On New Year’s Eve, Excess, And The Well-Lived Life

“You deserve it.”

Those are the words that every ad campaign tries to leverage at you, for any splurge or indulgence, caloric or otherwise. Wendy’s, for example, has gone ahead and built a campaign about earning the sandwich you’re about to have.

Go ahead, they say. Enjoy. This is your right. Take it, savor it, and feast.

The problem is, this way of thinking assumes that more is better. That isn’t always the case. Gluttony is a given in an ambitious world – more money, more sex, more, more more – where appreciation would have been better, and satisfaction better found in the middle.

Consider that a thousand years ago, calories would’ve been hoarded as dearly as any other currency. We say it’s impossible to be too rich, but they would’ve thought it been impossible to be too fat.

I have had veggie burgers that were better, in that moment, then a hamburger would have been; salads gratefully enjoyed more than fries. Because, based on my stomach, and fullness, and future plans, responsibility and satisfaction found a wonderful correlation.

Sometimes you need excess. Sometimes, but you’ll know it. You’ll find those moments upon you naturally. When you need – and I mean need that cheeseburger with fries and a small milkshake, you’ll know. You don’t need that as a symbolic reward, and to force it upon itself before its moment is premature.

So yes, Wendy’s; we deserve it. But it’s on our terms, when we want. Like anything else, excess has its place. But be conscious of when you choose it, and how.

A life lived well is its own reward. You deserve the burger when the moment calls to you, but don’t confuse excess as an inevitable goal or aspiration to actively aim for.

***

My ideal New Year’s Eve party is very simple.

First, I have dinner with some friends. We probably cook something because good luck going out. Ideally, I’d hang around with them and push back drinking until as late as possible. Ideally, ideally? We’d have a few people over to walk to a house party, then maybe walk to another one nearby before- you guessed it- walking home.

All house parties would have between eighteen and forty people and they’d all have snacks. I’d be asleep by 1:25.

I am not an introvert. I am just an extrovert who knows his odds. And, on New Year’s Eve, I’m off the table.

If you’re honest, that probably sounds great. Everyone I know dislikes New Year’s Eve. There’s a nauseous haze of anxious merriment. Everybody has expectations but nobody really knows how to go about fulfilling them, and everybody is comparing themselves to Drake.

Some people try to compete. They get $90 bar tabs and $90 dinners and $90 Ubers because that’s what the night expects of them. Sometimes it’s worth it. But often, it’s not. And, I’d argue, the satisfaction ratio of New Year’s Eve goes lower the harder you try.

Nobody likes it, and that’s not even rebellious to say anymore. But there’s a gap, prompted by the fear of missing out, that keeps us in inaction.

***

The gap between theory and practice is large, and, in the media age, especially taunting.

It can feel like you’re not enough. Not even that you aren’t doing enough, but that you, as a person, are not enough. In a world that brings perfection, even micro-flawed “quirky” relatable perfection- and isn’t that more cruel?- the pressure for excess comes ever harder.

You need more money, more success, more everything to catch up to what you imagine the world expects of you. After all, when you feel behind in life, excess feels like a wild last gasp for air.

But you’re breathing just fine.

You don’t have to do anything. You’re fine without markers or stickers of validation, without diamonds or fashion or whatever you both want and feel pressure to have. But, again, you’d be fine with them, too.

If that’s what you want, get it. Because excess is when you’re overwhelmed, when you’re trying too hard to be too much, and when “too” becomes the adjective tied around your waist.

You can have what you want. You can do what you want. But when it becomes too much, remember that you don’t have to- that you have value and purpose and interest outside rewards and the external.

Like Wendy’s says, “you deserve it.”

The difference is knowing that it’s yours to choose. You’re never obliged to confuse more with “more.” Thought Catalog Logo Mark

featured image – Shutterstock

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