbed in my own malcontent I silently wallowed for weeks, feigning enthusiasm day-in, day-out.
In a desperate moment I even picked back up The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k, the book I bought before my flight home from SC a few months ago. I'd never even cracked the cover, but as strung out as I was, I thought, well, "f**k it".
Although obnoxiously titled, the book was incredible. Manson’s flippant narrative and Buddhist-backed philosophy yanks you out of the delusion and denial spoon-fed by most self-help gurus, and forces you to accept that positivity is bulshit, exceptionalism is misleading, and that its all okay. Among several 'out-there' ideas that line it's pages packaged between neon-orange bindings is what the author calls the Do Something Principle. He explains:
"If you’re stuck on a problem, don’t sit there and think about it; just start working on it. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, the simple act of working on it will eventually cause the right ideas to show up in your head.”
In other words:
Inspiration -> Motivation -> Action -> Inspiration -> Motivation -> Action -> etc.
It's circular. You don't need inspiration before motivating yourself to act. Jump in anywhere. This concept really stuck with me. After reading, I knew that though I couldn't identify what was bothering me, I had to address it. I needed a change.
One day a couple months later, I was riding my bike around Brooklyn and having a blast. A calm, clear day, un-busy streets, decluttered thoughts - and it hit me - "Why don't I just ride my bike for like, awhile?"
And here we are.
Is this trip going to fix all my problems and defog all my existential crises? No. Will I be a better person or in a better place afterwards? Probably not. But I've gotta try something. I've gotta do something. If not now, when?
I think it'll be good. We'll see.