So, I had this roommate. He was smart, brilliant even, and had an exceptionally good head on his shoulders for a 19 year old guy.
But he drove me crazy.
He worked hard, getting good grades: then refused the jobs his work had earned him.
He always knew to the penny his monthly cash flow; but he’d spend it all on video games
He was kind and attentive to his girlfriends; but he went home to his mother every other weekend.
He loved to cook; but it was always deep-fried if it wasn’t also breaded.
I admired him for his absolute dedication to a balanced lifestyle, but I could never understand why he refused to set goals.
He refused to plan for his future. What I didn’t realize, however, was that he had planned his future: He was going back to his home town, get a job in the local factory, marry a nice girl, and basically do exactly what his parents had done.
I could never wrap my mind around what was plain to him: What was the point of getting a high-paying job in the city when everything he loved was already in one place?
I still gnash my teeth over it. But that’s my own hang-up. “Let your light shine!” Sure, somebody needs to feed the rugrats and build widgets, but you can do other things: Things only you have the skills to do. He had a brilliant mind for working out puzzles. He could have applied it to so many problems, and would have been well paid to do so.
But he didn’t.
And it took me a long time to figure out why I took that personally.
Our most integrated beliefs are the ones that are hardest to see, but they can be discerned by the shadow they throw— a visceral reaction to something that doesn’t affect you in the slightest.
It makes no difference in my experience of the world whether Xris continues to consume deep-fried chicken five nights out of seven, playing Zelda every evening with his wife and childhood friends, working at a dead-end job and visiting with his mom every day. It only bugs the hell out of me because of my unspoken assumption that you have to do something remarkable with your life.
It’s easy to believe, given the sheer volume of literature out there touting perennial self-improvement and excellence as the gold standard, that you are a failure for not contributing to civilization.
Furthermore, to my eternal chagrin, I’ve discovered in myself a kernel of bigotry. I feel that there’s nothing wrong with that lifestyle if you have nothing else to offer. In other words, being a great neighbor in a small town and raising up a bunch of bright healthy kids was a perfectly fine way to make a contribution. You know, if you got nothing else to contribute. I thought, Xris being a smart as he was, that there were plenty of better ways he could live his life.
Ouch. That was me slapping myself.
And yet, the funny thing is, I know that Xris has never thought about such existential questions as: how should I live my life? What am I here to contribute? Am I being the very best me I can be? I know this because I asked him.
And here I am, half a decade later, thinking: What the hell am I doing up on my pedestal here? He already has his life figured out, and it is every bit as valid as mine. And it sure as the hell didn’t take him this long, either.
Does anyone have the lesson plan? I want to know how many more are left. My ego is starting to get quite bruised.