whenever anyone asks me what i want to do with my life, both now and in the future, the automatic answer is “i just want to do cool shit,” and then it just gets left at that. sure, sometimes someone will try to figure out what “do cool shit” actually means, but generally the only answer to “what does that even mean?” is “cool shit, i just want to do cool shit.” because if i don’t give a cryptic, ambiguous, bullshit answer to an actual question about an actual thing, then what am i? scared and directionless, actually.
one of the first people to call me on my “do cool shit” answer was my dad. we were eating at Steak ‘n Shake this past Christmas Eve, and as is typical around the holidays with my father, we began to have rare, actual conversation about actual things. he asked what i wanted to do with my life, i was stuck and simply went with “cool stuff, i just want to do cool stuff” and threw in a nondescript hand gesture for good measure. but i wasn’t allowed to leave it at that; “ok, but what does that actually mean? like, what’s the one thing you hope to accomplish with your life,” he asked.
but i didn’t know what kind of answer to give. “please don’t say something like start a family,” he added (despite the fact that the one constant throughout my life is him being sad that he doesn’t have a “real family,” but that’s neither here nor there, i suppose), so that was out of the question right off the bat.
when i picture “doing cool shit” in my head, it consists of traveling, writing professionally, doing design stuff on the side, helping people, having a relationship, and just generally being happy and making a difference somewhere in the world while still being able to experience a multitude of cool things. all of that feels almost too idealistic, though, so i never really accept it to be an actual possibility for the future; rather, it is simply relegated to being another of my romanticized, idealistic daydreams that will eventually fade into obscurity with a few bullshit excuses.
and while that entire thought process ran through my head, i realized my dad was still sitting there, staring patiently, waiting for an answer. “so?” he asked.
"i don’t really know, just cool stuff, i just want to do cool stuff,” i answered, avoiding eye contact, and thus any real intimacy because god forbid anyone is allowed a window into what actually runs through my thoughts at any given moment.
on a bigger scale, “i just want to do cool shit” is representative of the empty, non-answer answer i give most any personal question. even something as dumb as “how are you?” gets hit with a one-word answer at best, and an immediate reciprocation to avoid giving any actual information. in fact, “fine” is the “do cool shit” of how-are-yous. there’s nary a more bullshit, fence-sitting answer than fine. what even is fine? is it somewhere between good and indifferent? is it really just disguised unhappiness? the real answer is that it’s nothing. it’s actually just an excuse to not have to give an actual answer. “fine” satisfies the questioner, because, really, who’s going to say, “oh why are you just fine? why aren’t you happy or sad? why are you just existing indifferently?” generally, the answer is nobody (though that’s also indicative of how insincere of a question “how are you?” actually is, but that’s an entirely different thing).
it’s such an interesting thing to think about, being so instinctively guarded without even knowing exactly why. without blinking an eye, i can give a non-answer to a question and a half-assed hug to a friend, and not think a single thing about it until ten minutes later when i realize how shitty it was to, yet again, be as impersonal as possible while still being able to maintain a normal friendship. i’ve been able to build myself into this fantastical enigmatic box that exists next to, rather than with, everyone around me, which allows me to stay perfectly within my comfort zone, which is being able to observe and help everyone else with their problems, but not allow the favor to be returned. a perfectly insulated one-way street.
what’s funny (sad funny, not ha ha funny, or funny like a clown) is that it’s gotten to the point that even when i’m drunk, i still have mental barriers set up to ensure nothing slips out that wouldn’t otherwise slip out. most people end up being at least mildly with what they say (esp w the advent of social media) the more intoxicated they get, but i’m just over there, half-passed out on my bed, telling my friends not to unlock my phone “so i can’t make bad decisions and snapchat or text ______.”
i think the worst, though, is the fact that i still have such a crippling inability to communicate feelings of any sort, despite promising myself last year after the whole thing that it wouldn’t happen again. and yet, here i am nonetheless, again suffocating under tidal waves of thoughts and feelings, unable to go a day without veering overboard for at least a little bit.
and that’s why my favorite Gatsby quote, “so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past,” is still such an important mantra. because it seems that, no matter how easy it seems to make yourself promises about changing things to keep from repeating the past, it never actually is that simple. without even realizing it, life patterns emerge, and no matter how hard you work to change, certain things are more complex than simply flipping a mental switch.
so this is then where it all comes back to wanting to “do cool shit,” but not actually DOING cool shit. all of that idealism held in “doing cool shit” that seems so attainable, yet so intimidating; an unreachable city of gold whose pathways are built upon corroding paths, constantly beat away by gales of uncertainty and torrential downpours of insecurity. as much as i like to have this goal of “doing cool shit,” (making a difference, seeing things, doing things, and just generally being a real person) how attainable is it actually? if i can’t do something so simple as verbalize feelings to another person, how am i expecting to truly live up to my potential as an individual? all of these romanticized ideas are only that if i remain unwilling to step outside of my own solitary confinement, put myself in with the rest of the general population, and become so much more than just a functioning member of society.
more than anything, i’m so deeply fearful of living out the rest of my life trapped within my own head, sitting outside life’s window, cupping my eyes to shield the sun’s shine and staring in, wondering how everyone can seem so happy and fulfilled all of the time. there’s a certain beauty to emptiness - to space - but after a certain point, that emptiness becomes suffocating and morphs into an overwhelming desire for something more, something better.
but it’s not an empty sadness. sadness and emptiness exist concurrently, sure, but hardly ever together, because that would be contradictory. emptiness doesn’t lend itself to much else. it leads to other things, of course, but i don’t think another thing could exist directly inside emptiness, because otherwise how could it be empty?