intensity and vulnerability

I’ve had this issue in the past where I confuse romantic attraction for intimacy. This, as you can imagine, resulted in me being hurt a lot because romantic attraction goes one way while intimacy goes both ways. It results in me feeling close to people who I was attracted to without the necessary shared experience that forms intimacy. After all, when you spend time with someone, and you are attracted to them but they are not attracted to you, the actual shared experience is drastically different between parties. You might feel a moment was significant, while for them it could’ve just been another moment.

This results in a conundrum. On one hand, I don’t feel close to that many people and want to feel closer to more people. On the other hand, I feel close to people with whom I cannot rationalize my feelings of closeness and don’t enjoy the sensation of being a smaller part in someone’s life than they are in mine. The two feelings put together results in a sort of paranoia where I try to stay at arms length from the people I feel close with because I don’t want to be put in the position where I feel closer to someone than they feel close with me. It’s petty, for sure, but this is a position that makes me feel my life is less significant. If I want to live my life with an existential imperative to maximize my own happiness, then I don’t want to put myself in the position where a part of my life is dedicated to someone else who does not meaningfully care about me.

The price of intensity is vulnerability. It’s a lot harder to be vulnerable nowadays because we develop better emotional regulation capabilities as we age, but every now and then I still find myself in a position where I am in somewhat a tender position.

The idea that someone is more significant in your life than you are in theirs is a delicate position. It’s an imbalance of emotional capital and a position of vulnerability. If you are in this position, you have the potential to be hurt more than you have the capability to hurt. In the case of the termination of this relationship, then the loss would affect you more than it would affect them, and that is not a desireable position to be in from a risk-management perspective.

The logical (and possibly unhealthy) way to address this imbalance is to only become friends with people where you are always more significant in their life than they are in your life. Another way of saying this is: Only become close with friends you are willing to lose. Aesthetically, this seems like a bad way to live life, so I don’t think I’ll live by this idea.

Another solution is to stop feeling the feels. I’ve tried doing this and was unsucessful.

The last way I could think of is to just accept the feels. This has its own issues because some feelings are not pleasant feelings. In fact, I would say most feelings are unpleasant feelings, yet we continue to feel the feels because there’s an occasional good feeling out there.

On balance, I think feeling the feels leads to a more meaningful life than not feeling the feels. Positive emotions can justify themselves, and negative emotions can be translated as art or fitness. Intense positive emotions are great. Intense negative emotions are not so great. But the problem with intense emotions altogether is that they make other less intense emotions feel quite dull. After I transition out of an intense period in my life, what I fear most isn’t the sadness but the emptiness that follows. Sometimes the feels lose their value as feels comig from a period of intense feels.

The price of intimacy is heartbreak. This I understand and embrace. The unspoken price of intimacy, however, is boredom in all moments of life that are not intimate.

Intimacy is probably the most addictive feeling in the world. I define addiction as a craving that negatively affects all other aspects of life that can only be resolved temporarily through a particularly addictive means. People often discuss addiction in context of substances, but I don’t think any substance matches the sheer swings of emotion that intimacy offers.

I find drinking and smoking to be quite fun — but only with friends. I’ve tried smoking once by myself, and that was not fun, and I have not tried doing it again. There’s a reason we use substances in social contexts and not in individual contexts. It’s not vodka and cigarettes that brings us our desired feelings of pleasure but the experience of sharing an plesaurable experience with someone else. Without other people, substances are quite dull.

I think The Great Gatsby has a lot of significance in American literature because it captures a lot of our understanding of what we look for in life. It is, in its essence, a story about someone who becomes rich and finds that is life is unfilled if he is unable to achieve intimacy with his childhood love interest. Some rich people are unhappy because they don’t have that many genuine relationships, although I don’t think it’s a feeling exclusive to being rich. I think most people are unhappy because they don’t have that many genuine friends, regardless of how much money they make. I think in general rich people get more attention for being unhappy because everyone likes a movie about a sad rich person.

