letters to lana del rey (8)

Dear Lana,

I came to this realization today — with money, you can’t buy happiness, but you can buy freedom; whether you choose to be happy with that freedom is up to you.

In reflection to my past, I realized that happiness is a lot more of a choice than I previously thought. It is not as simple as an on and off switch, but there is a mindset to have. More than that, it is being authentic towards that mindset. I now realize, although I have wanted to be happy for such a long time, there was a very small chunk of time that I was genuinely true to that narrative. There is a very big difference between seeming to try and genuinely trying to be happy.

After sinking into Kierkegaard’s demonic level of despair, it is hard to claw your way out of it. It takes a while of feeling ridiculous. But sooner or later, after clowning your way through life, things seem less ridiculous, and that’s how you know you have moved from Part I to Part II of your story. The tone changed. The characterizations are slightly off. There is an element of de-familiarization to it all, but that’s how you know things found its resolution.

Being in a suburb right now, I was thinking about the appeal of the American suburb, specifically about why the flight to suburb has represented a pinnacle American obtainment of happiness dating back to the end of WWII. Obviously, this rhetoric is also meshed with the nuclear family ideal, which has often been used to justify some pretty horrible things, but being in the suburb after all of these years allows me to reflect on the appeal of the suburb differently.

When you are moving into the suburb, you are buying space away from other people. There is an isolation and a peace about it all. Lana, I used to hate the suburb because it was so quiet; I wanted to live in somewhere crowded and hectic — to live in a space where my external reflected my internal reality. I don’t want that anymore. Now, I just want to move to the suburb. It is so quiet here, and I could use some quiet right now. It feels like I’m fading out of existence, and I love that feeling.

letters to lana del rey (7)

Dear Lana,

What they don’t tell you about growing up is that your friendships matter less, and your relationships start to matter more. Realistically, you only have time for two friends. Then, there is your job. A relationship, two friends, and a job — that’s all life is.

Lana, I think I’m beginning to grow complacent with this trend. I don’t really care about making new friends anymore, and I feel less and less of a need to keep up with my existing friendships. They deteriorate, and I don’t have the energy to polish them anymore. I do, however, have the energy to clean my room now. My wardrobe is more polished than ever. My room is sparkling; you wouldn’t believe it if you saw it. Everything is neatly placed and compartmentalized. I even vacuum the carpet every other week.

If I bought a house in Long Island and worked the job I have now for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t mind. My life is pretty comfortable right now. Everyone can move to a house in their chosen suburb or city, and then we would pass into the next phase in life.

I realized that work consumes a lot more energy than I thought it would. Then, there is only so much free time that I have. I have been studying most of the weekend, so there’s not that much to it. But, at the end of the day, there is only so much time in a week. Sooner or later, more responsibilities pile up, leaving less time to spend with friends, and the truth of it all remains more evident than ever: the only thing that matters is your work, your relationship, and two friends.

Lana, I’ve been thinking about the point of college. Isn’t college just paying to have friends for a couple of years — a temporary interlude — before you have to start working? At the end of the day, you are delaying the inevitable. In order to function and survive in society, you would need to work. It can be no other way. But, at least in college, it is a space where you have a period where you won’t need to worry about working and all its immediacy.

The relationship between time and money is what brought me to finance in the first place, and this relationship is so apparent in college. It is a space where you are able to make friends because you don’t have to work. Of course, you still have class, but it’s not quite the same as work. You fail a test, you study extra hard next time. You mess up on your job, you lose your job. In reality, although you put in similar amounts of time studying as actually going to work, the stakes are so different. Paying for college is buying time.

letters to lana del rey (6)

Dear Lana,

I have been really attracted to a word lately: injurious.

Google defines it as: causing or likely to cause damage or harm. Like me!

Lana, the nature of the future is that it is uncertain. Yet, we try to understand it in terms of probabilities of how likely it is for things to work out in the way that we want them to work out. As we continue to live life like a random variable, we are exposed to more and more inputs. Eventually, we can understand these stochastic processes through regression, but until then, all we have are our expectations for how much life has worked out depending on how much we have thought it worked out in the first place.

