So I’m fresh off a meeting with my counselor—yes, I meet with a shrink—and we ended up talking about my anxiety as a writer attempting to confront…
Let me stop there, because I struggle with what to call it. Comfort? Conformity?
Full context: we were talking about why I feel pressure to please my parents (keep in mind I’m a 36-year-old grown-ass man, my parents have always been tremendously supportive… let’s just say I’m a wee bit neurotic) and what it ultimately came down to was a difference in expectations.
My dad was an extremely successful investment banker who made a shitload of money (think $300K a year not $3 million—still a shitload in my book), now owns a successful brewery, and I know that unless I’m extremely lucky as a writer (yes, luck plays into it—just like everything else), I’ll never measure up to his success. Not financially, at least.
And truth be told, I’m OK with that. Or at least, my authentic self is OK with that.
However, my curated self is not—that is, the self I want to portray to the world.
You know: in that fake, high school, Facebook world, I want to be liked and viewed and shared and thought of as successful just like everyone else. Unfortunately, the truth is we still measure success in three ways:
1) Are you wealthy?
2) Are you and/or the people you’re with good looking (being well dressed helps)?
3) Do you do fun things (think vacation/food)?
What’s crazy is these measures are contrary to what almost all the world’s religions and great philosophers tell us—hell, what we ourselves know deep down—which is, to be brief: FUCK THAT SHIT.
Because seriously, in the end, no one gives a fuck that you were pretty when you were 20 or that you owned a bunch of shit. No one. In the twilight of their lives, Jeff Bezos, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Cuban and most every other super successful entrepreneur will not measure themselves against the amount of shit they have, or even the number of beautiful people they were with—that may be kind of awesome, in the interim—but I guarantee that’s not what they’ll be proud of in those moments before they die. No, they’ll be proud to have made a difference, to have done something innovative, to have changed the world for the better in some small way.
As someone who teaches and writes, I have these opportunities every day, but in so doing I challenge the careful curation of our cautious lives.
Because people don’t want to hear that the expensive boots they just bought won’t make their lives measurably better, or that spending quality time with their kids goes a lot further than sending them to a Montessori school. They don’t want to hear about conflict or Syria or why we should be really scared about the fact nothing’s being done to address climate change. They don’t want to hear that a lot of conservatives are just assholes or that the modern Republican Party caters strictly to the corporate rich and is a deeply unserious, dangerous tribe of people.
They just want to think SNL is funny (which it is–especially now), go to their nine-to-five jobs, pretend everything is OK, and make it look like to the rest of the world that they’re the successful people their parents always wanted them to be.
So the conflict is this: knowing that those things aren’t true and wanting to be authentic—not just for myself but for my readers—I find myself in the business of pissing people off. And look, if I wanted to make money pissing people off, I’d sell my soul to Breitbart or some other “fake news” organization; the Koch brothers pay a lot of money to writers and reporters willing to shill bullshit to the deplorables.
But that’s the height of selling one’s soul for material possession—I mean seriously, what will Ann Coulter have at the end of her life? The knowledge she facilitated conservative America’s hate for people who are different? That she was, at the very least, rooting on and enabling the most incompetent president in American history, or at the very worst, severing the brainstem of our democracy? What will her money and fame and power be worth then?
Not much. Yet I’m still stuck with the fact that being honest pisses people off.
And that sucks, because I don’t want to hurt people. Recently, a Facebook friend–upset about a recent blog–asked me on IM, “Why are you doing this? What is your purpose?”
My answer was immediate: to tell the truth.
I write for no other reason. It is why all good writers write.
TO TELL THE FUCKING TRUTH.
Yes, I hope to be entertaining, and funny or infuriating or sexy (shameless plug for my first novel, Cherry City Pulp), but mostly, I’m just trying to tell the truth as I see it.
And that’s important, because what most people would rather tell you is something else. Often it’s something they’re trying to sell. Some agenda they’re trying to push–but you know what I guarantee: it will not be disruptive to the careful curation of your cautious life.
No, it’ll actually flow right along with it.
You don’t have to change, other people do.
Don’t work harder, work smarter.
Life hack. Dating Tip. Pyramid scheme.
Worse are the click-bait, personality quiz kinds of things that sort you into the world of some movie, television show, or social phenomenon—or anything along those lines, lulling us to sleep because they make us feel as if the world is whole and makes sense when that’s anything but the truth.
Worst of all: scrolling through social media, mind blankly scanning through pictures, brain activity at a minimum—just that small hit of dopamine from the novelty of that next possibility.
And then there’s my disruptive blog post. Well fuck that, right? Keep scrolling.
Anyway, that’s what we’re up against—and I say we, because it’s not just me. It’s all of us. Which is why I’m here.
Disrupting the careful curation of our cautious lives.
If you enjoyed this post, please share with friends, family, etc. Also, check out my book, Cherry City Pulp. Otherwise, stay healthy! Cheers!