I’ve been obssessively lately on personal growth because I feel I have little control in my social life. It seems, at least aesthetically, to be an unhealthy thought, but I can’t exactly pinpoint why. Maybe it’s because it shifts the responsibility of making friends away from me, which could potentially result in a feedback loop where I exhibit Bad Faith again in my life. Although I’m still figuring out how much control I have over the entire friendship-making process. I feel too close to some people and too distant from others. There are limits to how much I can control how others perceive me and how close I feel with other people. If I try to achieve intimacy and are unsuccessful, is waiting a viable strategy?

modern portfolio theory and the optimal allocation of emotional resources

There are many times over the past couple of months where I thought to myself that I should probably move to New York, yet here I am still in Philly. Part of the reason I’ve been reluctant to leave Philly is because I still thought that there were some friendships with room for growth. I didn’t want to cut off funding for friendships that have not reached their full maturity yet.

If I really wanted to prioritize my career, I probably should have moved to New York ages ago. Although remote work has saved me quite a bit of money on rent, it probably isn’t that great for a career in the long-run. After all, there is only a finite amount of time you have to build you network before you have to actually leverage your network for professional purposes. But I stayed in Philly because I thought that there was something worth staying for.

But now, as my summer friendships reach their maturity, there is less that’s keeping me in Philly. I feel my friendships have reached a point where revenues have plateaued and additional profits come from streamlining operations as opposed to organic market growth. Although I won’t be selling my positions in them (I’m not sure if there’s actually an equivalent for this in friendship), I don’t feel the need to provide additional capital to my summer friendships to achieve their operational targets.

Everyday, we are faced with options of how we want to allocate our energy. In simplistic terms, we can allocate our energy in two ways: into our relationships or into ourselves.

Although life comprises of more than work and relationships (barely though, in my opinion), work and relationships comprise the only real uses of energy in my life. Art, fitness, and music are constants. These activities take virtually no effort on my part, and I engage in these activities regardless of my priorities. There is no real trade-off between my lifestyle choices and art, music, and fitness. The real constraint is the balance between work and relationships. Large decisions including where I reside and settle down are the product of either work or relationships, which have thus far not been at odds but could be at odds in the future.

We allocate more of our energy into our relationships when we see significant potential for growth in our relationships, and we allocate more of our energy into ourselves when our potential relationships do not have the same risk-adjusted yields.

The function of career and time is fairly linear. The progression from analyst to associate to VP is dependent on a set amount of time and a reasonable expection of productivity growth. With each promotion comes with a sizeable increase in total compensation as well as hierarchical importance within the industry. As long as I stay on the path I am on, assuming I don’t accidentally blow up my career, I could get a promotion every 2-3 years. I could become more competitive with additional certifications like the CFA or a master’s degree. When I’m around 28, I’ll evaluate whether I want to go to business school and restart my career in another direction. If not, I’ll be pretty happy working in finance my entire life.

The function of relationships and time is a random variable (pronounced: complete shitshow). Sometimes you could meet someone from the weirdest contexts and get very close to them very quickly. Other times you can just not really click with anyone for awhile. There’s little inheritance you receive from your past relationships. While for careers being an associate at one company allows you to apply for associate roles at other companies, you can’t just make another close friend after you made one close friend. Most conversations don’t really lead into anything. Yet, we still continually meet new people because there’s a chance that we could make a friend. There are a few interactions that translate into something meaningful, and that makes all the difference.

Investing in your career is diversifying across US treasuries and some large-cap dividend fund. Other than a few hiccups onset by a recession here or there, the growth is steady and constant. You can’t go wrong by investing your career, but there are opportunites that you might be missing out on because of its “safe” nature. Investing in your relationships is like dumping a quarter of your savings into a pre-revenue frontier tech company with completely unproven technology. If it works out, the reward is immense. It has the ability to convince you life is meaningful, even for a little bit. If it doesn’t work out, it sucks, but it’s not the end of the world. There are more opportunities in the future.

Relationships are high beta investments. They are only worth it if the expected emotional value of its future free cash flows are better than those your career can offer.

Modern portfolio theory suggests that we should allocate along the efficient frontier, which represents that optimal allocation between risk and return. Our immediate investment opportunities are presented to us through our immediate surroundings. We can perceive the potential growth for each friendship from how quickly we perceive feelings of intimacy forming through random interactions. If a certain threshold of intimacy forms without initial investment, we could throw in a Series A and spend time intentionally outside of random interactions and turn to low-level interractions through meals or drinks. If intimacy continues to grow, then we can add additonal investments into the friendship with a higher valuation through higher-level social interactions like trips and music festivals. If, at any point, the formation of intimacy slows, we lower the valuation of the friendship and stop adding additional capital.

