It’s can be frustrating, can’t it? The ambition inflation of a certain generation weaned on the belief that it could do anything, be anyone, all because you were you? Both being of and dealing with this generation.
The truth is, you can do nearly whatever you want in America. But it’s not because the world owes you anything. In fact, it owes you nothing (or, as my grandfather used to put it, “The world doesn’t owe you shit.”) You have to go out and grab it.
So your life sucks and it’s entirely your fault. What are you going to do about it?
My life doesn’t suck, but it hasn’t worked out as I planned it. This is for two reasons:
- Life rarely, if ever, works out how you plan it; and
- I failed to go all-in on the things I should have gone all-in on.
Things didn’t work out as planned–who cares?
I don’t! I enjoy challenges, and life is a challenge.
When you’re 18 or 20 and you’re making plans, it’s delusional to think they’ll pan out to the letter. Unforeseen things pop up. They always do.
With the right kind of plans–that is, overarching visions and systems to achieve them, as opposed to nothing more than concrete goals–one’s younger years can be better served achieving some level of fruition later on.
If you tell yourself “I have to be X by this date,” you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Far better to tell yourself “I shall do X every day so that I’ll put myself in the best position to achieve Y.”
This requires being comfortable with ambiguity. Many of us aren’t comfortable with this when we’re younger, but the older you get and the more you experience, the more ambiguity becomes a puzzle to figure out than a scary monster to run from.
That said, ambiguity can have its drawbacks. And yet, aside from things like career and where you live and family composition, it can seep into other areas of your life. Things like:
I’m going to dive deep here, so hold on. You have been warned.
Do you know what it’s like to be 35, a husband, and a father, and still not know what your purpose in life is?
I used to think it was to make art…instead, I went to law school.
I used to think it was to make music…instead, I don’t even own my instruments anymore.
I used to think it was to help people…instead, I’m scrambling to pay bills.
Maybe you know your purpose. Maybe life has no purpose. Maybe life’s purpose is surviving to the end. Maybe preparation for the next world, whatever that will look like, is all that there is.
“Preparation for the next world?” you may ask. “What is Alex on?”
I’m not on anything except the same questions that have fascinated human beings since the dawn of time.
Age isn’t the only reason thoughts like this have been on my mind lately though. My mother-in-law’s recent passing, and the funeral and attendant church memorial services and prayers (of which Greek Orthodoxy does a lot) have driven these concerns to the forefront.
In a post I wrote about her suffering called “The Road“–which felt ghoulish to write and is ghoulish to read now, but expressing these feelings helped me settle my thoughts–I wrote:
. . . we are selfish. As long as she still breathes–at home and not hooked up to various machines, thank God!–she’s still with us, no matter her condition.
And being close to her does feel like being close to the divine.
The other night, in a moment of lucidity, my wife heard her say in Greek “Ο δρόμος, ο δρόμος!”
“The road, the road!”
That is what the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is called in Greek culture. She is almost-but-not-quite at paradise.
I’m going to miss her like hell. We all are. But for now we’re happy to try to ease her suffering as she goes towards whatever awaits us on the other side.
I’m sure it’s going to be glorious.
Maybe we’re just living for the resurrection–that’s my purpose. All of our civilization’s, societies, technologies and things are just distractions, diversions to keep us engaged.
Maybe my “purpose,” that thing that seems like the Holy Grail, is really to increase my understanding and my morality, doing what good works I can, so that when my time comes, I’m not left out of the feast.
Resurrection is, after all, the central point–indeed, the defining event–of my wonderful, silly, improbable, and illogical faith.
If you aren’t religious or spiritual and you’re reading this and it sounds like gobbledygook to you, I appreciate your indulgence and promise future posts that will be on different topics.
But death for Christians is a funny thing because it’s not the ultimate evil, it’s not the end of everything, it’s not That Which Must Be Feared, Shunned, and Avoided.
It’s not to be cultivated, necessarily, but death is really just the beginning.
Nobody ever said that faith had to be rational.
“So, then,” you may ask after all of this, “your purpose in life is to be ready for death?”
Well, when you put it that way . . .
. . . yes.
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