Dear Lana,

Call me edgy or alt, but I think monogamous sexual relationships are the key to fulfillment in adult life.

There are two ways of getting people to listen to you: have something to say, or be famous. Since I don’t have anything to say, it’s probably the move to be famous. It has been a childhood dream of mine to become a c-list k-pop star.

I just finished Queen’s Gambit on Netflix. I suppose the series was an examination into the solitude and burden of achievement amplified by unaddressed past trauma. I didn’t find that part too interesting. The part I found interesting was the assumed understanding of what constitutes deserved success. I didn’t find (spoiler) her win at the end of the series to be particularly cathartic. She was the protagonist, and protagonists get what they want. The scene that was most powerful to me was when she revisited her deceased school custodian’s office back in her orphanage. On the wall was a collection of newspaper clippings of her wins throughout the series. Her orphanage’s custodian taught her how to play chess, and he sent her the $5 she needed to enter her first chess tournament. He died wanting her to be successful, with a part of his attention devoted to her every day.

I have met plenty of people in my life. Most likely, some of them will achieve great things. It’s not that this thought bothers me — I never considered myself a footnote to someone else’s life — but I’ve always thought about how seemingly random it is for success to originate.

Beth in Queen’s Gambit met plenty of chess players in her life. Yet, not one of them rose to her level of success. All of her friends were people she beat or eventually beat. All of them wanted to be successful, but they were not destined to be so. Beth was. She was able to accomplish what she set out to accomplish even with substance abuse issues. I found that part to be uncompelling. Of course, this is a TV series, but it seemed almost that from the beginning the Netflix gods outlined would be successful and who wouldn’t. Real life doesn’t have these structures set in place, and things only make sense in retrospect. Specifically, when we are dead.

The more I grow up, the more I am convinced that hard work doesn’t matter in life. A couple weeks ago, I watched an interview of Jamie Diamond talking about how every successful person in life worked hard to get where they are. It is phrased as a motivational quote to encourage people to work harder, and I’m not sure I am convinced that working harder would make life better. I don’t believe I work particularly hard. I don’t believe that I don’t work hard either. I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, working hard when I need to and letting other moments pass by undisrupted. I believe that successful people work hard. I also believe that plenty of people who are not successful work hard too. To me, I don’t see a particularly strong correlation between people who work hard and people who are successful. Naturally, my response is to not believe in the merit of working hard.

I keep on going back to this idea of meritocracy. More specifically, a meritocracy of hard work. I don’t think it exists, but not because the world is unequal from a socioeconomic or identity point of view. It is, but that’s not not why I believe meritocracy doesn’t exist. It seems to random how individuals are sorted out in this world. There are people who are successful who have worked hard, but then behind those people are countless people who have not been able to achieve the same level of success, who have worked hard if not harder to achieve less.

In the face of this, I find it hard to devote my energy into working as hard as I could when I have this ingrained notion that the world is not designed to be meritocratic. I find my ideology aligned more with Epicureanism than any Aristotelian sense of duty or virtue. The world is the way it is. It is one that does not measure hard work accurately and does not value hard work accordingly. Why must I fight a world designed as such?