I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve spent most of my life pursuing outcomes: money, weight loss, accolades, admiration, and praise. I’ve looked forward, doing nothing unless there was explicit pay-off for me. I’d go to dinner with a friend if I had something interesting or ego-centric to share. I’d need, but never allow others to need me. I’ve written on the Internet for fame, Twitter followers, comments, likes, and admiration, recognition. I’ve exercised tirelessly and eaten food that my body did not want to digest for the sole purpose of thinning out my waistline. I’ve sacrificed my happiness and peace for financial reward, the same reward I would use to buy things that I assumed would bring me joy. I’ve wanted to write a book only if I know it will be: a) published; b) a bestseller; and c) bring me fortune. I’ve dated people to say that I’m dating them, focusing solely on how they look and how it looks for me to be dating someone that looks like them. I’ve been friends with people who I haven’t liked, just to get something from them.
I’m not proud of any of this. In fact, ashamed is the best word I can use to describe my feelings toward this behavior.
I’ve been on a journey lately. I’ve closed up and burrowed into myself, because none of the above feels good. It feels sticky and heavy and burdened, like I’ve backed myself up into an impossible corner. These outcomes are so fleeting, so empty, and so ingrained into the heartbeat of my motivation that I’ve found myself completely unable to see where my joy and passion begins or ends. What has looked like ambition in the past has turned out to be an ego-race to the finish line of outcomes I never wanted in the first place.
Do you remember being a child? As children, we do things to do them. We’d pick up hobbies and toys for stimulation and joy and discard the ones that did not bring us either of those things. We’d read for pleasure. We’d lay our bodies onto the grass and stare up at the sun until our eyes burned just for the curiosity of it.
Then, somewhere along that adventure of a life, the world dug its claws into us. It tells us that joy and survival cannot exist within the same lifetime. We learn that the pursuit of money and magazine-worthy bodies and awards are more important than who we are and how we interact with our lives.
And, I realized, perhaps more recently than I’d care to admit, that I had been victim to the onslaught that is the relentless pursuit of better, tighter, more, more, more. I woke up one day and had no idea what made me happy. I had no ambition. No big dreams. Everything felt like a prison sentence, because everything I had dreamed of when I was younger was outcomes. That one moment when I’d feel worthy, good enough, thin enough, rich enough, forgetting that the moment of these things is so fleeting it’s not even worth pursuing. I realized that, of the things I desired, hardly any of the work or process that was necessary to achieve those things sounded even a tiny bit appealing and that was when I sat on the floor of my apartment and thought out loud, “What the fuck do I want?”
Then, it hit me during a conversation I had with my cousin, that everything I’ve thought I desired were meant to be BYPRODUCTS, not DREAMS. Most of what I’ve desired (money, fame, fortune, accolades, admiration) are byproducts of a life well-lived and a life that is guided by passion and love. Because, although of course it would be wonderful to write a bestselling novel, I have to enjoy the time it takes to write the novel, the bestseller status a natural byproduct (or not!) of the work I put into it. I want money to come as a byproduct of a day to day work that is fulfilling and worthwhile to me. Money, as a goal, has been the most fruitless pursuit of my life and I’m glad I’ve realized this at only 29 years old.
I’m searching for the things that make me come alive day to day, not the one thing in the future that might happen that sort of, kind of motivates me. Healthy eating, moving my body, these are things I want on a day to day basis. If the byproduct of these is weight loss, then great. If not, great, as well. I love writing. If the byproduct of writing is to gain recognition and fortune, then great. If not, great, as well. Life is too long to spend it dreaming of a future, this is what I’ve learned. Instead of fleeting, future happiness that I strain for, I choose everyday joy, everyday passion, and everyday love. If, in the end, I die without money, accolades, awards, a body that doesn’t belong near a Vogue, then at least I will have lived well every hour of my life. In the end, I will have won even if I have lost.