If you want something, then give it time.
It might not come to you as soon as you want it—this night, next week, this year. But it will come. Those who persist will win out. This is the long-distance run, the long haul. The grind.
I believe in the grind more than anything else. Time works its magic on all things, and human beings will always adapt to consistent environmental pressure. If you are subjected to the same things over and over, you will take on certain characteristics in order to thrive in this environment. It is a survival skill.
Predictably, this mechanism is the strongest at work in our lives. Habit shapes behavior more than passion; repetition wins out at the end of the day. I have felt the contours of time begin to work on my life. My patterns are familiar, intimate, worn. They fit like a second skin moreso than a glove.
In some cases, this is great. I am, and continue to be, and will continue to be until I die, a healthy individual. Health is my number one priority. I’ll say it again and again. Yesterday I saw an old woman trip on the stairs of the post office, and go flying backwards through the air. She hit the ground with a crunch, that sickening sound that you feel more than you hear. She started bleeding from her head, and I called 911 in disbelief. This will not happen to me. I will not take the gift of my life for granted, ever.
The health grind, like any other kind of grind, can be miserable. I don’t feel good unless I exercise. I’ll be stiff and sore from inactivity, and I’ll get mad at myself because I know it could be better. There is pain to confront, on the daily: the shock of taking a cold shower, the pain and failure of exercise, the effort of doing my dishes every single day because I know it’s better to cook my own food…. Above all, the worst thing is realizing that it will never end. But I know that, in the long run, it’s absolutely worth it. And besides, the pain abates after awhile. The aversion to effort, the psychological pain, is the worst of it, and when habit is exercised enough it is nearly forgotten.
The blessing and the curse of the grind is that its results are predictable. Want to do a pull-up one day? First, work the negatives. Start doing exercises which target and strengthen the muscles you’ll need to do it. Work progressively towards your goal. You will increase slowly, incrementally, and eventually achieve.
But working towards a pull-up will never teach you how to do a backflip. You’ll never land a good job just by doing pull-ups. You’ll never fall in love, learn to fly a plane, or travel to the moon. You will, however, get slowly, incrementally better at doing pull-ups, for as long as you continue to do them. And if your whole scope is pull-ups, then congratulations, you’re all set.
I’ve felt my life sliding into one long grind. I do largely the same things, day in and day out. It’s fairly comfortable. By virtue of having a narrow scope, I will improve at these daily things by default, as a linear function relating to the time invested in them. But no other areas of my life will improve. I will make coffee. I will do pull ups. I will climb at the gym, and roam around Santa Cruz, and think “Ahh, gee, this is nice.” But FUCK me if I haven’t thought that this monotony was enough to make me kill myself! I will keep waking up, thinking “another day, another day,” and wondering when my actual life will start. Where’s the meat and potatoes? Where’s something I can sink my teeth into, which will make me feel vulnerable and afraid, but whose triumphs will make it all delicious, and unquestionably worth it at the end of the day?
This won’t come from the grind. This is going to take something bigger.
There are precisely two things I’m proud of at this moment in my life. One is my health. The other is my budding social life, those precious few relationships where I actually feel comfortable expressing myself, where I can share my concerns and throw caution to the wind a little bit. I feel like being vulnerable is the only thing getting me somewhere. The only things that are worth having are those things that happen while you’re being yourself.
Everything else? Honestly, I could take it or leave it. There are different things that make me feel different degrees of happy on any given day, but among these are a lot of things that feel simply extraneous. Work is comfortable, and difficult, and worthwhile; it does the trick some of the time. But I honestly feel like it’s just a businesslike expression of a human need, that being the need to find some sort of worthy pursuit and adhere to it. This is the basest expression of that drive, a placeholder which is also very fun because some of the people I work with happen to be my best friends.
But isn’t there more?
Edward (my coworker and recent actual friend) brought up the idea of big changes to me. “I remember when I drove up to the city, and I first laid eyes on it, and I realized that this thing was so powerful and the feelings I had were so exciting that I wanted to live there. I saw everything with a fresh pair of eyes.” Everything was imbued with a sense of excitement, that excitement that comes from seeing a sure purpose and the unfurling and possible fulfillment of a dream.
Where is my dream? When will it happen? I’m sick of waiting for it to show up. I’m done wasting my time and being indirect with people. I won’t be a barista when I’m 37. It’s not happening.
So what are the big changes? What needs to be done? …Shit. All I have are ideas. No drinking alcohol? No refined sugar? These things are draconian, but I know they don’t cut to the heart of the matter. “Be more expressive in your relationships?” Too wishy-washy! It’s easy to find some shit like this and become a bleeding heart, parroting mantras in your internal monologue which are really just soundclips recycled from a self-help guru on youtube, or a yoga class, or that one book you read which everyone else holds in such high regard.
It’s gotta be things that scare the hell out of you. The things that you’re scared to say or do because it means that you will change, regardless of the outcome. This is what’s missing in my life of comfort, conformity and routine, which will lead me like chutes and ladders to a calcified existence of mediocrity. Retire to Millionaire Estates. Congratu-fucking-lations.
It can’t be this way. It won’t be this way. I’m on my journey. One phrase at a time. One compliment at a time. One instance of being true to myself at a time. One “no” at a time. Cut out the bullshit, go for the gusto, and for Christ’s sake, stop selling yourself short.
What the hell is my life about anyways? It’s about being healthy, having fun, inspiring myself and others to do their best. It’s about burning brightly and creating a better world. At least for now.
The nostalgia is gone. We’re moving forward.
I truly believe that everything has its right place. Somehow, something gets in the way of this; maybe conflict from other people, our own desires or egos, the constraints and laws of society, or whatever else. But it’s gotta end. This is the way in which I want to change the world. These are my big changes.