Dear Lana,

I think the only thing harder than trying to care about the world around you more than you care about yourself is trying to unsubscribe from The New Yorker email listserv (I’ve went on their website on three separate occasions, and now I have settled to blocking all incoming emails with “The New Yorker” in its email body). A lot like Norton antivirus software, The New Yorker email listserv is a lot like malware disguised as something helpful (it is not).

Sometime in middle school, I decided that I was going to be a jealous person. This was long before I went through my Nietzsche phase during senior year of high school. Jealousy is the realization of the schism between the life you have and the life you want. It is realized through other people because we are unable to contextualize our self except through perceiving others. Nietzsche said that jealousy is a good thing because it allows us to focus our attention where we lack the most, which I would largely agree with, but it is also something that is controllable. By controlling our exposure, we can control how jealous we are. If we want to be more jealous, then we could easily just download Instagram and simp over some celebrities or influencers. If we don’t want to be jealous, we could easily just delete social media and live the contemplative life. But that would be really boring, right?

During senior spring of college, I started watching a bunch of commencement speeches because I was bored out of my mind and since my commencement got hit with the ‘rona. I remember in the end of Steve Jobs’ speech, he said something along the lines of: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” He’s an entrepreneur, and I’m not an entrepreneur, so I have no intention of being foolish. My life is just a series of risk-averse decisions piled on top of one another. I could fuck with the “be hungry” part though. I thought I reached the point in my life where I wanted to settle down, move to suburban New York, and work a 9-5 until the end of time, but I don’t think I’m quite ready for that yet. I know I joke around about being a k-pop star a lot, but I genuinely want to be a k-pop star. The question, however, is how much risk am I willing to take and how hard am I willing to work to achieve that goal?

I was reading some writing by people who have quite similar ideas to me but express them in way that’s significantly less edgy than the way I do. Most of the time, I think I’m too cynical for my own good. I do recognize that it’s a problem, but I’m not sure how I should deal with that yet. I like to think that I have reasons justify my edginess compared to other people, but I think my life falls within a standard deviation of what most people would consider to be a “normal” life, at least as normal as it gets for an middle-class Asian American male growing up in a white suburb. Nothing made me this way; there are certain things that have influenced me one way or another, but I chose to let those parts of my past influence me.

When people write autobiographies, they pick and choose what parts of their lives influence them. But, at the very end, it is we who actively choose what we want to become; we simply justify the parts of our past that influenced our decision afterwards.

I was watching some of xQc’s content the other day, and I was interested in how he made a brand out of in-game toxicity. Tyler1 has a similar appeal. Considering a lot of their viewers are male, I wonder how much of this toxicity is baked into masculinity. Considering how my writing is quite edgy sometimes, I wonder how much of my own views on the world fall within this same commodification of toxicity. I don’t do it on purpose; it’s just what naturally bubbles up in my thoughts. I would hate it if toxicity was a part of my brand, but my writing is naturally quite toxic (although not as toxic as it was three years ago). I would say I’m just as edgy in real life, not necessarily in the things I say but more the things I do — mixing designer and thrifted clothes together in the same outfit, buying knock-off products online on purpose, ironically being sad. It’s a life choice. Being “normal” probably makes it a lot easier to fit into society, but it’s not particularly a choice I want to make.

A lot of philosophers idealize the idea of being an outsider. I think that’s kinda dumb. Why would you want to be an outsider when it would make your life 10x harder? I think the move is to ironically be normal, then you can stay true to your values but also fit into society and function like a productive contributor to consumerism.

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