The thing that I fear most isn’t taking a whipper on a towering rock face or an unexpected mountain lion attack; it’s complacency. You’ve seen the pattern – we all have – somewhere around the age of 27-35, we pair off, move into a domicile of some type, have children, and somewhere along the way, we stop trying. We cruise through comfortable jobs that don’t challenge us, we stop working out, and, what hurts my heart the most, is that most of us stop putting effort into the most important romantic relationship of our lives. It’s a sobering reality when you think about how finite the blip of time we get on this cloud-strewn marble is.
As a single gal with one foot firmly in the romantic idealism of the outdoors and one foot tethered to city life, who wants to nest with a partner at some point, this is a concept that often plagues my mind. It feels unfathomable that I would care less or stop trying at anything that deeply moves me. The fact that so many of my peers seem keen on it feels like a betrayal of the human spirit.
I asked a married friend for solace, my overly dramatic poet’s soul insistent that there must be a better path than mutually assured destruction through lethargy, and we reasoned together that there seem to be two kinds of people that emerge as we grow and get older. The question dividing them is simple yet tricky to ask – What is at the root of your discomfort?
At the root of apathy is self-loathing. People who give up their diets in favor of sweatpants, bacon grease, and a soft exterior haven’t suddenly become different people – those destructive desires were likely lurking under the surface the entire time. They’ve chosen to act on them just as much as their counterparts choose to resist. The desire to let go, the desire to stop shaving, and the desire to fill the void within with externalities like food and consuming media on screens are pervasive. This unaware nihilism is an exercise in self-suffocation.
At the root of trying too hard is narcissism. The desperate yearning to constantly better the self and be seen is addictive, and these upstream swimmers can be riddled with nerves as they polish and perfect. They lose sleep to read the new Michael Wolff book and overtrain their tired muscles at CrossFit, striving beyond reason to squeeze the most juice out of every precious hour that was gifted to them. Their incessant striving for more is the perfect recipe for anxiety.
“I’d take narcissism and trying over self-loathing and apathy any day,” I muttered, a bit taken aback that anyone would choose otherwise. “That’s what my money’s on,” my friend chuckled back. I felt a chill rising from between my shoulder blades. We were onto something.
I’m not saying that I’m a saint or that my life is perfect, by any means. Being a conscious meat sack and having to exhibit reasonably adult behavior at all times is exhausting, I get it. There are days I want to push the snooze button on my alarm until noon, watch Broad City reruns all day, and eat ice cream straight out of the tub. I’m sure this craving is hugely exacerbated by sleep-depriving curveballs like having children or receiving a promotion.
What I am doing is making a plea for consciousness. In a world where the rhetoric of truth is contorting at the hands of marketing executives and politicians, we cannot afford to sit by and idle through our own lives or relationships.
Start small. Meditate in the mornings and journal before bed. Embark upon a 21-day quest to stop complaining. Buy people flowers. Imagine the food and drink you put into your mouth moving through a magical ribbon within you and then becoming you. Ask why before numbing yourself with substances. In fact, ask why before everything. It’s a small syllable that can accomplish big things. Breathe it out proudly. Be pleasantly inflexible about your core needs.
Honor and respect yourself first. The only person you are ever going to get to be (thank god) is you.