“Stop. Wait a minute. Now, why the hell would I want to read something titled, ‘Everything’s Against You’?”
Can I ask for a moment of your time? You are a passerby on the street, perhaps a distant acquaintance, or maybe even a longtime friend. Here I am, asking for 10 minutes out of your day to discuss how much of a miracle we all are.
No, I’m not trying to sell you my mixtape.
And when I say miracle, it’s not in any religious capacity. Our brains are wired not to think about existential dilemmas because let’s face it, it’s not the most pleasant feeling to wake up and consider your own mortality. It’s also curious how so many of these bigger questions deal with death. What happens after death? What will I regret as I’m passing away? What have I accomplished in my life, what will I accomplish?
Quarter and mid-life crises can take a seat. I wonder how many of us wake up dumbfounded at how we’re alive.
I sit in my average apartment, eating average food, making less-than-average money, having experienced more-than-average adventures, absolutely thrilled to be alive. If you’ve read any of my past entries, you’ll understand this doesn’t necessarily come naturally to me.
If we seriously consider what it means to exist, despite, I believe many of our worries will simply be shed off of our souls. Despite the hell we’ve walked through, despite the knife death sometimes holds at our throats, despite what is essentially everything around us always trying to set us back.
Life was born out of nothing. We, in a metaphorical sense, were born out of nothing. It’s “just” two cells coming together at the right moment, something that seems so simple. Yet if you walk outside, you’ll witness the world that has been born out of such simplicity. Launching rockets into space, being able to have someone else’s organs placed inside of you, understanding the physics of how black holes operate, being able to feed millions of people, managing to meet the love of your life, being able to read things from thousands of years ago — it’s endless.
If we even just narrow it all down to the act of driving, well, we’d have to start with the fact someone was able to think about how to convert energy (gas or electric) into mechanical force making the wheels spin to push around a metal box around that doesn’t result in your death 99% of the time on a surface that doesn’t turn to mush when it rains. Then, we have billions of people around the world driving these crazy metal death boxes around, and somehow, we manage to get from point A to point B most of the time, despite how the people from [insert other state here] drive.
We managed to get people to obey random blinking lights and arrows posted up in the sky.
How about school? We manage to cram dozens, hundreds, sometimes thousands, of brain-developing, often hormonal, mostly confused children into buildings where a few handfuls of adults manage to keep Lord of the Flies: The Sequel from playing out.
As much as the media enjoys portraying otherwise, society is mostly (keyword, mostly) held together by an invisible glue preventing us from making homo sapiens an extinct species for future sentient creatures to find fossils of via atom bombs.
For everything awful in life, there are just as many tiny little things to be grateful for. In the spirit of an early Thanksgiving, we must operate against the world that seeks to make us look the other way, to forget what blessings we experience daily.
Our Monkey Brain v2 hardware is designed to focus on negative stimuli. Pain is what we used to learn what not to do if we wanted to stay alive. We focus on the negative, simply because it teaches us more. We learn more from starving for a week than we do having a full belly for a year. When we go through trauma, our minds assemble the kitchen and the sink just to throw them at whatever reminds us of such pain.
If you and I were to sit down and make a specific list of everything that makes life not worth living, they might find our corpses next to a mile-long sheet of paper. We might not necessarily think about the horrors of our world, but just like that overly aggressive kitten in a cardboard box, sometimes the paw of pessimism swipes at us.
Social media, news outlets, our in-laws, even our commute to work drips this sense of negativity on our heads every day. We’re not enough. Look at what’s happening to our planet. No, I’m not having kids anytime soon. Don’t make eye contact with the man standing at the intersection. Just as the leaky faucet adds up to astronomical water bills, we might not view the slow drops flooding our rooms as something serious until we’re drowning.
We’re constantly told we’re not enough. This world is obsessed with comparison. Companies rarely have our backs, and more often than not, our employers don’t either.
And, what a task. To hold your breath in this claustrophobic tank where we can rarely get a breath, and dive deep into the pains of the world and hope to find air, hope to find the light.
