Figured it out

The end of junior year, as I turned 17, I thought I’d found the blueprint to a perfect life.

It was a simple insight – that the point of life wasn’t money or social status but to be happy. And though everyone ‘knew’ this obvious fact, they didn’t apply it. There were two types of people, the ones who tossed it on top of all the other axioms casted off as ‘duh! I already know.’ and folks who publicly claimed to live by the code but in action didn’t.

For me, this was no act to appear enlightened, rather happiness actually became the north star to my life–the only thing that concerned me when it came to making decisions. And so, guided and driven by happiness, I looked forward to all of it that awaited me as I proudly marched ahead towards senior year.

I’ve recently turned 27. An entire decade has passed chasing happiness. And It’s taken all this time of doing almost everything wrong to finally realize why.

Happiness wasn’t and isn’t the key to life.

Chasing happiness, in principle, seems like a sound plan. If you want something you should go for it! Right?

But as I lived everyday seeking happiness, it appeared less frequently and in increasingly ephemeral forms. I ended up becoming a hedonist who couldn’t stand the slightest pain. I closed it off from my daily life, and when I wound up in situations where I lacked full control–like a group trip in a foreign environment–my personality changed. I would turn stubborn and see everything as everybody else’s and the world’s fault.

I was unhabituated to the pain I heard everyone else talk about. The pain of having to work a three hour shift before studying for exams. The pain of having to deal with a shitty boss or rude customers. The pain of having to pay your bills on time. The pain of shopping for groceries so that you could cook. The pain of doing dishes and cleaning up.

While watching everybody else go through that, I had only seen it as pain, when in fact they were getting used to it all, becoming hardened. To them it was no longer pain but a part of life. So when they and I met out in the real world, in those situations where I couldn’t just throw my arms up and take off… where we had to put our heads together and solve a problem or simply make due, I would be the first to fold while they persisted.

They had grit.

I liked grit. Wanted it. But I wasn’t open to the pain necessary to develop it.

Even back then I realized that grit was something that couldn’t be obtained by chasing it itself. You had to do all these other things that brought you pain, and persevere. Grit wasn’t something tangible you just reached out for, it’s what remained after a whole slew of other things. A mindset.

This is where I went wrong with happiness. It wasn’t something you could just practice everyday.

Like grit, happiness was a mindset that remained at the end of a day, at the end of a year, at the end of a life well lived.

I’ve finally come to realize that happiness isn’t the key to life but rather the goal. We all want to end up in this particular state of mind, but chasing it in itself will never get you there. I guess that’s why there’s that saying, ‘find out what makes you happy’…

I Started Spamming my Friends on Email

I now email five of my friends daily Mon-Fri, each one getting their own email. I’m not beginning a conversation or asking direct questions, but rather streaming my thoughts and feelings. I began this following an experience I had calling a close friend.

Drew had recently moved to Cambridge, and unfortunately with neither of us being active on social media nor accustomed to calling each other, we had failed to keep in touch. Ever since meeting in college, our experiences had been nearly 100% face to face, or shoulder to shoulder since we spent so much of our time on walks.

It was only our second call after he had moved across the Atlantic. But immediately upon starting the call everything felt different. A couple months earlier, we had done our very first international chat, just after he had moved. And that call had effortlessly flowed in that state where both people express and understand at an intimate level. But this time around the talking and listening required more effort.

The first half of the 70ish minutes was spent exchanging details of our lives, mostly in jokes, and it didn’t feel all that fun. It wasn’t as pleasant as I remembered conversations with Drew being. It felt like we were uttering details just to fill in the potential empty silences, and It wasn’t until the second half that it got good. After all that catching up we were finally able to talk in a way I recognized. We transitioned from sharing mere bits of information to shaping and generating new information and ideas together on the fly, right before our mouths and ears.

After hanging up i wondered why it couldn’t have been that way the entire time. The reason I came up with was that we weren’t caught up in each others’ lives. That flowing state of conversation so familiar to us had only been automatic before his move because we never had to catch up. Not only had we lived next to each other, the individual lives we lived and goals we pursued were in-line with each other. Likewe were characters in the same movie. And if someone is in your current life, then you can spend most your time in that flow state.

I didn’t ever want to go through that catching up stage again, not with Drew. So I thought of good ways to keep in touch. I thought about how everyone else managed — never-ending text conversations, following each others’ social media streams, long-winded email conversations, phone calls, etc.

The sole method that Drew and I had managed to sustain was the email conversation. But email conversations were not only difficult but also imposing to maintain. Emails may be more asynchronous than text ( able to read/send at a time of your choosing rather than immediately upon receipt ), but it still felt too synchronous to foster persistent long-term conversation. There were etiquette rules observed. Like if I emailed Drew, I’d have to give him the chance to reply before I sent another, unless a really long time passed that I could send a new one. Also sometimes you felt obligated to address everything the email you were replying to mentioned, and soon the emails would cover18 different topics, each supplied terse, perfunctory commitment.

