A little over a half a year ago, a guy wrote this: http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-harsh-truths-that-will-make-you-better-person_p1/. It’s a comedy piece, and inspiring for what it is and who it’s written for (young dudes who can’t get girlfriends, I think). I didn’t see it until a few days ago, when I was doing a perusing of Facebook – I’m really bad at social media, by the way. Facebook came out during my formative years, so I embraced it and made a habit of stalking other people through it, but since then, I’ve become an obtuse old bitty and refuse to learn new tricks. I get kind of tired of the whole thing. Of course I’m web-logging, but I started doing that when there was Xanga, sooo…
Anyway, a digital friend posted the link to the piece, and I read it one morning. It’s about, as the link suggests, ways to make yourself a better person by becoming valuable to other people through the acquisition of a valuable skill. At first it reads like he wants you to hop on the corporate train, and follow a ladder up through the standard route of promotion and blah blah then death. He doesn’t mention the death part – I’m paraphrasing. But towards the end, you get that he is just telling you to do something. It doesn’t have to be prescribed, it can be what you enjoy, but other people have to need (also want… want sometimes beats out need) it.
I felt inspired that morning, went through my day cataloging all the skills I want to learn but keep putting off. I want to learn woodworking, the ukulele, and write really good stories. And why not! – wait, do people need/want those things?
Then, something about it started to creep under my skin, because I had grown up under assumptions different than he was suggesting. Here’s 3:
Don’t assign value to oneself based on others’ values
I mean, I do try to learn and do things, whatever, but it’s not good to do them for the sole purpose increasing your value to other people. That seems a bit dangerous of an assertion to me. I get that we are social creatures and being able to stomach that hinges on our ability to conform at least to some degree, but for me, in his analogy about the dying guy and the need for a surgeon but you aren’t a surgeon, you’re just a nice guy with a pocket knife:
I don’t want to be a surgeon! And I won’t become one just because some dude’s boyfriend got maliciously shot! If I went around elbows deep in someone else’s blood all the time, I would live a very short, unhappy life, and probably be stealing the joy of someone whose passion is just that sort of thing.
But, I will play a ukulele while he lies there in his last moments. I could make a poem for him, bring him a nice summer salad. Oh! I could drive him to the hospital! Would that help? Problem-solving. That is a good one.
My point is, analogies are fun. My other point is, if your goal is contentment, don’t get forced into a place you don’t want to be. You aren’t going to love yourself more if you learn programming just to get a paycheck. And you’ll probably hate yourself and your life for deciding to move through that tedium for decades, even though that skill is valued. Maybe it just goes without saying, even in David Wong’s piece, that you should enjoy what you do. Follow your bliss, says Joseph Campbell from the stuff of consciousness all around us. Seriously, follow your bliss young dudes.
“Doing” isn’t the only thing with value either.
Like what about the motivation behind the doing? It speaks to who you are inside, and honestly, that might effect how you do your work and how you will make decisions about things later on. Like, dude’s a surgeon. Did he become that because he wants to make lots of money and be impressive at parties? Or did he do it because it’s his bliss? Important stuff!
Don’t berate the nice guy and his “favors”!
If a girl doesn’t like a guy (which might be the driving force behind the article, getting guys to become likable enough that they can get a girlfriend) it’s because he’s creepy (see this clip), there’s no chemistry, a hundred other reasons, or because he doesn’t value himself – and yes, only the shallow ones tend to like men based on their monetary value. There are lots of other ways to be valuable. I don’t really need anything from my boyfriend. At all. Anything I want from him, I could probably get elsewhere. I actually like him most because he is honest – very honest – and some people just don’t like honesty when its tactless. That is a quality he has, and I suppose he shows it when he says things or acts in certain ways, but if you are honest, it is unlikely you can act in a way that won’t prove it. Probably the same with being nice, or clean, or funny, etc. And the “favors” that nice guys do for girls they like are actually providing the girl with something that she needs or wants, which should make the guy attractive to her by Wong’s logic. For some reason, being able to give the girl something of value just sometimes doesn’t equal instant relationship. Guys who keep fixing a crush’s computer have an enormously valuable skill, there’s probably just no chemistry there on her side. Time to move on!
In sum, you do need to do things, because it’s common sense. If I sit around playing video games all day, I don’t feel so great by the time I go to bed. But if I write or bike or surf or clean the house or tend the garden or spend hours preparing a delicious meal, I feel pretty awesome. But I don’t think that just acquiring some skill is the way to the happy. Like the man Joseph Campbell said,
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.”
I’ve seen it happen. It hasn’t happened to me because I have no idea idea what my bliss is. I thought it was writing, but through lack of confidence and fear of embarrassment, condemnation, etc., whatever creative power was in me has been shoved into a shallow grave.
Which brings me to my favorite part of Wong’s article: people who pick apart, destroy and criticize other’s work in a way that is not helpful – they suck. And often aren’t creators themselves. It IS easy to sit back and destroy something someone made when anything you could create or produce or do is hidden safely in the recesses of your brain. That point in his article kind of gave me permission to revisit writing, drawing, photography, even learning to play music. People who create have respect for the process, and know how much courage you need to share your work. So when someone mindlessly attacks it, all you have to do is throw back “Well, what have YOU made?” Often, it’s nothing, and it feels like a really good defense against people who would hate on your work.
I don’t want to go into good work vs. bad work – it freaks me out that I might pour my heart and soul into something and have people react to it like they do to Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey. I don’t particularly like the writing style there, but really, whose to say I’ve got anything better? And those authors created it and shared it, and even if it is sensationalist, formulaic and demeaning to women, it still wasn’t easy and it still was a risk. So good for them, making something, and then making money off of it!
Anyway, I’ll end the rant here. It really was a rant. I just had strong feelings about the article – even if it is a half a year old and written for a comedy site. Also, I think it did its job – learning these skills I’ve been wanting to learn will make me feel like a better person. Thanks young dude!
And because I don’t want this to be a post without a picture, here is one of my friend’s kitten. So cute!