Thursday, May 3, 2012

My unified theory of everything

I have been going through life metaphors almost as quickly as I can dream them up. Here is my life, split up by how I perceived the future.

Phase 0: Don't Fuck Up. From as far back as I can remember until about age 18.

I'm sure I had other motivations in those 18 years, but you can summarize most of my actions as trying to minimize failure/embarrassment. I had this idea in my head that nice, happy people did not fuck up things. Every mistake I made as a kid made me feel horrible and I had to add it to a huge list in my head labelled "NEVER DO THAT AGAIN. I felt horrible even if I was completely alone but it was always infinitely worse if I made a mistake and some other kid made fun of me for it or some adult lectured me about it.

A sample of things that have, at some point, been on that list:
Don't make jokes that might hurt people's feelings
Don't play with knives
Don't play basketball/kickball/softball....
Don't ask for food
Don't sing
Don't play with power tools
Don't touch animals

Dangerous! I might get hurt!

Can't hurt me. Any wonder I'm a software engineer?
Sure, some reasonable things made the list. But for the most part I was training myself to avoid taking any kind of risk. Luckily I eventually realized that adults fuck up all the time. And some of them are even still happy, nice people... It was time for a new way of looking at life

Phase 1: Trophy Collecting. From when I graduated high school until about age 25.

During these years I was completely OBSESSED with the idea of reaching certain milestones. I poured my heart and soul into accomplishing certain goals:

Graduating from college
Getting married
Finding a good job
Buying a BMW
Learning to play the guitar

I was getting pretty good at this life thing. I had a super awesome high score and everything... Wait. Right. At some point I realized that my perception of life had more in common with World of Warcraft then it did with reality. I also realized I was miserable. There is no great scoreboard in the afterlife measuring all your achievements. The only reason to live this way is if you're the kind of pathetic person that wants to have more achievements than everyone else. So I moved on.

Phase 2: Cathedral building. From about age 25 until about now.

I wanted to stop defining my life by my position relative to other people. I started looking at what I really wanted. I set goals. I pursued my dreams. I saw myself as the architect of my own future and what I was building would be glorious. I decided that I would only do things that made me happy or that helped me to be happier in the future.

I give up. This theory of life was beautiful. Unfortunately, life just doesn't work this way. My bird died, my interviews went awry, my family planning schedule slipped its deadline, and my life at grad school went from interesting to mind-numbingly boring.

I'm building a cathedral here and the shipment of windows is late, the tools are missing, and the slave labor is revolting! I CAN'T WORK LIKE THIS!

Phase 3: My unified theory of everything.

I don't actually have one. So I'm going to steal one from Kung Fu Panda: "There is no secret ingredient. " I keep looking for something that doesn't even seem to exist. I really want to stop planning how I will live my life and just get on with living it.