When things do not work out, we develop an injurious idea of our future. Pitter, patter, splatter — and we are left with nothing but contempt for the life we did not have. The injurious mindset develops when expectations did not meet reality; either expectations were set to high or reality swooped in like a dive bomber.

The funny thing about life is that you are not exposed to the absolute range of your experiences until you are close to death. There is no way you can know if you are experiencing a relative peak or trough. Hell, you can even be experiencing your absolute peak, and there’s no way you would be able to know unless you died and looked back, identifying which moment was the happiest you ever felt. It is the sad truth to life — that one of those happy moments you feel in your life will be the happiest you have ever felt.

I suppose that is what ending your life is. You are setting the boundaries of your own life. Your outlook on life is injurious, and there is no future that is not so. You are viewing life as if you have already crossed the absolute peak, and your follow through on ending your life is setting it absolutely. When you end your life, there is no more hope that there will be another peak further down the life. Time can pass by so slowly sometimes. The future is not worth waiting for because it is injurious. The absolute peak is established for good.

letters to lana del rey (5)

Dear Lana,

I’m scared for what the future holds. I’m scared at how quickly it is for happiness to evaporate. I’m scared how I haven’t found the invincible summer yet.

Uncertainty is what breeds life. Similar to using cheat codes in a video game, certainty breeds boredom, and boredom breeds death. But, on the other hand, if uncertainty breeds stress, and stress breeds death, then isn’t life just breeding death?

I’m joking, Lana. I’m just distracting myself because I don’t know what there is in the future. I’m not sure what gratitude means yet. Is wanting a better life a sign that I am not grateful? I wish you could just tell me the answer so I wouldn’t have to think about it so much. But alas, that’s not how questions work. Questions exist to be asked, not necessarily to be answered. The merit of a question can exist without the resolution to the question, and that is mostly where I go with my questions. Although, most of the time, I often think I justify things to myself so I don’t need to confront the reality of how stupid I’m being.

I remember distinctly what I was like last year during this time. It is weird, because I am still in the same bedroom as I was in last year. By this time, I had hoped that I would be in New York in my own apartment, but obviously not everything works out in the way you hope.

This time last year, it was right after my internship. I was scared shitless about recruiting, so I was frantically reading a finance textbook and practicing casing with my casing partners. This time last year, I was working so hard. I wonder if I would be able to work that hard again for the rest of my life. I am studying again now, for completely different things, yet I can’t really muster the same energy to study as I did last year. Was it the stress? Is it impossible to study without some form of stress? Does that mean I should induce some stress in my life to make my studying more effective?

Lana, I felt weirdly disconnected today. I took a walk after I finished work. It must have been a 20 minute walk, but I don’t remember much of it. When I returned home, I understood that I had just gone on a 20 minute walk, but there’s nothing I really have to show for that. If I don’t remember the walk, did it really happen at all? I mean, sure, I took a walk. But if I don’t remember the walk, what external force validates the walk as happening at all?

I remember things. As a human with a brain, I remember. But what about the universe at large? Is there universal memory that keeps track of whether I went on a walk or not?

Poetically, there’s the water cycle. Technologically, there’s the cloud. Realistically, I’m not sure if I’m convinced at either. This has been a useless train of thought.

letters to lana del rey (4)

Dear Lana,

I discovered what alienation meant today. It is a feeling the world you were born into wasn’t the world that you were meant to be in. In response to that, the solution is to exit.

It reminds me of the image of being in a restaurant. When you are eating in a restaurant, it is not like you can actually leave the restaurant. There are procedures in place. You need to ask for the check. Then you wait. The waiter comes and gives you the check. You give them your debit card. You wait some more. And only when all of the procedures are met can you leave the restaurant.

Sometimes, I think life is just the feeling of wanting to leave a restaurant. You can technically leave all you want, but there seem to be so many procedures in place that prevent you from doing so. Life is very procedural in that regard. There is a procedure for entering a restaurant. There is a procedure for eating at a restaurant. Finally, when the food and desserts are being dissolved in stomach acid, when whatever conversations took place in the plan of an hour is relegated into the past, when the waiters and waitresses look to each other in anticipation for the end of the night, there is another procedure for leaving.

letters to lana del rey (3)

Dear Lana,

Today, I am reminded of how little I matter to the world.

