I have been in love for months, even years. Right now, I could go downstairs and play GTA V and have a glass of wine and I would feel contentment, I know that. I could will myself into feeling guilty. I’m sure I could. Every day, I feel despair and fear.
Pride, however, is outside the bounds of my control. It is not tenable. It is not easily grasped. The strongest examples of it are difficult to produce for the purposes of this article. Whether that’s because I have done so few great things in my life or because I am too hard on myself to believe I have, I don’t know. Either way, to feel pride seems, to me at least, a slippery endeavor. I have these pronounced examples.
Throwing a no-hitter in Little League, I felt it then. I go back to the dugout and Ryan greets me by opening the official scorecard and pulling me in toward it. And he tells me, excitedly, as he points inside the pale book book with the wire binding, that I have not given up a hit. As I go to sit down, he pats me on the back. The last thing I remember is watching my teammates hit that half-inning and beaming.
Flashing forward, I am in my parent’s basement watching Shawshank Redemption holding hands with Kacie. Kacie is a blonde who goes to the private school and smells like the shampoo the hot girls in that time wear. When the movie is over we kiss and I can hardly believe I am alive. I am so taken I put my head on her lap after we sit on the couch to talk to my friend Jeremy who is now over for some reason. We’re upstairs, though, and my parents are around. That must have seemed ridiculous. But I didn’t care. Pride had made me drunk.
A large gap exists between kissing Kacie and moving to Seattle. Inside it, somewhere, I felt portions of that swelling flotation that accompanies accomplishment: being accepted for an internship at my favorite Christian music magazine, when I was given a note from one of my roommate’s girlfriends’ friends because of my Ricky Martin turtleneck, when I went to state in golf, going on a date with Mary in Nebraska, these things, in of and of themselves were good, but they were not as significant as when I first moved to Seattle. At the age of 26, I was making my own choices. I was too old to become one, but I had become a man. It was pride I felt, off and on, for almost a year.
The next blip of great pride in the EKG of my life is when I saw my byline under an essay I wrote for a publication I had always liked but never imagined writing for. That happened last winter, and at the time I thought it would be my ticket to bigger and bigger feelings of pride.
But that’s the thing. Pride can be thrilling, though shortly after it is done, it is just as humbling. The come down, and you must come down, is like coming off heroin.
That could be a terrible example. I’ve never done heroin. But it is a rough ride, leaving the emotion. Because only a short time after you’ve felt it, you feel none at all. And sometimes the fall away is so dramatic you might wonder why you tried to climb up to get it in the first place.
It is possible one can feel pride consistently. The most glaring example is having a child. Beyond that, I imagine you might have it – because I have never known this – when you are in a committed relationship with someone you adore. If that person has the best buns and their heart is true and they bring home the most bacon or cook the best bacon, you could feel it the moment they wake up and you see their face or backside, and that feeling might not turn off until your eyes are closed and your head is against the pillow.
Pride could also come more often if you reach the summit of what you wanted to accomplish professionally. Maybe you wanted to paint a great big painting and that great big painting got the reviews you always dreamed it would get and the right people praised that big painting, and best of all, people are buying the prints of that big painting, keeping you doing what you love doing everyday, making big paintings. That kind of success could provide a less intermittent pride. Or maybe you’re popular on social media. Or you’re attractive, and people tell you how attractive you are each day, and that supplies you with pride, perhaps even a wealth of it. All of these things could be the fount of pride.
But, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we do not want too much pride. That may sound like a nice alternate reality for a loser, but it is true.
Because there is no emotion less sustainable than pride, but there is also no emotion more stunting, one preventing you from becoming something greater than you already are. So take heart when you feel less pride than you think you should. That’s just the lack of pride no longer ruining your life.