I live in a condominium beside a highway. A major highway.
Sometimes I get irritated late at night when I hear the lorries and cars zooming past. Especially when they blare their horns or crash. Sadly, that happens a lot.
But today, I put on my philosopher’s cap and thought about it for a while: Where’s everyone going, and why are they in such a rush?
When you’re in the seat of a car going at 100 km/h, you don’t realize how fast you’re really moving. But to a static listener like me, speed has a distinct sound. It starts like the grumblings of an agitated crowd; a bass-heavy sound emerging from ambient noise. And then like a micro-sonic boom, it reaches a howling peak as the vehicle crosses the nearest point to my ears, before dying off just as quickly as it started.
It’s the sound of movement. Of rushing.
It annoys me, because it reminds me of times when I have to rush. Like over the past few weeks, when I haven’t had time to sit down and write much. My reserves of energy to fulfill commitments and responsibilities are tiny. Get tied up in too many and I feel unhappy.
So I decided to write this for everyone who’s ever been worn out by the ever-increasing demands of modern life. Are you doing the things you really want to be doing today?
Expectations — Don’t Live Someone Else’s life
I think many people lead unfulfilled lives because they’re burdened by unnecessary expectations.
They worry about what their partner/boss/parents/colleagues/neighbors/friends think about them. Within moderation, that’s not a bad thing. It’s natural to want others to approve of you. But if the majority of your choices depend on what others expect of you – something’s very wrong.
When I find myself doing things that I don’t really want to — just to please other people — it really upsets me.
And so, the general model of life I subscribe to is: “do whatever the f**k I want”.
(Maybe that’s why I’m still unmarried, but that’s a discussion for another day)
Because I have a theory: how happy you are is directly related to how many “do whatever the f**k I want” moments you have.
If you spend your childhood making your parents and teachers happy, your early adulthood trying to make your partner happy, and the rest of your career trying to make your boss and customers happy — when is it your time?
Choose Your Responsibilities
“But wait!” you say, “Not everyone’s like you. There are children to feed and bills to pay. People can’t just do whatever the f**k they want. Responsibilities!”
True. Everyone’s got responsibilities.
But to a large extent, we get to control the responsibilities that we have.
If you’re stuck in a life where you have responsibilities you hate — is there something you could do to change it?
Here’s a common example: You’re stuck in a job that you absolutely hate, but think you have no choice — because you have to pay the bills. You’re wrong. You do have choices. First, you could change your lifestyle and lower your bills. Second, you could start looking for a new job. But you need to believe that you deserve work that makes you happy. And then you have to be willing to make uncomfortable changes.
Here’s another: You’re stuck in a relationship that’s both toxic and tiring. But don’t want to let go because you’re afraid of being alone. You think that no one else will love you. But what you really need is to believe you can find love again. And be brave enough to let go of your failed relationship.
I’m not suggesting that you forget your responsibilities.
I’m suggesting that you choose which responsibilities you have.
Everybody Needs a Little Time Away
Good responsibilities make you happy. For example, family is good responsibility for most people.
But good responsibilities taken too far can make you unhappy too.
Maybe you think: “I’m gonna be the best wife/mother/daughter ever! That means I will prioritize my husband, kids and parents over my own desires.”
I admire that.
But I’ll argue that you’ll be a better person if you schedule time to do things for yourself too. It takes that pressure off your shoulders for a while, and you’ll come back an even better wife/mother/daughter.
Sometimes what every one of us really needs is to forget that dreaded To-Do list. Because that list will still be there tomorrow. But maybe what you need today is to take a few hours off, drink tea with your best friends, and just enjoy the moment.
It’s not selfish. It’s self-love.
Doing Good Things for Yourself Builds Your Self-Esteem
Hopefully the above paragraphs haven’t made me sound like an angry child who doesn’t want to do his homework. I’m actually a thirty-one-year-old who doesn’t like homework. But I’m not angry.
I just really hope you’ll do good things for yourself. Because doing good things for yourself builds self-esteem. And by good things I don’t mean getting drunk.
What I mean is exploring your (hopefully healthy) hobbies. Things that you’re passionate about. Playing. Because getting good at those things makes you confident, happy and healthy. And because those are the things that make you special.
Please don’t be that hollow shell of a person who’s spent years denying himself of things he really wants to do. I want you to be yourself. The absolute best version of yourself. I want you to come alive.
And who knows — if our paths cross one day — it’ll make me come alive too.
* * * * * * * *
I’m writing this from a beaten corner of my living room couch. Listening to Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” on loop, and watching Thug Life Compilations between every few hundred words. When the words don’t flow easily, I lie down, hope for inspiration and fall asleep.
I yearn for this lazy writing routine every Sunday. I think I’d be happy doing it for the rest of my life.
The sound of another screaming vehicle outside awakens me. And reminds me that beyond my little writing paradise — the world with its busy travelers rushes on. I just hope that everyone moving today is doing it because they want to. Not because they have to.
And I realize how happy I am — that I have time to sit here today and write this for you.
Maybe it’s because I’m doing it for myself too.
Picture at Pexels