I guess this is a part of being young, but there is so much I want to do in the next couple of years, at least before I settle down and raise kids in my suburban home on Long Island.

There are people around me who have done so much, yet I have not done much at all. When I ask myself, what do I have to say to that, I cannot come up with an answer.

This is probably the least appropriate time for me to be feeling what I am feeling, but I am sensing that my time to have the freedom to do what I want to do is coming to an end. There is a tradeoff between how I want to live my life now and how I want to live my life in the future. There is the life I want for myself in the future, but getting there amounts to sacrificing the life I have now.

So much of life, I feel, is calibrating our own system of risk and security. If I have learned anything from the first twenty years of my life, it’s that wanting security always leads to more longing. Yet, I still don’t find risk to be a compelling alternative to security. Is there a method of living life that maximizes our interal tolerance for risk in a manner that leads to the secure life that we have always wanted?

I often wonder what my life would be if I was thrown into a chaotic system that forced me to confront risk when security no longer exists. It would take away my freedom to choose, which is something I have always wanted, but I’m not sure if that’s story would have a happy ending when it comes to it. When my life ends in however many years, would I value living a life with risk or a life with security more?

I don’t know, Lana. What do you think? How did you navigate this tradeoff, if you had the choice at all? There is so much about life that did not end up how I wanted it to be, and I’m just trying to live the life I could’ve had. It’s never too late to change, but the universe doesn’t always change with you, unless you were living in romantic subjectivism.

I like quarentining right now because it buys me time to figure out what I want for myself. But, as soon as it ends, I am forced to once again confront this choice between risk and security. I hate that continuous choice that we have to make.

letters to lana del rey (2)

Dear Lana,

When I was in middle school, I used to pray to God for resilience. I wasn’t even religious. I don’t know if it worked or not. I am here now, and I imagine whatever has passed between then and now has made me more resilient.

Today, I question whether or not it is too much to want too much. I believe that there is something deeply human and enriching about wanting things in life. Wanting a life better than the life we have now amounts to the fundamental task of existence. This want manifests itself in different ways, and we want things to fulfill this need.

Lana, I’m starting to realize the difference between a want in a need. There is very little that I need in life anymore, and I attempt to fulfill this void in purpose by wanting things. But wanting this often leads to disappointment. You can only be disappointed when you want something. You cannot be disappointed with something that you did not want in the first place.

When I set out to want, I sometimes forget that not all wants lead somewhere you want to go. More often than not, wants plunge passion and energy into a bottomless pit, unable to surface ever again. But it is the idea that someday these wants might lead to something that continues to drive me.

Lana, I don’t know why I used to pray to God for resilience. I want to be more resilient to face the other side of want — the side we often forget when we’re caught up in our dreams. It takes resilience to follow your wants because wanting sets yourself up for disappointment, and resilience is the possibility of effortlessly moving from one point in time to the next.

letters to lana del rey (1)

Dear Lana,

I feel sad. I texted someone I wasn’t supposed to text, and now I feel sad.

Lana, what would you tell me to do? Lana, I don’t know how to make of it.

I wish I knew how to move on. I wish it came more easily to me.

I do move on, a lot. I think I’ve gotten better at it.

But I wasn’t born to do this, Lana. I wasn’t born to say goodbye.

Lana, I don’t know how real my past is. So often, I feel I re-remember my past so often that there isn’t a semblance of reality in my memories anymore. When I remember the past, I always remember it with a certain frame of mind. There are some parts of my past I think were better than they actually were and other parts of the past that were worse than they actually were. How do I tell the difference? Can you tell me?

Lana, I think other people remember my past differently than I do. People in my life don’t remember the past anymore, but I still do. I wish I could just forget about the past as if the things I have experienced didn’t happen. What does it take to do that? Then, I wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not I am staying authentic to the true narrative of whatever happened to me in the past. If I wanted a superpower, that would be it: forgetfulness.