When is enough too much?
My friend Nikos was showing me one of his projects on a computer.
We were in our late-morning attire (i.e. PJs) after a hard couple of hours of coffee and frank conversation. Nikos is a man after my own heart: a sociologist and philosopher. He was going through something he had worked on for school (I think…it’s been a few years). One of the charts was about emotional highs and lows.
He asked me if I was someone who thought it would be better to experience elation and deep sadness, or if I’d prefer a more stable emotional state. The chart showed a red line resembling the results of a heart monitor with sharp ups and downs, and then a blue line with relative flatness—only slight bumps.
To be honest, I picked the boring line. From a practical view, I thought it would be better to count on myself that, on any given day, I’d be ready to face down life.
Nikos was blown away. He always was someone who tried for the limits of life. He was taken aback, I think, that someone would want the boring line. And I started to wonder if I had bad priorities.
I had always been focused on doing things well. In college, I shifted majors often, but I always excelled. I adapted and learned my ephemeral trades as fully as I could. Later, when I finally settled down on a major (video media production), I kept pushing.
I pulled all-nighters, purchased my own gear, produced films that won some local nods. Again, always going for being the best.
But I never did much apart from my studies, never really dated around or explored relationships. I did have a lot of friends, but only a scant few good ones. I don’t know how I was to live with, but I know I could be distant—always focusing on work.
After college, I plunged into the Army life and tried my hand at writing. I pushed to learn what I could. And I think I’ve done all right. Things have turned out nicely. I’ve worked to enough milestones to say I’m a writer—quality always notwithstanding.
Yet I still think back to that time with Nikos and wonder if I’m still on the boring line. Have I not risked enough? Am I still too focused on work? Am I boring? Pretentious?
If so, there’s time to change. Nikos is someone I look up to for lessons on passionate living. I think it is a better way to live to want the highs and lows, even if it isn’t the most “productive” from a working standpoint.
After all, how much do small accolades and professional milestones matter in the ebb of life? I think back to all the speeches and introductions I’ve weathered as a listener, nodding off as the initial speaker cited professional credentials. I don’t remember much of what those speakers said, only that I hated hearing how blasted qualified they were.
Forget pure competence. There are more dimensions to life than work. With time and the new gig, I’ll try to break free a bit.