"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

The Junk

After a pretty intense weekend, I feel a low drop. The physical exhaustion is expected (and I have some minor injuries to heal), but the emotional rebound is harder. It's like the day after Disneyland. I'm so bored!

One of the things I've been mulling over lately is just what it takes to get me excited these days. There are several threads to this introspection, so I'll try to tease them out with some kind of order.

I'm coming to realize that in certain important and meaningful ways, I've developed a range of inhibitions, in the form of insular routines, reflexive skepticism, and internal checks. This is kind of a contrast to my life age 18 to present, which was largely about the shedding of inhibition, tapping into self, going a Dragonball-Z with my chi and that kind of shit.

Maybe it's a weird thing to say as the proprietor of a website that's blocked by many major parental-control (or workplace-control) filters, but there it is. This has been a theme in my writing for the past several months, but I didn't hit on the specific word "inhibited" until someone used it -- or rather, the inverse, "uninhibited" -- the other day to describe an ideal way to be.

That's something I agree with, deeply, being uninhibited. It's in some of my favorite hip-hop lyrics and it stands at the center of what I construe to be personal liberation. Emancipate yrself from mental slavery and all that jazz. The point is, it's a bummer and a wake-up call to realize that's part of what's been going on.

Diminishing Returns
Partly because of my birthday, I've been looking back retrospective-like and appreciating all the cramazing things I've done with my life. Not to toot my own horn (I ain't making a list or asking for kudos or saying Joshey knows best), but I've done and seen more than your average monkey.

There's a decline in novelty that naturally accompanies a broad life, and also I think some diminishing returns with exposure to peak experiences. There are many things you can do to get high in this world, but the really good ones require a kind of innocence, or at least they work better that way.

These days I'm honestly less interested in the doors of perception that chemistry can open, and more about the enthusiasm and excitation one can get from being involved in cool stuff, working on interesting things, interacting with lively and stimulating people, and generally getting -- as they say -- high on life. But the same dynamic applies. There are qualities to things like first love, best friends, and breaking into the big-time that are transcendent. They're amazing, but sometimes they take some of the pep out of a return trip to the well.

It seems to take more than ever to pique my interest, to get my mojo working, to get me up and open and off to the races. I accept that this is part of adulthood, but I feel unnaturally numb of late.

Burning Ambition
Another theme that's hardly new is wrestling with ambition. I have a strong and I think mostly inexhaustible internal drive, but it's a non-specific one. I want to win, to (in the words of the Big Lebowski) "achieve." This is a good thing overall, but I also think that when my ambition suffers from a lack of objectives I can spin my wheels a lot. Smell that burning rubber.

It's a frustrating feeling, being hungry but not wanting to eat anything in the fridge. It's a condition that I think of as afflicting children, but here I am singing the same old song. I would call it ennui if it didn't have an edge of urgency to it. It's not just that I want, it's that I want to want, and desperately.

Which is a tricky position to be in. The engine may rev, but is there really anything hooked up? Breaks? Steering? Gearing? Is now a good time to pop the clutch? Take sexual frustration: Always a popular topic, and another common theme here. There are all sorts of pitfalls to "getting back into the game," and ginning up desire or pushing to make something happen (that you may or may not really want) are things I'm much more cautious of now than in times past.

Caution, though, can be a nice looking sheet you drape over that ratty-ass old couch stuffed with inhibitions. I mean, out on this Kinetic Sculpture race there were definitely some babes, and some of them even smiled at me. And did I introduce myself? Of course not. Inhibitions. We're back again. Full-circle.

Bringing It All Back Home
There are a few things that I think are true:

  • My life is too generally placid for my liking. I need to be more stimulated.
  • Lacking a sense of direction -- "feeling lost" -- has a debilitating affect on my self-confidence.
  • Without some kind of conscious focus or daily practice, I'll slide into my shell just like any mortal person.
  • Fuck the shell.

The worst part about this is that I can feel the toll my own lack of enthusiasm can take on those around me. One of the things I love most in life is being able to energize people, to bring a crowd, or just one person, to great precipices of excitement. It's a double-bummer to see your gray cloud soak up other people's light, and it makes you unpopular too.

You try to get over, you're going to go under. Literally. Get open. Like the ocean...


I have a strong and I think mostly inexhaustible internal drive, but it’s a non-specific one. I want to win, to (in the words of the Big Lebowski) “achieve.” This is a good thing overall, but I also think that when my ambition suffers from a lack of objectives I can spin my wheels a lot.

Oh man... This pretty much sums up where I am right now too. I know I want to be the BEST at something, but I'm not. quite. sure. what. I'm especially frustrated by the upcoming move to Boston, which presents me with a perfect Start Fresh chance to change fields, yet also makes me feel sorry for myself that my old profession really isn't a strong option there. There is a nasty feeling of wasted potential that threatens to well up sometimes, and I keep having to remind myself that I'm not even 27--nothing is even close to over. Still, leaving NYC and the magazine did feel like a major break for me, like I'd finished one chapter of my life and never accomplished quite what I wanted to while I was there.