So although I liked emails’ intimacy, I thought they didn’t facilitate the kind of high resolution self expression I sought. Emails better facilitated dialogue, which wasn’t what I wanted here. I wanted to stream my world to Drew, rather than hold a conversation with him, because I preferred to have those conversations over the phone in concentrated sprints.

I liked the idea of a stream but never found a platform that had one I both enjoyed consuming from and producing to. Facebook was too much news and political rants — maybe this will read bizarre for those reading in the future — and Instagram felt too braggy and aesthetics driven while Twitter was too brief. Also none of these felt personal, rather they felt more social, which is what they’re designed to be.

So that’s how I got the idea one day to write Drew an email with the intention of emailing him over and over and over again, with no regards to what was going on in his life, unless it was something directly affecting what was happening in mine.

In the email I told him that I was going to stream him my thoughts and feelings, everyday during the ‘business week’ besides holidays/vacations/sick-days. And he didn’t need to respond to them; he could if he wanted to, but it wasn’t expected. Also he didn’t even need to read all of them. He could read whatever parts he thought were worth a damn. I also said that he should stream to me in the same fashion if he had the time and energy.

Even though I am hardly regarding the details of Drew’s life when emailing him, it’s impossible for my own ponderings and writing to be unaffected by him and his life since I am trying to stream to him in a way that is enjoyable to him. 

I really am standing on the shoulders of giants though, because I wouldn’t have been able to conceive this idea if it weren’t for the several email newsletters I’ve recently signed up for. The value those newsletters add to my knowledge consumption was what made me able to think, hey I could do this for my friends, about my life!

As of now, I email four other people besides Drew. Once I got to writing five a day, I noticed that I was right onthe border of comfort and challenge, right in that flow state. I had wanted to email more people in my life, but this is how it’s ended up, for now, and as with everything in life, you have to prioritize.

Dave in case you’re reading this, you are someone I want to email so badly, but I chose to include someone over you only because you always know so much more about things going on in the world than me, and I figured that I’d make a poor writer for you the reader, cause I’d fail to provide insights. Hopefully in the future though.

Her Ticket was at The Rodeo

Back when I was at Michigan State, I once knew a girl who confessed ‘rapid depreciation in dating potential’ as her main reason for staying a fifth year. Her situation differed from the usual profile of somebody extending the dream; she had enough credits to graduate and actually had offers to positions–real, salaried jobs with benefits–just the kind to vindicate your tuition for mommy and daddy. But none of these came from places promising a population of educated, career-advancing, single people. Instead they opened doors to 40 hours a week within bland business parks alongside Midwestern highways where all the men, according to her, would be ‘already shacked up or awkward as fuck.’

‘I just need to get another major, so I’m more employable.’

She was convinced that the kind of love to put her head over heels couldn’t be found in the Rest of America. Mr. Right wasn’t waiting in aisle 5 of the local Kroger, or holding the number preceding yours’ at the DMV. Or, Mr. Right, may very well have been in those locations, but he wasn’t waiting to start talking to his soul-mate. You had to be somewhere with a purpose for that. Some place where people came together because they were trying to achieve something. In her head this type of space existed realistically in only two places: college or a hip job surrounded by young professionals.

After four years, the universe, or the HR departments of the companies she applied to, had declared she wasn’t worthy to work and live amongst the young professional class. Most people I know at this position end up adapting their values and slowing their roll–take the nice job and try out the new life, and most end up liking it. But she really must have valued love the way she saw it. The kind of love that could be had.

With enough financial privilege to afford a fifth year, she signed up for another round at the rodeo, intellectually pessimistic, but emotionally hopeful. Hopeful to either come of out this final round having found someone, or if still alone, then to at least have earned the ticket to go live where love exists.

Something Special

I just read my friend’s blog post celebrating 10 years of blogging. Ten years — whoo!! … but this was far from a celebration and rather more a melancholic pondering on his blog’s low readership, how little it earns in advertising, and how weak its future prospects are.

When I finished I got this feeling that I should be ashamed and depressed second-hand because I have zero readers, but actually it put a glimmer in the eye. To me, his blog is a shining example of the right way to do it.

I don’t mean right way in terms of technical execution, because then he wouldn’t be having the low readership woes mentioned. But what he is doing right is that he persists, even in the face of so much evidence pointing for him to stop. His blog reminds me of the old days, pre iPhone, when the art of independent blogging was in its heyday. Now it feels weird to blog anywhere other than someplace like Medium or Quora.

Ten years of putting in work when every other ‘regular guy’–no Tim Ferriss’ here–either quit or transferred to another platform only to then quit once they failed to gain traction there. But this guy, he still goes on. And I think that that’s something special. I  wish that he and I were more than internet friends, but a a loose connection online–his blog actually–is how we met, and we haven’t forged any real-life threads to connect on yet. But someday. We’ll work together. I’m putting this on here so that later when it happens I can point to it. And I’m going to point to it later to empower anyone who doesn’t feel sure in themselves. For anyone who might feel the urge to collaborate with someone in their lives but doesn’t think it can happen or that they are just not ‘good enough’ to do it. I want them to see that any normal person like me can do it. I’m just committing to it in the open on here so that you’ll know that later, when I say, you too, that it comes from someone who was just like you.

