this week, apart from climbing mountains in taipei to make myself feel small and making new friends to make myself feel a part of something larger, i finished the subtle art of not giving a f*ck by mark manson. this book was a fast read. everything made sense. nothing felt extraordinary. it's not the kind of book that makes your jaw drop and think wow, never in a million years would i have thought of defining happiness or success or freedom like that. it is instead the kind of book that makes you feel like you're sitting across from the author (mark manson), and he's making you turn red from laughter and embarrassment because he's just called you out on all your "but my mom told me i was special" bullshit, and whatever other excuses you came up with to pin the responsibility of happiness and the constant struggle it requires to experience it on someone or something else.
i like these kinds of books.
i like them because usually they are funny, with the kind of humor that is dark, self-deprecating, and only . i also like them because usually the messages in such books are obvious and common-sense, but and yet they are powerful because of how frankly unapologetic the delivery is.
here is one of those messages from the book: most of us are not special. most of us will just be enough.
here is the powerful part: being enough is perfectly fine. it's great. it's wonderful, in fact, because being enough means you don't need to cure cancer or invent the next XX to live a beautiful and important and meaningful life as a human being, and you don't have to drown yourself in excesses or go to extremes only to realize that having an excess of most anything is rarely better than having just an average amount.
this is the kind of message we all inherently know is true but don't really internalize or seriously think about until someone shakes us and/or hits us on the head with a stick with it.
a couple more messages mark manson hit me on the head with a stick with:
"as we age, we become more selective about the fucks we’re willing to give. this is something called maturity."
“happiness requires struggle.”
"to be happy, we need something to solve. happiness is therefore a form of action; it’s an activity . . . a constant work-in-progress . . . true happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving.”
“a more interesting question, a question that most people never consider, is, 'what pain do you want in your life? what are you willing to struggle for?'"
"many people may be to blame for your unhappiness, but nobody is ever responsible for your unhappiness but you."
"absolute freedom, by itself, means nothing."
"we need to reject something. otherwise, we stand for nothing.”
"you are going to die, and that’s because you were fortunate enough to have lived."
in most of the book, mark sounds like my physician who, during my second meeting with her, told me i would die if i kept killing (read: starving) myself. duh. but also, holy fucking shit, you're right, and i better start changing the way i eat and value myself and value the world if i want to live and make any meaning out of it before i (we) die.
at the same time, mark sounds like my therapist who said "make your motto of the week, 'fuck it, i'll do it anyway.'"
it's a good combination of tones to use when convincing someone to get off his/her ass and actually do something, aka make the painful/difficult/fucking hard choices that are worth the intermittent suffering.
but the punchline for all my neurotic and gold-star-chasing comrades is this: you can't do everything. don't even try. because no, not everything is worthwhile. if someone tells you you should try to "have it all," or makes it seem like it's even remotely possible, or tells you you can because they do, he or she is a big fat liar and was probably either paid to tell you that or is trying to convince themselves they do because some other person was paid to tell it to them.
so yeah. don't be like me is what i'm really trying to say here. at 22 years old i'm feeling like a cold soggy french fry because i genuinely thought it was a good (and rather heroic) idea to try, simultaneously, to be the best dancer, best employee, best author, best student, best co-worker, best teacher, best daughter, best sister, best friend, best girlfriend...you get the point...only to feel like i was constantly drowning in every field.
i'm kind of done with that idealism now. i think the impossibility of it all clicked the day published my book in december 2020--my lifelong dream!!!!--and felt not a sense of happiness and pride but a mixture of exhaustion, guilt, depression, anxiety, and relief.
running away to taiwan has helped a bit. only recently have i started to feel like myself again. it took two weeks of physical isolation from the world and two weeks more of having no concrete plans in life to feel like i want to return to living it.
on my new year's eve flight here, i made my 2021 resolution: make fewer commitments.
why a resolution to make fewer resolutions?
because hauling in my interests will force me to choose only the best of them.
because cutting down on my daily plans will help me dive deeper into the activities and relationships i actually want to pursue.
because i genuinely want to spend the next few years discovering and then chasing one "immortality project" for the rest of my life, or maybe two, because i'm a prideful person who thinks i really am that one special person in the room.
if true happiness is an activity that requires concentrated and constant struggle, then i want only to struggle for what i think is worth it.
at 22 years old, this is what i think is worth it for me right now: family and writing. depending on whom i consider family and what i feel like i need to write about, these will be the axes i use to frame my decision-making this year.
and who knows? maybe if i really redirect all my fucks only to these two things for a while, life will be better because i'll be solving problems and working on only the things that matter to me. it'll be a win-win for the world, too. no more meddling in unnecessary side projects. a little more of that quiet self-worth generated through patient work, through the slow realization that i'm actively working on my immortality projects with every positive and negative experience that goes by, through the occasional look in the mirror where maybe i'll stop and take a breather and smile and think hey, this person is me, and i am enough, and that is really fucking great.