I had a long conversation over coffee one day with my friend Lindsey from More Awesomer, and we ended up having a really philosophical discussion about something that has come up with a lot of people I’ve talked to lately.
We live in the generation of the over-medicated, overwhelmed, over-exposed, and, often, the overachieving. As someone who is more than pretty okay at several different things (I like to think I’m a decent writer, an okay athlete, not a bad student and a tolerable singer), it’s hard to decide which thing I want to focus on, especially without feeling like I’m going to leave something by the wayside in the process. I feel like I have potential, so anything that I do, I’m going to be wasting that potential. I should do something. I should be something. I’m smart, so I SHOULD major in medicine or law (says my entire extended family concerned with my financial future). I have a musical ear, so I SHOULD take voice lessons like my mom has been begging me to for years.
Et cetera, et cetera.
This creates two scenarios: either I try (and fail) to do absolutely everything, or I hole up in my room and do nothing other than virtually conquer virtual cities in my favorite video games. For like, ten hours at a time. I also tend to self-sabotage; if I do too much, I don’t do anything well—but if I didn’t give it my best effort, I didn’t really fail, right? I would have gotten it if I’d tried harder, so it’s not really a tally in the lose column.
I am terrified of putting tallies in the lose column.
Know where this mindset has gotten me? Afraid. That’s where.
I’m so scared that I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing, or scared of making the wrong choice, that I won’t commit to anything at all. What if I waste my life?
And the things I do commit to are things I think I SHOULD do. I want this to look good for a resumé. I want to satisfy my parents/friends/girlfriend/professors/cat. And at the end of the day, I’m dreading doing those things and I probably don’t do them well at all.
The sad thing is, this crosses over to people, too. I should hang out with him, he’s really nice to me. She’s only mean sometimes, I should talk to her. Worse—we can’t really find common ground or things to talk about, but we’re friends, so we should hang out, right?
Limited time to explore a myriad of talents, passions, peoples’ perspectives, and a fucking massive world: why are we wasting our time trying to make other people happy? Trying to fulfill an ideal that we can’t even necessarily define?
Over breakfast, one of my friends told me about the “fuck yeah” principle. If you’re lukewarm on something, if it isn’t something you’d say “fuck yeah!” about, don’t do it. Whether it’s your career path, your significant other, your breakfast sandwich, the sex you’re having, or the music on your iPod, if you don’t absolutely love it, if it doesn’t make your heart race, why bother?
This is not to say we should all wait for perfection. But life is too fucking short to enjoy heaping plates of mediocrity because of nothing more than fear.
So in truth, I don’t really care that I’m good at math, because I don’t want to be an engineer. Maybe I’m wasting my life; maybe I could have come up with a fantastic geometric theorem (although without a name like Pythagoras, I don’t think I should do that anyway… The Smithian Theorem? Nope). On the other hand, every time my mom tells me to take voice or guitar lessons, I want her to say it about 25 more times or just buy me some because I really love making music. Let’s be clear: I’m not tone-deaf, but I am no Alicia Keys. But it makes me happy.
And that’s the crux of all this.
I have dreams of becoming famous, of living a life worth remembering, or at the very least, writing something worth reading. But at the end of my life, I highly doubt I’ll really care if someone remembers my name.
I just want to live a life I’m proud of, do things that fulfill me, and have someone to kiss goodnight who I can honestly say that I adore.
No more wasting time on extracurriculars that I don’t love. No more wasted hours on coffee dates that I have to drag my feet through. If people are the average of the 5 people they spend the most time with, I want those people to be fucking inspiring.
Go do something you’re passionate about.