Yet, we manage to do it every day, often without even realizing it. What gets you out of bed in the morning? What glimmer of hope do you see in the world, something so bright it obliterates the darkness in its path?
Initially, when I started living with my sister and her family, I woke up just the slightest bit irritated. How dare these toddlers interrupt my sleep at 7am, screeching gibberish into the morning? I just cleaned out this car, why have chicken nuggets appeared in between the seats and on the floor mats?
In between the tears, slobber, hitting, whining, toys being broken, puzzle pieces strewn across every imaginable surface, and even treating a $1000 camera lens as a lollipop, somewhere in there the next foothold of optimism peered through and into my grumpy Grinch soul.
The sweet bye-bye’s and hi’s from Aiden, the wild imagination of Ollie as he played “floor is lava”. I couldn’t help but sit there for 15 minutes every time Aiden simply wanted me to open a door and then close it, over and over again for his entertainment. I couldn’t help but want to read academic papers and Dr. Seuss to Ollie and laugh when he started saying, “Latent Profiles of Discrimination and Socialization Predicting Ethnic Identity and Well-Being Among Asian American Adolescents” over and over. Well, it was more just “socialization”, but I know what he’s trying to get at.
If we think about the world these innocent children are growing up in, dominated by addictive devices, an ecosystem under threat, corporations extorting as much as possible out of humanity, “how will they afford rent or find a job?”, social disarray and unrest, how could we be optimistic?
How could we look forward to a future seemingly rife with despair?
For Ollie, who is three, and Aiden, who is one, and for you and me, everything is stacked against us. There are a million and one reasons to give up when we’re kicked to the ground and a million and one things trying to kick us to the ground.
Yet, each of us reading this exists despite this. Maybe it’s the immersion into incredible stories on Netflix (this is the sophisticated way of framing binge watching), appreciating the thundercloud painted skies at sunset, or living for the opportunity to pet a random friendly cat on the street — the paradoxical nature of the complicated, crushing weight of existentialism is seemingly dissolved by the simple, oddly specific joys of life.
The more we cultivate these oddly specific, simple joys of life and magnify them in our lives, I believe the result is us becoming a little more childish. At my salon, there was a child playing on the floor, and his entire world was making a Hulk sized ring. Ollie’s entire world sometimes is the pillow fort. Aiden just loves opening and closing doors.
When did our world become too much for us to handle? We’ve been told that to be an adult is to deal with the bigger things of life, to accrue all the responsibility, to fight tooth and nail through life.
To be a little more childish might be the right move for our sanity. To take awe in the little universe inside a single tulip, to indulge ourselves in dreaming bigger for ourselves, to trust the monster under our bed can be vanquished.
I’m not trying to ride in on my high horse, peer over my shoulder just to see you in the mud just to spit on you. I’m incredibly privileged and grateful to be in a good place in my life. I’ve rediscovered my family as a support system, examined my childhood traumas, and delved deep into the why’s of who I am. Between trying my best to help babysit to a strict medication regimen to mushroom trips to weeks of consistent therapy, I’m reporting back after over six years of introspection.
Despite hitting rock bottom over and over again, despite running away from home, despite being absolutely lost to the point of couch surfing for months, despite the hand I’ve been dealt with at birth, I feel like I’m thriving anyway.
I know personally how infuriating it is being told that “things aren’t so bad” when you’re feeling like nothing is going well. But if this is any dose of optimism, I want it to come from a place of “look at how stupidly put together this world is and it still works for the most part” instead.
Maybe looking at the can of cocktail peanuts on your desk and wondering how the hell that managed to happen might give you some perspective on how weird the world is. Maybe what I’m trying to say is not so much “it’s not so bad” as it is “you still exist and matter in a world that’s so weird, so messed up, and always out to get you”.
Nobody quite knows what’s going on, nobody is always alright, and nobody has it all figured out. Come back in from the cold and complicated and let’s discuss the simple pleasures of life.