In ten years I want this blog to be just like my friend’s today. Ten years of consistent posts. Audience size irrelevant.

Täglichlust : Part 1

About to finally head back home for real this time. I had spent a week there physically between Montreal and Michigan but that span hadn’t been enough to mentally settle in. Instead it feels like I’ve been on vacation three weeks straight and I feel the opposite of Wanderlust. Instead I feel Täglichlust: a desire for the daily.

Most Wanderlust I hear people describe feel born out of angst and dissatisfaction rather than curiosity, a ploy to flee some pain that’s tolerated in order to recharge rather than an opportunity to experience something new so that the daily can be tackled with an augmented perspective.

There’s a difference. One is merely a respite from pain whereas the other an elevated state of enjoyment. And similar to the contrast between breaking others down versus raising yourself up to increase self esteem, approaching Wanderlust from one perspective is drastically preferable to the other.

Outline for Episode 1 Done!

It’s indescribably exciting to have an outline we agree 90%+ on. The word outline implies we aren’t far along in our journey, but it took a lot to get even here.

The great thing about this is that even though the journey feels huge to me now, I know that moving forward all this will feel small. The head banging and inefficient ways we worked and the dry weeks with no-work the past 18 months will be something to laugh at in hindsight. After all this failure, I can feel that we are working on a new level now. And nothing will be the same moving forward. Nothing has been the same since about four or five weeks ago. But I didn’t commit such a bold statement anywhere before besides fleeting comments to Joel over the phone, but since I have this blog here now, I’ll do it now.

The enjoyment and fulfillment from this project so far has been enough that if this outline were all that our efforts amounted to, It would all have been worth it. Funny thing about this is that this same optimism and gratitude is what’s driving me forward.

It’s a paradox where the unsatisfied people need more than what they have but are too bummed about their past and present to obtain the more that would satisfy them. While the people who are already grateful about the present have all the capacity to move forward.

No Idea What it’ll Look Like

We’re not sure what the project will literally look like. We’ve spent a lot of time discussing how it should be packaged or how the audience might engage with it. But it’s too early for us to get caught obsessing over such details.

At this point, the story is what we’re focusing on. It’s the engine that will get us to that privileged stage of having details like presentation matter. And once we get there such details wont just be details anymore. They’ll be the focus. But we gotta get there first. And the current part of the ride is, I’m guessing, the longest stretch.

Goals moving forward

I keep talking about goals and dreams but havent clarified what mine are yet.

10 year dream – to make a living working on whatever i want with whoever i want without having to worry about money.

10 year goal – too far away to have them right now.

1 year dream – be in a collaborative flow with my creative partner and have a budding audience.

1 year goal – be in the process of producing sequels to our story. Or if a sequel isnt the best way to go, be in the process of growing our collection of stories. Have all our stories produced to the highest quality possible at given time and resources and 100% respect the audience.

1 month goal – be in the final stages of wrapping up the first draft so yhat i can start getting input from ppl like Dave.

1 week goal – finish and commit to an outline so the first draft can begin

Dreams and Goals

I thought I had goals but they turned out to be dreams. Dreams of some ambiguous life filled with creatives, hand crafted espressos, and local beer. Visions of brainstorming within fish-bowl conference rooms. A high ceilinged loft with large windows and hardwood floors.

Adoring whoever represented such a lifestyle, I came up with some caricature of a tech slash social-media slash design slash creative-class role model. I didn’t know why I wanted this, but I hopelessly chased it while looking down on my parents’ generation for desiring McMansions, boats, and vacations to resorts.

I never came close to becoming that role model. Whenever I tried getting into the work required to become that person, all i could ever manage was daydream how cool I was going to be once I had become him.

Fast forward a few unproductive years and it’s obvious now. I had been a phoney, somebody who had claimed huge goals but hadn’t even held a small one to begin with. The opinion this experience has left me with is that goals aren’t something you just get to have as a right. They come out through deliberate intention and a stance on something concrete, something with a risk of failure. Simply drooling over your dreams with no plans on how to materialize them is not equal to having goals. So wake up!

I Have One of THOSE Profiles on Medium

I have one of those profiles on Medium that begin with a manifesto but unsurprisingly fizzle out. Mine’s especially embarrassing because it even  acknowledges the existence of such accounts while promising not to become one.

It’s not my fault for letting the Medium account die as there are honest, strategic reasons for why the platform isn’t a right fit, however it’s 100% my fault for not shifting to a more fitting platform right away.

This is one of my most recent blunders: to use the fact that Medium was not the right platform as reason to delay my progress.

What is it that I’m exactly starting on here? I’ll talk about that later.