Are you feeling confident? Hilarious? Not actually very funny? Self-aware? Insecure? If you answered yes to any of the above, read on.
So I have this friend named David.
David won’t accept ‘I don’t know’ for an answer. He asks me what I want to do next. What I want to do with my life. Most of my other friends take no issue with my uncertainty. Satisfied, they are (or so it seems), with my ‘Dude, I’m just not sure!’ ambiguity. David, however, does not give up easily. In a really annoying (and perhaps, somewhat endearing) way, he asks me to think more. To go deeper. To explore. To deconstruct. To yada yada yada. And all I want to tell him is “Not now, David. I promise I’ll give it more thought, I’m sure you have a good point, but I can’t be bothered to cipher through all the crap right now.” Usually after I say this, he’ll relent. But he’s a pusher and a prodder, he is. Probably a better man for it.
He’s also a real dreamer. I mean, big time. And don’t get me wrong. I, too, love a good dream- day or night. But sometimes, I’m so sick of my more heady self-conscious. The wistful, playful, side of me that considers all the world a possibility. Determines that everything I could ever want is within reach, all ya gotta do is ask politely. I indulge my inner idealist all the time. Too frequently, in fact, that every now and then, I decide I need a mental hiatus. Take a break from la-dee-fucking-da land, and bring myself back to Planet Earth. Stop interpreting the career ladder as a figurative one (head deep in the clouds), and ground myself so as to better view the ladder’s literal rungs (feet planted, ready position). *Note: Turns out, the ladder’s rungs are actually made of play-doh; therefore, they’re quite malleable. But you didn’t hear it from me.
The only thing I find impressive about the American Dream scheme is that it has managed to fool so many, so fast. Hot damn! It’s like the most successful marketing gig known to mankind. A lifelong sales pitch being fed to the general public, myself included, and we’ve let it go on without question. The masses are into it, I’ll tell ya. Everyday, hundreds of thousands subscribe to the Dream Scheme like it’s a free sex giveaway, and everyone-me! me! me!– wants a piece of it.
I’m not always so cynical. Really! I just sometimes am. And now must be one of those sometimes. I can be quite the optimist. Sometimes, I go through phases of such positive thinking, I can be downright cheery. I guess my issue is that I just want people to be happy. Not in a ‘wake up smiling everyday’ kind of way (though that would be awesome!), but in a simpler way. I want people to feel satisfied. And satisfied with less. My Mom used to say less is more, and though she was speaking with regards to makeup, the statement consistently rings true. Stop wanting more and more and more and just relax already. I’m a big fan of the CTFD advice. Calm the Fuck Down. All of you. And me. I should really just chill.
I’ve decided that I want a change in location. In some ways, I want the antithesis to New York City. I love New York (so relax New Yorkers, I’m not hating), but I’ve found that it doesn’t necessarily bring out the best in me. It does on the dance floor, that’s for sure, but aside from all the silly trivialities, it seems to suffocate the part of me that is something else. The part of me that is New England. That is the mid-west. That is green, that is nomadic, that is active. I only feel active in The City in the sense that I am running around from place to place. Trying to catch the train. Make work on time. Not show up late to bar/dinner/club/music/movie/culture dates. And that is not activity in the rad sense of ‘I just hiked a mountain and now am really exhausted and sweaty and gross but that’s okay because I just hiked a fucking mountain!’ kind of way. No, that’s activity in the ‘I‘m tired from never having the time of day to do anything because my time is always spent doing things, and I’m not actually sure what those things are‘ kind of way.
Forever the optimist, but always the pessimist. The idealist and the cynic. The beat boxer and the folk singer. The high heel and the hiking boot. If you don’t understand me, that makes two of us.
I’m trying to better understand my dueling personalities. Or perhaps they’re not dueling, but at this juncture in my life, I have yet to understand the two as friends. Acquaintances, at best, and even that feels grossly exaggerated. There is the part of me that thinks I should be doing something. I should be utilizing my language skills, improve upon my Chinese speaking abilities, move to a big city, do big things, make big money, and be a big fucking deal. There’s that side of me. Call it the residual effects of my midtown Manhattan glory days. Or the result of growing up with a Dad whom whispered ‘401k’ into my ear at night. (Not literally, of course. That would just be weird.) And yes, retirement plans and health care are important. But, I have a hard time accepting that such things are the end all, be all. You dig? You must.
So, where do I go from here? How to do I navigate the world’s competing influences? For a long time, I considered my indecisiveness to be only a mild ailment. The inevitable feeling one has when living in the Land o’ Plenty. Abundance of choice has always left me bewildered. (How can one choose from sixteen different tubes of toothpaste? Originally searching for the kind that simply cleans, I now am able to choose from the tube that can make your teeth white, tartar-free and straight. Teeth straightener, in a tube!) Friends ask me to choose from a dinner menu the length of my arm, and wonder why does it take me twice as long as everyone else to pick something. “I’ll tell you why,” I respond, “Because this thing is goddamn overwhelming! That’s why.”
In the past, I interpreted ambiguity as a positive thing, as such allowed me to explore multiple options. To keep all doors open. My indecisiveness, I pretended, allowed me to wade through choice’s shallow waters. Only recently, however, have I been struck by the realization that I was never wading. The longer I waded/waited, the greater the stakes, the higher the water rose, and the more likely I was to sink. Dear God, was I drowning? I was drowning!! *Note: Prolonged wading/waiting can lead to death by drowning. But you didn’t hear it from me.
Anyhow, all this to say…actually, I have since forgotten my point. There was something I meant to express, or maybe two different things. Um. Well, all of this to say that uncertainty can be both good and bad! Yes, well said. Uncertainty is an acceptable form of certainty, for it can reflect an individual’s not wanting to commit to something which one does not fully understand. This can indicate that a person is both thorough, and objective. However, uncertainty can also mean that one is just lazy, or otherwise fearful of making a mistake. And I have advice for those people (for myself): Make a mistake! Take a risk, own the decision, and see where it takes you. The worst that could happen is you end up with teeth not quite as white as the next guy’s. And you know what? That’s not so bad after all.