The Art Of Looking Up


I am a competitive person.

That could be read in any shade, but here, in America, the implication is that this is a good thing. When I have my rap playlist, I’m supposed to sneer and nod. I should feel that ambition is the notion, that fire and drive.

I am meant to achieve. We all are, except, of course, when we don’t. Because there is not enough success compared to what we’ve been promised. And, without an app, or technical skills, I am limited to my narrow set of skills and the lack of options they provide.

I feel a drive to achieve. It isn’t that failure isn’t an option. It’s that failure is an option, a cloud, a default that I’m running from. So I need to go fast. Frustration and mania and desire are stimulants, cheaper than coffee, and best used in conjunction. And, of course, that clouds itself. Ideas, swirling, congeal into a solid obsession.

It’s ambition. The word is like the steam of a cartoon pie on a windowsill. It tilts up, lifts you floating towards it. And ambition is much like the cartoon pie, in that you are forced to devote yourself to wildly unlikely schemes to achieve even a sliver of satisfaction.

I know – I’m deep.

I am a nice person. I am. But if somebody is doing better than me, I will flinch and fidget. I got into comedy writing because I was so mad that my friend got accepted into College Humor that I got the initiative to submit.

It wasn’t for the love of the game. It wasn’t out of pride, or the natural result of hard work. It was competition, soured to spite, that propelled me forward.


I got here and realized I didn’t have a point.

Okay. Fine.

We look up because it’s a habit. Ambition is obsessive. It’s a drug cosigned as necessary for yourself and for your world. You need money, validation, and the chance to describe yourself with better nouns. Sales Manager, Author, Start-Up CEO – we all have our business cards whipped up in our heads, visions of a proof that we’ve exceeded our anxieties and transformed, magically, into that otherness we’ve aspired towards.

Okay, fine.

We look up because we need more – more success, more ambition, more justice, more good. More as a modifier shouldn’t be shamed, merely regulated and observed, notations made in mental chalk.

Okay, fine.

But what about looking around? Or, God forbid, looking back? Or looking at yourself, at your realities before you think about possibilities?

I don’t have a solution for you because I don’t have one for myself. But the balance is something to be aware of.

Take a moment to allow yourself a freedom from the tyranny of the future, because you’ll never escape it. I remember obsessing about futures long since passed, and nothing internal to a cycle can break it. Thus, if you want something else beyond ambition, you can’t find a plateau or crook to rest in.

To paraphrase the Talmud, do not say you’ll rest when you are satisfied, because you may never find satisfaction.

So, when you can, find an escape. Find a valve. Take a moment to remove yourself from your own trajectory. You can set your ambition and goals down for a moment; you can look around and reminisce about the past and enjoy the slow, lazy present of a day off. You can, and you may even be stronger for it.

Many people look up with ambition. Just be sure to stretch your neck. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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