It’s raining in Salt Lake City right now. There are some mountains in the distance, but at the moment it is covered in clouds. I like this weather. It is the type of weather that makes me feel completely at ease being indoors. There is nothing going on in the world outside. The rain made sure of that. Because there is nothing going on, there is nothing to be missed by staying indoors. There’s no need to feel more alive than I am right now. The life I feel now is the extent of what life can offer at the moment. I can fade out of existence for a little bit, and there would be nothing wrong with that.
In middle school, I remember I used to voluntarily wake up at 6 AM before an exam to reluctantly study for geometry. Back then, I thought that getting a B on an exam was the end of the world. Now, I involuntarily wake up at 6 AM and voluntarily log into my virtual desktop to finish work that I don’t need to finish for another couple of days. It’s funny how math tests was my biggest source of stress back then. It was so one-dimensional; either I did well or I didn’t do well, and how well I did on a math test was completely under my control based on how much I studied. Now, I just do work for the sake of doing work, mostly to ignore some of my other issues that don’t have an immediate resolution.
It is unfortunate the adult world isn’t like middle school. I wish hard work equated to success the same way it did in middle school. Now, it’s more about figuring things out than working hard. We can all control how hard we work, but we can’t exactly control how well we figure things out.
Hard work seems more-or-less a given now. I don’t think there was a time in my life when I didn’t work hard, but it’s certainly a lot easier to work hard now. Waking up at 6 AM is easy nowadays. I set an alarm, the alarm sounds, and transitioning between states of consciousness takes a lot less time than it did before. It hasn’t, however, gotten any easier to understand how to navigate the world. Each day, we are constantly introduced to new complexities, which are different from the complexities we have dealt with in the past. However, we can only use our past experiences to make sense of current problems, which doesn’t always allow us to live our best life. Every day of existence is like asking a ML model to predict an out-of-sample prediction when it has been trained exclusively on in-sample data.
We don’t know what is best for us, but we have act every day as if we know. Indecision is a decision itself, so most of the time we have to act on faith as if we know what is best for us.
Why is it that what we want most is usually what is worst for us? Why is it that the life I find most aesthetically desirable is the antithesis of everything I’ve worked so hard for?
Sometimes, I wonder what would happen if I just left my life behind me and ventured into a world where I had no friends, no money, and no idea of what I was going to do for the rest of my life. I think that a lot of modern life has separated us from the anxieties of life before civilization, when whether it was going to rain or not was a genuine concern of life and death. Now, I just stay indoors and grab food from my fridge whenever I’m hungry. If I feel the desire to splurge, I might get some groceries from Instacart or some Indian food on Doordash. This life is quite boring, unfortunately. It is free from anxiety. Yet, there is a part of me that wants that anxiety back and an even greater part to be free from anxiety about my lack of anxiety.
My life is mostly set, if I choose to live my life this way. The question is: Do I want to live with myself this way?
There’s something about anxiety that makes me feel alive. When I accidentally went off-trail down a bouldering path on my hike last weekend, it was exhilarating when I found my way back to the main trail, where there was people, because it meant that if I fell and broke my leg, I wouldn’t die. Experiences like these make me more appreciative of being alive. The absence of these experiences make life quite boring.
I wish that I could be comfortable living a more boring life without the desire to push my limits to what I believe is a “full” life. My life would be so much easier if that were the case. I think about someday in the future when I decide to move to some suburb outside Greenwich and wonder if I would be happy with my life when that day comes. If I don’t raise successful kids, I’m not sure I would be satisfied with my life. But raising successful kids requires a complete dedication to the task. I don’t know if I would be able to live life to the limits I want to achieve while also dedicating all of my energy to raising kids. It makes me realize that we are able to do whatever we want, but doing some things means that we have to give up other things. It’s just a matter of what we value most at the end of the day.
I wish my sense of aesthetics were more aligned with my professional and personal motives. Life would be so much easier if that were the case. I wouldn’t feel the need to pursue life in two directions. Everything could just be focused, and there is so little internal conflict to be had once we obtain focus. I could just work in Manhattan for six years and then move to Greenwich for the rest of my life. I could send my kids to some Connetticut prep school, and they would go to Penn and then I wouldn’t need to worry about them anymore. That is happiness. Unfortunately, since my aesthetic interests are not aligned with my professional interests, I have to deal with trying to pursue both fronts half-heartedly, hoping that one would win over the other eventually. More likely, I will have to choose one or the other eventually if I want to live a focused life. Or, I might not live a focused life at all.
Last night, I was watching some David Rubenstein interviews with some famous hedge fund managers and tech executives. I search each of the interviewees on Wikipedia during the interview to read their “Early Life and Education” sections, and I’m just always in awe of how people can achieve so much in their life. I wonder how focused they were in obtaining their goals. A lot of them, allegedly, said that they didn’t know what they were going to do when coming out of undergrad, and that they were just figuring things out as they go. I wonder if they knew that their hard work was going to translate into that much power and influence when they were younger.
I think we inherit our first sense of aesthetics from our parents in our youth. Then, we create our second sense of aeshetics as the rejection of our first sense of aesthetics. Finally, we reconcile these two sense of aesthetics together to form our third sense of aesthetics. Supposedly, we would be able to navigate the world once we have our own sense of aesthetics, but when does our sense of aesthetics become ours? If we assign meaning to things in retrospect, does our sense of aesthetics only form once we lived out the life we accidentally chose for ourselves?