Although virtual communication has made significant progress over the past year, I don’t think there’s ever going to be a point where friendship isn’t dependent on interaction in a shared physical space. As a result, we can only make friends with the people who are immediately around us. From experience, most of the friends I make are just progression of mutual friends. It is quite a limited environment, but it gives a good overview of potential friendships to invest in. At the end of the day, our decision to value our career or relationships depends on our perception of the socioeconomic environment at a given moment. If the small-cap intimacy scene is prime for investing, we invest. If it is not, then we focus on higher-yielding investments on a risk-adjusted basis like our career.

becoming beautiful

I don’t want to be the type of person that makes drinking alcohol a regular habit, but there’s something about being hungover that allows me to work at peak productivity. There’s this weird focus I get where my mild headache liberates me from the distractions that surround me. It doesn’t matter if I’m working nexting to a construction site (which I am right now); the only thing I seem to be able to focus on is my work, and it’s because this mild feeling of pain allows my mind to finally concentrate on something. It make me think, if I drank less water after a night out during undergrad, maybe my grades would’ve been better.

It’s one part of my sense of aesthetics that is rather at odds with what our current society considers to be aesthetically acceptable. I hate to be the one to advocate for causing mild pain to yourself to live a more fulfilling life, but old habits die hard, and this is just what I’m into. At this point, the entire reason I exercise or study or add chilli pepper to my pizza is because it’s a more socially acceptable way to hurt yourself. People won’t ever admit that they enjoy hurting themselves, but I don’t think there’s ever been a point in my life where I didn’t want to hurt myself. For me, it’s just a matter of what means I channel it through.

There are more “unhealthy” means that I’ve tried when I was younger, which made me somewhat a social outcast growing up. Eventually, I figured out a way to make it societally acceptable to hurt myself. I could study until my brain turns into jelly or run until my lungs bursts like a balloon — all of which hurt immensely — but I could say I do in the name of “hustle” or “health”. Maturity, to me, isn’t so much a matter of becoming more comfortable with yourself that you become immune to the opinions of others. Lately, I’ve thought of maturity as reconciling the frowned-upon parts of your identity with societal expectations of what is considered an acceptable and desireable identity.

The thing about money that I like is that it truly has the ability to create an desireable aesthetic out of anything. It’s funny; I remember during undergrad how I read a lot of critical theory about how capitalism creates structures in the artistic world that reaffirms its own legitimacy and how we reached a tipping point in the popular consciousness where it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism (see: capitalist realism). It’s funny because the agenda of critical theory is to encourage people to, well, critique capitalism, but my main takeaway from those readings was that I should accumulate as much capital as possible to shape what people consider to be an ideal life under capitalism.

It’s hard to imagine a world where capital doesn’t translate into aesthetics. Money doesn’t buy style, but enough money allows you to hire a personal shopper that could shop for you, which does indeed buy style. Another way of looking at it is that it’s hard to imagine a world where ordinary people aren’t interested in learning about the lives of the rich and wealthy.

I’d like to think that if I accumulate enough capital, eventually people would care about what I have to say. Given the capital I’ve accumulated over the past year, it makes sense that no one really cares about what I have to say. However, if you make a billion dollars in a year, then all of a sudden people from the media want to interview you. You can say anything you want, and people would write about it. If you can create art that reaches people, then you have even more aesthetic power in communicating your ideas than if you didn’t create art. When enough people write about your ideas and share your ideas, eventually your ideas end up being a part of the popular consciousness and actually shape people’s sense of aesthetics.

I think art for art’s sake is a neat idea, but to me that’s more of a motivation as opposed to a goal. I can’t imagine any artist would who prefer to create art viewed by no one.

It’s unfortunate that there’s such a distinct relationship between capital and aesthetics in this world. It’s unfortunate that art created by artists who have not “made it” (and thus do not have seven-figure savings) do not hold as much attention in the popular consciousness as artists that have indeed “made it”. It’s unfortunate that media outlets continuously to glamourize the lives of the rich and create content that makes ordinary life seem inadequate. But, above all, it’s unfortunate that we, as consumers, have allowed and encouraged this system to exist as it does because our own obsession with money and wealth.

