This is possibly both cheesy and lengthy. Also cliched. But I wanted to write it. So I did. It’s about expectations and reality! 🙂
We all want the best for ourselves, and that’s normal. It’s good. A lot of people aspire to be something great: rich, famous, the best in their field, whatever.
It’s good to have aspirations and ambitions. It’s good to strive for something. It’s good to try and make your life the best possible life it can be, because as far as we know it’s all we got.
It’s good to not create limitations for yourself. It’s good to dream big. It’s better to follow those dreams, even if some people would consider it a “waste of time.”
It’s great that thousands and thousands of people get head shots, even though they know they are “competing” against those kinds of odds. It’s nice that people work hard to go to good colleges, to get good jobs, to make money, and maybe even contribute something.
I am a firm believer in these things. I myself have my pipe dreams and I haven’t given up on them. I’m still doing things in order to get that dream career where I accomplish something, contribute something, and make a lot of money doing it.
But I worry sometimes that in this pursuit a lot of people have lost sight of what matters more.
Becoming rich is some sort of cure-all.
Networking can involve thinly veiled fake friendships developed to step up the ladder.
Fame is often equated with “well-liked”.
Jealously prevails. We all want what we don’t have and despise those who have it.
We sacrifice things like time-off because we need to get to the top as quickly as possible. We are too busy stressing about our unrealized next steps to enjoy the breeze, or whatever else is going on in the moment. We choose friends, sometimes, based on their ability to get us ahead. We enter relationships not for love, but for the prospect of money or furthering one’s social status.
I don’t mean to begrudge these things completely. If it actually lead to genuine, long term happiness for a person then more power to them. I can’t know what qualifies as happiness for anyone else.
But as far as I can observe, I don’t know that these things do lead to a sense of being content and fulfilled. As far as I can see it just makes people need and want more and more to maintain their sense of satisfaction.
I myself am not above any of this. In fact, I’m guilty of a lot of it. It’s easy to compare yourself to other people. It’s easy to feel good because I worked at x number of places. It’s easy to think I might be better qualified for a position because I worked at such and such a company. It’s easy to think I’m smarter than someone because the college I went to was better ranked. It’s easier to feel insecure and intimidated because another friend went to the #1 school in the country.
I have gotten that jolt of happiness when I felt myself moving up the ladder. It’s nice. It’s a similar feeling to what drug addicts must feel when they take a shot of heroine. It’s better than plain happiness, which might be as simple as eating an especially delicious ice cream cone. It’s a kind of happiness that makes you feel like a worthwhile human being. It’s one that makes you feel like you’re almost number one, the kind of person that everyone likes and everyone wants to be. That’s a great feeling, no doubt.
But it’s also difficult to maintain. And I think part of the reason is it sets up expectations that are maybe unrealistic. No one is ever thin enough. Or pretty enough. Or funny enough. Or smart enough. Or powerful enough. Or rich enough. Or talented enough. Or fashionable enough. Or…
To quote the Sunscreen Song, “sometimes you’re ahead, and sometimes you’re behind. In the end the race is long, and it’s only with yourself.”
So I don’t know what the point is, necessarily. I definitely don’t want anyone to give up on their dreams. If someone wants so much money that they have a private jet, really, go for it. Sacrifice what you need to in order to get there. Just don’t sacrifice to the point that you’ve given up the rest of your life. Or don’t compromise too much. Don’t accept depression because you expect it will turn into happiness eventually. More often than not it probably never will.
Because when I think about the times I’ve been happiest, truly, It’s been in the company of certain friends or family or co-workers. Moments where I felt like people cared. Conversations where I felt like people “got it.” Times when we just laughed a lot.
And that’s all I want, are more of those times. I want to have a job I don’t dread. I want the opportunity to do things I like to do in whatever capacity. I want enough money to live in a nice enough house in a nice enough neighborhood. More importantly I want to keep the good friends I have, to meet more, and to have a family I can tolerate on most days.
I worry sometimes that this is too much. It seems easier these days to have a crazy and ridiculous life than a simple one.
But also I just want to live in the present more, and to enjoy the ride. I want to find the friends I like and to hang out with them more. I want to find people who are nice and genuine and not using me for their own needs. I want to be more content with what I have, instead of focused on what I have yet to accomplish. I want to be more comfortable with perceived “failures,” but to keep trying and not give up on my goals. It’s almost like I want to be a new born Christian, except without all the religion. I don’t know. I really just want to be happy, and to learn how to create an idea of happiness that isn’t unattainable. And I want good human connections. Those are a lot of wants, but hopefully reasonable.
I also feel like a lot of what I wrote is cliched and has been said before. I am definitely not a genius who has come up with the solution to life. But then, I guess it’s possible that stuff like this hasn’t been said enough. Or at least, this is not cliched enough to be the majority philosophy on life. The only people who really think like this are hippies and potheads, it seems. I am neither. Anyway it just felt helpful to write, for me. So maybe it’s worth it to say again.
(This is not a slight at anyone’s values or goals. It’s more just a reflection of how I used to perceive happiness and how it has changed.)