One of the biggest barriers to my own happiness appears to be a general misunderstanding of the importance behind knowing what I want. I know, it sounds idiotically elementary, but I don’t believe it is. And I don’t believe I’m alone in this. It’s a complex problem with almost infinite variables, and it’s a virus that we all carry. But some show more signs of infection than others. I'm covered in the stuff.
The simple example would be an indignant encounter with The Soup Nazi. He has a long line, streaming out the door into the weather. But his soup is absolutely delicious. So you wait in that line. You wait… you wait… and then, hey, you wait another five goddamn minutes. Eventually you hit the front, and there he is, staring down at your tired ass: knees locked, threatening to pass out from weak circulation.
“What soup you want now?!”
Fuck. While standing in that line, your brain apparently cut loose. You neglected to make a decision concerning your soup flavor. The vegetable beef with that corn broth. Or the lobster bisque. Maybe the New England clam chowder. And oh, it smells so good… licking… the lips… so succulent…
“Hmm. Let’s see, I guess I’ll have the-”
“NO SOUP FOR YOU!”
“But, I was just… I wasn’t, it’s just that the line made me…”
“NO SOUP FOR YOU!”
Too pokey with the demands, man. The dude behind you pushes you to the side and immediately drops his order with military precision. He’s going to get some of that deliciousness. Plus he didn’t waste thirty minutes in that godforsaken line. But you? Oh no. Not you. You get muscled out the door by the moving crowd. Empty handed.
Aw shit. Mickey D’s again. Damn.
A more complicated example would be: whatever the hell you decided to spend your time on when you were sixteen. Did you realize, especially back then, how much of an influence that would have on your happiness today? Did you? You seriously believe that you understood the “grass is always greener” cliché? The ultimate killer of happiness? Really? Did you honestly consider what your opportunity costs were going to be, before making every decision, as a teen?
Well, you can lie to me, but don’t lie to yourself.
Two general examples, both intended to display the extremes, and regardless of their different surfaces, both have the same fundamental problem with malformed decision making skills. Both sixteen.
One is Jenny. She’s a cello virtuoso, lead soprano in the choir, Vice President of the Chess Brigade, and a strong candidate for National Merit Scholar. Her most commonly used phrases are “sorry, but I will be prepping for my PSATs that weekend”, “you should never take a right on a red”, and “no, seriously, what is a blow job?”
The other is Chad. Chad already beat Vice City twice, can roll a joint while driving, just got promoted to Head Creamer at Marble Slab, and takes most Fridays off from school (you know, to wind down from the week and shit). His most commonly used phrases are “I’m gonna be a fucking rock star, just wait“, “this job is total bullshit, man”, and “ dude, what the fuck?”
Ten years down the line, both come to the conclusion that they are victims of their own inability to make an honest decision for themselves. Regardless of appearances, both are equally ignorant as to what they will eventually enjoy in life, and what paths must be found to get there. Both are on diametrically opposed modes of autopilot. And both are equally lost, starting at the delicate age of sixteen.
It will take ten years for Jenny to shed the desires and expectations of her family and the institutions which propped her up. She will find out what a blow job is. She will stray from her path, burn some things down, and eventually risk everything she has ever worked at in order to “find herself”. This will probably include a really slutty trip Europe, and maybe a two-year crank habit. She’ll learn though. She’ll find her way clear of everyone else’s decisions, and learn to make her own, based on her experimentation with “what” she “wants”. She’ll learn the importance of being comfortable with having others disapprove of her actions, as long as she believes in what she’s doing. She will force herself to discover real confidence, forged from successes brought on by her own will, rather than the completion of tasks handed to her by others. She will build her own person, and always wonder what would have happened to her if she had only known these things when she was sixteen.
Chad will toss and turn through the following ten years. Falling about, this way and that. Never really sure where he is going, or what the point is. After being allowed to drift for so long without being taught the proper discipline necessary to helping one figure themselves out, he is left with no clue as to what he wants from life. He’ll take odd jobs. A telemarketing gig here and there. Probably become a sales rep for plumbing products until he gets fired for nailing the owner’s daughter (or something equally well thought-out). But he’ll figure it out eventually. He’ll figure out that all those distractions were just that: distractions. And that no one else seemed to care whether he was happy, so it’s obviously up to him. He’s been locked up long enough. He’ll have to shed that laid-back party-boy exterior and buckle down. He has to discover his real talents, and explore interests which are not dictated to him by popular culture. And he will, even if it kills him (probably in county, if it does). He will look back on his days as a sixteen year-old with strange curiosity, and wonder how he ever got by back then.
There’s no map, script, or schedule to the thing. It’s a mess, as it should be, with some being messier than others. Some “get it” with amazing ease. It hits others just before their last breath. Many never get it at all, or never even consider that they didn’t have it back when they were sixteen (and certainly haven’t acquired it).
What do you want? What is YOUR point? What is it you NEED to feel?
You don’t want to wait this whole time, through this whole life of criss-crossing situations and potentially wonderful relationships without asking yourself what you want to order. You don’t want to spend all this time and effort, just to get to that counter to have some douche balloon slap it all away…
“NO SOUP FOR YOU!”
Me? I’m leaning toward that lobster bisque. I hear it’s the shit.