The Eternal Struggle
If I were to meet with a life coach and they were to ask me what my goals are, I'd be able to point to a number of concrete goals I have set for myself. I like having goals because they give me something to work towards, to focus my ferocious energy on. For the past two years, for example, paying down my credit card debt to zero has kept me broke but focussed on freeing myself from the tyranny of debt forever. I’m similarly focussed on hitting certain professional and financial goals, like hitting my three thousand dollar a month Patreon goal before the site’s first anniversary.
But if I were to be asked what my ultimate goal is I’d have to say that my goal is to not have to struggle every goddamn day of my motherfucking life. The nice thing about goals like paying off your credit card debt is that they are achievable in a concrete way. I’ve been paying off my credit cards for years now, and there’s something very satisfying about closing down an account, and having the leeches on the other end of the phone give you the hard sell on keeping it open, but being all, “Nah, I’m getting off this particular treadmill forever, motherfucker!”
On a similar note, the good folks at Patreon keep me continually abreast of how the pledge situation is going, and when I hit a target it’s recorded for posterity in my account. It’s all so exquisitely concrete. But struggle is an abstract entity. My overarching long-term goal to not have to struggle every goddamn day of my motherfucking life is a little like the War on Drugs or the War on Terror: a struggle so vast and so vague and so ill-defined that it can never be conclusively won.
So maybe it’s time for me to re-define my terms and my expectations. I do feel, on an existential, soul-deep level, that my life in many respects represents a constant struggle just to get by and stave off disaster. It feels like there’s no nest egg, no cushion, nothing to break my fall if things go awry as they have in the past.
I didn’t always see my future as an endless struggle. When I was younger I had every American’s right to delude themselves into thinking that things will only get better and better, and that there’s no problem that cannot be overcome through hard work, belief and focus. Then things got progressively worse for years and years and years and my optimism nose-dived. I turned into a fatalist, a pessimist, an apocalyptic thinker, someone convinced that something terrible lurked around every corner. I protected myself from the pain of having my hopes continually disappointed by always expecting the worst but at a steep cost.
If I continue to think of the rest of my life as a difficult, arduous continual struggle that I can never truly win and that is ultimately doomed to defeat me, then it’s easy to give into despair and pessimism and hopelessness. But if I decide to look at my life instead as a series of much smaller challenges then things won’t look so inherently gloomy and doomed.
I’m only really hurting myself by giving myself, even in the abstract, an impossible, abstract, impossibly abstract goal that I can never truly achieve. So from here on out, when my brain tries to give me the “struggle every goddamn day of my life” routine I’m going to work around it by seeing the challenges of the future as exciting as well as terrifying, and also as a series of small-scale, winnable, discreet battles instead of an endless, inherently doomed war.
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