I don't have any words of advice, just sympathy--you're not alone in this feeling! In fact, another friend of mine (from Ben's B-School class) has been mulling over some similar themes (even throwing around "mid-life crisis at 28") on his blog:

Thanks kate! I feel like the ying to yr friend's yang. I'm sweating being single but running a fun little business; he's sweating joining the rat race but having a baby with the woman of his dreams. It's always nice to know the grass isn't any greener... ;)

As for being THE BEST... it's a big long life for sure, and I tend to think that the real dream is your old idea of being part of a team or network of aces and taking over the country or something. Maybe just a state. Who knows?

ran across [[http://www.practicalist.com/mt/archives/000233.html|this]] and thought it was apropos of some of the recurring themes i've been seeing 'round these here parts:

We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life,
when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.
— Albert Einstein

I like that a lot. Thanks, man. Atomized egocentricity is one of my constant and recurring beefs with most philosophy. I'm a believer in individualism and free will, but I also appreciate that the individual alone is unhappy and probably dead (or at least retarded). Life is social, even for the most reclusive of people. So is happiness. Nice to know Albert's got my back on that.

bro I keep reading you write about this and finally had to respond because the solution seems so clear, though of course easier said than done. you gotta get outta the comfort zone! Force your self into the danger zone! go somewhere you don't know anyone, be it the local mushroom hunting group or brasil. Sign up for a college class! Conciously experience discomfort with other human beings! practise on old men if it helps before you move onto young ladies! If you don't talk to anyone at first keep going. I just dont find that this sort of thing happens naturally, esp. when your patterns have digressed away from it. It really has to be consciously made, forced to happen.

You're totally right as usual. It's an act of will to make change in ones life. Perhaps I will start by getting the Top Gun soundtrack and listening to it constantly on bike rides.

I also keep thinking of cashing in on my barely-realized birthday present to my self, which is some new clothes. I went out and got a bunch of comfortable socks and expensive underwear (because really, at the age of 28, who should one not have date-night underwear every day?) but after that my tolerance for shopping crumpled.

On the other hand, I'm skeptical of material possessions (even costuming) being able make a real difference. On the other other hand, it wouldn't hurt to have more than two outfits I actually wear. Maybe I can balance my karma by giving away the piles of textiles that languish in the back of my closet...

i like your blog, so here's my comment:
poor college grads. now i feel sorry more than envy them at 30. forced to be productive all those years, but when all that effort starts to dissolve into "what the fuck am i doing here, anyway?" you're left with all the anxiety i went through at 19 at a shit job. but, i like my shit job now (which makes it a great job), and i'm going to school for a certification to make my shit job pay me enough to be a little more comfortable. my happiness is my ability to relax, and forget about success; it's material and shallow anyway -no matter the cause because the motivation for acceptance is still there. i'm not a dead beat, but i accept and could care less that i'm never going to be "somebody"... not to the masses anyway. my dog loves me, i have some really great friends that are there for me... heh, i sound like a grandma. you're friend has a good idea about doing something you're not accostomed to, but i don't reccommend doing something that increases your drive. try losing all your money, quitting your business, and living like a pioneer for a year...
just kidding, but something to that effect.
i like the brazil idea...
stop thinking so hard my dear, you damn cool cat

you're a damn cool cat

Thanks for the comments. I appreciate your perspective.

It's too true that the real things that make one happy are immaterial, and that making work a priority (for whatever reason) is going to drastically impact my/anyone's ability to build the kind of life that will really deliver on good times. The money thing doesn't really drive me -- I've lived hand-to-mouth and deep in debt for my entire adult life, and on the road for lots of it too -- but you're totally right that there's a hunger for acceptance, for respect, for recognition, that's very egocentric, and arguably shallow.

But there are also other external motivations, the co-workers who are part of my team, all the projects I get involved with, and the (possibly hubristic) notion that there might actually be some impact from the ways that I spend my time. It's not all about being somebody. It's also about doing something, being effective. I think that's what's making it difficult for me; I don't have a clear sense of what I'm trying to do beyond playing the game in front of me as well as possible. I have ideas for sure, but none of them have really taken hold. Yet.

there are a lot of things that make a person feel important in this life, and you seem to have (or have had at one point) pretty much all of those things. i think that you are doing A LOT with your life that i don't fathom the general population engaging in. i see nothing wrong with it, and i find it commendable. however, when you get to this pre-mid life crisis thing, you have to step down for a while and regain your wits and priorities (the real ones, not what bill is due next, which project to take on, or when you eat, you know?) i think that's what you're doing here in this blog, and you're a smart feller so i'm sure that this anxiety will quell... but i think you might have to go a little crazy first. i don't think you've gone completely bananas yet, so be prepared for finding yourself painting yourself with mud and dancing through busy intersections with a spatula... though i don't put it past you that you've already done that for some project... ha ha. after that, things should be fine. once you find out what it is you're taking for granted and begin to appreciate it on a deeper level, you'll have new balance in your life that will give you the ability to relax. congratulations, you are on your way to being "old".
p.s. and stop trying to be responsible for the world, it's going to keep turning with or without you. you're doing the best you can with what you've got to make the differences that important to you, right? you're too much of a hippie to be so wound up! wow, i sound like a defeatest... i guess i'm just saying, choose your battles. i bet you're that person who -if at some mundane mcjob- would be like, "no, let me do it... let me do it ALL. i've got it, put that down! if i don't do it, it'll be wrong". control control control. head asplode -ppft. then they promote you to the headless mcmanager.
tangent much?

refering to the photo you posted for this blog:
though you look completely trashed after a long night and early morning, and i don't much care for guys like that in a general sense, there is something still totally fuckable about you...
that's my version of a compliment, haha.
(christ, like you need that ego boost...)
well, i guess what i'm trying to say, is that if you put yourself out there in the nether world of dating, i don't think you'll have that much trouble. you have a relatively high female following here, why do you think that if you're the one doing the choosing that you would be rejected? girls totally dig you, man.
anyway, thanks for the burned-out-model eye-candy up top.
winkie face.

"To sleep--perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub"

An album you've never heard. The painting of the man & the mountain lion at the de Young.

Dooode, I feel that same shit so intensly sometimes all I can think about is how I'm going to be trapped in this fucking crotchworld forever. The reflection of a reflection, the douchebag studying the douchebag, you know? Maybe I want to be the douchebag being studied for once yo! At least I be freshening something other than another douche.GYARRGH!

You have a way with words that is deeply underutilized in academia, my friend.