A lot of philosophers I read were angsty incels who never received recognition for their work during the time they were alive. While recently it’s been more chic to live the “outsider” aesthetic, I think that Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard all had profoundly unhappy lives due to their inability to achieve recognition and make lasting relationships. Personally, I think all of their problems could’ve been solved if they made a billion dollars. As much as I like some of their ideas, I’m determined not to follow in their footsteps.

A lot of the time, I feel that I am not beautiful. My solution is to do everything I can to maximize my chances in becoming a billionaire, so I can finally feel that I am beautiful.

what is best for us

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 everyday 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 desireable 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 exhilerating 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 some day 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 Conneticut 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 inhereit 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?

farewell dream world

Before I fell asleep today, I was feeling stressed over a certain situation in my life. In the spirit of mindfulness, I closed my eyes and focused on my breath for a couple of minutes. Eventually, this source of stress melted away, so I fell asleep.

Then I woke up at 3 AM, still fresh my mind this vivid dream. It played out this source of stress, which somehow touched upon every stress I’ve had over the past four years of my life. Most dreams span only a scene or a moment, but this dream contained within it multiple years of my life, starting with memories from high school (that didn’t actually happen in real life) to my life now. It was oddly cathartic. I never had a moment where all of my stresses were bundled into one moment, but in the few seconds between unconsciousness and consciousness, this was that moment. I felt like I was about to die because I saw the entire extent of my conscious life until now. I don’t know how to describe it, but everything made sense in that moment of waking. I made the realization that everything that stressed me over the years had the same source, and that source is my humanity. How I felt about different people and events in my life was just a projection of the same desire.

I was able to experience a life different from mine for an instant, where the source of my stress was resolved. My life played out differently from the path I have chosen — the counterfactual life — but being able to live a life that is not your own reminds me that there is no life in which I would be completely happy. I lived a life that was, in theory, the life I wanted to live but chose not to live. This dream world was far from the world I occupy now, but there were still problems in that world. Problems that were not resolved. Funnily enough, my subconscious projected that the solution to my problems was still to move to a hut in the countryside of Utah, which I know now from experience is not the solution to my problems.

The people that surrounded me were different, but the problems were the same. It is funny that even in my dreams I still have ample issues to deal with in my life. Even in this ideal world I have created, which fulfills all of my most immediate desires for connection and power, it still wasn’t enough. I still felt used, betrayed, and distant. I was still chasing for a life that was not my own, even as I was living out a life that supposedly fulfilled all my desire. What this tells me is that there is no point in life where satisfaction occurs. All we can do is to try our best to forget about our desires in the present in order to forget about our disatisfaction.

I hate to say to myself I enjoyed this dream. It was so different from the mundane experience of everyday living. I don’t think I was happy in this dream world, but I wasn’t sad exactly either. I was disatisfied as I am now, but for different reasons. At least I wasn’t lonely in this dream. We seem to be quite incapable of feeling loneliness in our dreams. This dream contained people in my (real) life such a different role to the role they currently play in my life. Some close friends were distant, and some distant friends were close. It was a sort of parody world to the world in which I live right now. I don’t think I had any real friends in this dream, but I wasn’t aware of that I didn’t. And when you aren’t aware of the fact that you have close friends, then you can’t stress about the fact you don’t have any close friends.

I consider myself deeply not superstitious, but there’s a part of me that wishes that there was something more about dreams that connected us with the people we dream about. Realistically, this is just my subconscious trying to make sense of the desires for intimacy I have in my conscious mind. The dreamscape favors individuals who have more cultural capital than others, individuals who are more relevant and attention-consuming in your life than you would probably let on. We want to feel connected to these individuals, but we are unable to do so in the real world, a world we did not create. But I think there would be something cool about humanity being connected through a subconscious sphere. If only.

There’s a part of me that wishes I never woke up, so I would be able to see how that story played out. I was around the same age in the dream as I am now — although maybe older by one or two years — and it would have been nice to see what my future life would hold. Before long, as I continue to become conscious, I will lose my connection to this dream world. It will exit my immediate consciousness, and the reality of this current world in which I occupy will settle in. This is the world I live in, and the dream world is one I can never return to. I hope my future in this world contains a life that isn’t as turbulent as the one I have now. I also hope my future contains a life that still interests me and does not leave me bored out of my mind. That would be nice.

inherent motivation

Why do we do anything? Personally, I think it’s a mix between boredom, insecurity, and fantasy.

