Saturday, October 22, 2011

Opportunity costs

I could be living beachside in south Florida working to end homelessness right now.

Do you ever wonder what your life would be if you had made one choice differently? Or why in the world you chose the choices you did?

I could also still be working for people I don’t respect or living in Newark, NJ. These are some nightmares that I am glad to have given up. Not that either of those situations were really that bad. And they did pay almost living wages.

Opportunity costs – the economic principle that states that you should consider the possible benefits you are giving up by pursuing a particular set of activities. (I had an economics exam this week – just go with it.)

Truthfully, this principle is a terrible one. (Especially if you consider it in hindsight.) It, like most of economics, is a way to make a simple task more complicated. Analyze this, it says. And ok, perhaps it is good to look at your options and consider what you would be giving up if you decided not to take that path, or that one, or this other one that also seems fine.

But at some point, you have to freaking choose. And the truth is all of the paths have merit and experiences worth having and benefits worth considering. So is it really, really that important to tally up the things you will be missing by not doing something?

Ok, ok. I suppose the point is: what are the benefits worth to you? Are you willing to give up a little stability for some education? Are you willing to give up a little money for the chance to gain some experience? Are you willing to leave a place or a job or some loved ones to escape melancholy, to pursue happiness?

Think about the people you have met, the places you’ve seen, (the things you’ve learned), the existential goodness that you’ve known. And this will lead to even better things, in all hopefulness. But I suppose that it is all relative. Better than what could have been?

Who wants to live beachside anyway?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Functionally crazy

I had a realization the other day: I am a functioning crazy person. I borrow the term from the idea of a “functioning alcoholic” – you know, when it is clear that someone struggles with what should be debilitating, but is still (for the moment) able to get through the day-to-day. My form of crazy is that my mind is never silent. I am forever running through my plans and lists for the day, the week, the rest of my life. Words, sentences are constant in my brain. If this sounds frustrating, anxiety-producing, or annoying, it is.

I find myself walking down the street completely entranced by my worries for the future, introspection, and what I should be doing, should have done, should do tomorrow… I get lost in all of this and find it hard to appreciate where I am right now.

(I really need to learn to stop talking to myself when I’m alone – I confess that I have complete, often two-sided conversations with myself, sometimes aloud. If anyone ever observed me, they would certainly determine that there was some sort of psychological disorder.)

What is crazy? Am I crazy? I could very easily be. There’s a line at the end of Girl, Interrupted exploring the what-is-crazy question: “Crazy isn’t being broken, or swallowing a dark secret. It’s you or me, amplified.”

I would take this definition a step further. It’s not an amplified version of a person. It’s an amplification of one very specific part of a personality. It’s when your life becomes defined by an inability to be your whole self. It’s when your struggles, your tendency toward some behavior, your emotional disposition control all of the rest of who you are. Your multifaceted self becomes secondary to this one trait.

(The voice that won’t shut up in my head keeps telling me things like this.)

Cooking. This is what I have found allows me to focus on something external and brings me into the moment. Thank God for that.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Coming of Age

I love coming of age movies, love them. Seriously, The Trouble with Angels, Stand by Me, The Sandlot, Now and Then, and most recently, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – love them. When I was in middle school, I watched Now and Then nearly every day. My brother finally hid it from me, and my mom didn’t make him give it back. It’s a little absurd.

What is it about these movies about adolescence that I love so much? It’s hard to say really. I didn’t exactly love my own adolescence.

I will point out a very important fact: most of these movies breeze past the future that is the characters’ twenties. They fast forward to the characters’ thirties and forties to let you know “how they turned out.” (Oh this decade long quarter life crisis, how uninspiring you are!)

But I think it’s the idea that life is malleable that intrigues me. It’s a reminder of the possibilities of what we can be. All coming of age movies have elements of adventure, self-discovery, hope, and uncertainty.

And friendship, there is always friendship. This is something that I feel becomes secondary in action flicks, rom coms, and dramas that we come to appreciate later in life. Perhaps that is where my affinity for these movies lies.

And, ok, there’s also a touch of rebellion in these movies that appeals to me. This is something I didn’t do enough. (Is it too late now?)