In work and love
It seems like we all struggle with one of the two— either work or love.
I wrestle with work. The love, it comes easy. We often get one or the other.
It’s not that I have trouble finding work or keeping work or even enjoying and excelling at work. It’s more that I treat each job as a job, and even as I’m doing well, I kind of chuckle to myself when I think about it, like “yeah, but it’s all a game.” Like, this isn’t for real real. Something more is coming; I’ll build it.
But maybe I’m not.
I think that’s a pretty dark way of looking at it — frankly, I’m pretty sure I’ve always been pushing and leaning and exploring and pursuing. But I simultaneously go hard and hold back from going hard at my work in the way so many of us simultaneously go hard and hold back from truly going hard in our love lives — like, we go through the motions, we “try” without really compromising, we “put in effort” only towards the things we want, and not for the sake of the other person as a person. And we have bullshit questions (is he tall enough?, does he make enough?, is she pretty enough?) and we run at the first sign of trouble.
We tell ourselves we want something, and we even think we’re fully committed. But the only thing we’re committed to is playing house, showing face, and lining things up.
We’re in without being in.
Here’s how we make “deciding” hard on ourselves
I don’t know what I want to do for my next business. I have no fucking idea.
Actually, no — that’s not entirely true. I only say that. I say that to everyone who asks and most importantly I say it to myself, but the reality is I do have ideas —tons of partial ideas — and it’s just that they’re all sort of awkwardly defined, and I know that I’m still not approaching it right (and, far more importantly, not actually approaching it at all.)
I brainstorm. I read. I research. I go to bed with the question in mind and hope to wake up with insight. I talk to friends. I talk to myself. I pay coaches to talk to me. I do a lot of thinking. But I have no idea that I’ve committed to.
The problem is how misleading we are when we tell people how to choose their work. “Pursue your passion,” “do what you know,” “sell something you use,” “solve your own problem”… these all have very different and conflicting outcomes.
Just for example:
If I picked based on passion:
I’d pick “people.” People — human beings, the human experience, and the way we make everyday decisions that shape our lives — is by far the most fascinating thing in the world to me.
The problem with “people” is that it’s ambiguous — “people” is not a thing you can even pursue. You have to translate “people” into “counseling” or “sales” or “show business” or “hospitality” or something, and none of those, frankly, are my jam.
On the upside, most everything relates back to people. Especially if the human experience is your passion.
Which is why I can happily pour drinks as a bartender. It’s not about the booze — it’s about trying to understand each person I pour for.
Which reminds me…
If I picked what I like consuming:
Beer. Bikes. Books. Good whisky. Cheap coffee. Cheap clothing, mostly menswear-inspired. The occasional girlish indulgence, with resentment (read on.)
But the problem is that I only want to consume these things — I don’t want to make them. Because I don’t care enough to understand the inner-workings of them, and that’s kind of important.
Case in point: I’ve owned my current motorcycle for over a year and, despite being asked more times than I can count, I only just recently have cared enough to remember exactly how many cc’s and cylinders it has. And that’s only because I’ve had to look up parts enough times. My bike is my car, and I ride more as “commuter” — or, at best, “philosopher” — than “mechanic.” I care less about the bike as a piece of machinery and more what it is for me.
And this makes sense, because people are either “people-interested,” or “thing-interested,” and what I’m saying here is that because I am “people-interested,” I am not interested in “things.”
The objects in my life are far more background than that; sort of a “yeah, yeah I like this” or “nah, maybe I don’t” sort of situation; a “whatever” framework in which I can do what I want, which is study people.
A lot of people assume I got into women’s clothing because I like women’s clothing. I don’t. In fact, I hate women’s clothing. But I care deeply about women and the stupid struggles we get saddled with in order to just dress ourselves each day. Which is why I got into clothing as a business…
If I picked based on problems or frustrations:
A lot based on clothing. Finding the exact item you’re looking for, or even finding one that fits. How it’s made, how we get it, how we dispose of it afterwards. It’s bizarre that we stockpile our closets like we do and in the future we won’t, but that’s another thing.
Second to clothing, so many other things… like:
Food. Better ways of choosing and finding what you want; more efficient meat product; better “protein” options (like, we’ve only just now started seeing “protein” items that actually have more protein than sugar — Clif Bars are total garbage but hats off to siggi’s yogurt, the latter of whom was apparently the first yogurt company to finally figure out what so many of us were scanning the back labels for — whether or not that shit had more protein than sugar — and slapped the answer right there on the front.)
Sex. Better porn. Better strip clubs. Better sex toys — not that I use them. (Perhaps partly because they’re so bad.)
Homes. More efficient apartment-hunting, outsourced maintenance for homeowners, homes that better suit our actual needs.
And a myriad of other, everyday things. Like:
Why is phone call quality still so fucking bad — I mean seriously, what year is it?? Not to mention the utter racket that is the entire service provider business.
Toothbrushes. Socks. Hypoallergenic cats!
And why haven’t we figured out less painful bikini waxes? Seriously, people.
I’m overthinking it, of course.
I know I’m overthinking it.
The frustratingly hard thing, however, is that I know I’m overthinking it but I can’t stop. Because I don’t trust that I know how else to approach it, and somewhere deep down I’m terrified that if I don’t set up little plastic barricades to guide me in the decision-making process, garbage will rush into the void.
But in reality, the void is all I have. The void, and the noise I’ve created.
And the funny part is: I actually know full well how to make good decisions. And I know this, because I already have.
How picking is easy
Here’s how love goes for me, and how I picked the boy:
I just did.
I know people always say this, and when you hear it you’re sort of like “wow, thanks for the most unhelpful advice ever, Nancy.” But that really is how it goes.
For months I told myself there was a list — “the only 2.5 things I wanted in a partner” — emotional stability, critical thought, and friendship.
That was it.
And all of those things are true, but the truth is I also just knew. I always knew. The boy and I have known each other for a long time, and I was attracted to him eons before I ever defined the list and he was there through all the time that I was fucking up on getting it satisfied.
I picked him before I knew why I picked him, and it was only retrospectively that I rationalized why.
Because we do that. People are inherently messy and irrational — we make decisions for outright silly reasons sometimes, and then when asked to explain them, are so fantastically creative we can literally come up with any number of plausible articulations to support any case.
But the reality is: we just decide.
And it’s mostly about getting our head straight.
We don’t get hung up on shit, we don’t make it bigger than it needs to be, we don’t bind our self worth up in what happens. We approach it lightly, and when we do that makes room to also approach it with more confidence than anxiety.
And I waded through — and ultimately left — countless “eh, I guess?” relationships because I believed that I could do better. I didn’t panic over my love life because I was cresting 30, and I shouldn’t do so in work.
There’s enough out there for us, if we only learn how to decide. And commit. Which is mostly just about getting our head straight, relaxing a little, and letting the right things bubble to the surface, and everything else fade away.