I think we are all fundamentally driven by this notion that our past lives did not live up to our expectations for what we wanted it to be. It could also be just me. We work towards our future lives in hopes that it will be better than our past lives. We create a fantasy to drive ourselves — a fantasy of a future that redeems our past. In a small way, it is a revenge fantasy. We are taking revenge on our past selves for what we could not become back then. Sometimes, we are trying to prove others wrong. Part of working towards revenge is demonstrating that we could achieve what others did not expect us to, but it more what we did not expect ourselves to do. We understood our potential through rejection by others, and by rejecting others we are also rejecting our limited potential.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to truly free ourselves from the influence of other people. Even when we set out to achieve we want to achieve — and end up achieving it — we still are burdened by the insecurity in which that drive to achieve incepted in the first place.

A lot of spiritual healing advocates for purging negative vibes from your body, but I generally think negative vibes are on aggregate good for humanity. If we didn’t have negative vibes in our lives, then we wouldn’t be motivated do anything. Can you imagine if we lived in a state of complete satisfaction? It sounds horrible. There would be nothing to be done because there isn’t any negative energy to drive us. What would we do, twiddle our thumbs while listening to the same Taylor Swift record for the 100th time? There probably wouldn’t even be any Taylor Swift music because Taylor Swift probably derived her artistic inspiration from the sublimation of negative events in her life. Do you really want to live in a reality where there isn’t any sad Taylor Swift music to vibe to? It’ll be like “Our Song” Taylor x 100.

People say that writers are sad all the time. I generally disagree with that, mostly because I believe it’s unfair to extrapolate a writer’s personality from their writing. If you only read my writing, especially the writing I did in college, you would think that I only existed in a state of perpetual sadness. But in reality, I’m mostly content with my life. It just happens that the only time I ever do anything is because I feel annoyed, bored, or hurt.

Whenever I am asked, “What is your biggest weakness?” in a behavioral interview, an answer I like to give is, “My biggest weaknesses eventually become my greatest strengths,” and then I list out my strengths. It’s a cop-out answer, I know. I still think it’s a pretty fricking good answer though, mostly because it speaks to some truths about the adaptability of the human condition. Just because it’s a politician’s response doesn’t mean it’s not true. I genuinely believe that our weaknesses become our strengths, and I would say the same thing about our insecurities… but only in circumstances with the proper defense mechanisms.

If insecurity is met with denial or projection or repressed, it will not result in positive change. If insecurity is acknowledged and sublimated, then there will be progress made towards building a stronger character. In this regard, much of our life boils down to resilience. Are we strong enough to turn weaknesses into strengths, or are we going to fall in a negative reinforcement cycle? A lot of the time, it is easier to hurt ourselves because it saves us the pain of being hurt by something we cannot control, but internal resilience is not built through self-destructive behavior. Because we have internal resilience, we have the freedom to become stronger people. We also have the freedom to reject our internal resilience and fall prey to our insecurities.

In life, we respond to our insecurities. Most of these times, these responses are instinctual. But just because a response is instinctual doesn’t mean that it’s not a choice. It is our choice how we respond to insecurities, even though a lot of the time we convince ourselves that we do not have a choice over what we are insecure over. It may be an instinct, but instincts can be tamed with reason. Instincts can be controlled with reason. We may not have control over how we respond to something in a given instance, but we do have control over how we respond to something over a period of time. We were born with the gift of conscious effort, and our freedom is stratified to the degree we exercise conscious effort.

f = ma

Lately, I’ve been thinking hard about why I feel so distant from people in my life when I know, in theory, I have a strong support system of close friends. As I was hiking on the outskirts of Salt Lake City today I came to a realization, and it has everything to do with high school physics.

When I took AP Physics: Mechanics in 11th grade, there was one equation that applied to all motion: F = ma. There were different variations of the equation. You could add a spring constant or adjust for vector directions, but the underlying relationship is the same. Force is dependent on acceleration, not velocity. As humans, we can only perceive force when there is a change in velocity, not when velocity is constant. When we are in a car traveling at 20 miles per hour, we can only feel that we are moving we merge onto a highway and accelerate to 60 miles per hour.

I realized that this principle also applies to friendship. We can only perceive how friendship is changing, not what friendship is at a given moment. We can have strong friendships, but unless friendship growing, we cannot perceive the feeling of intimacy. This is why even though I have strong friendships that have lasted decades, I still feel lonely. This is also why I didn’t feel lonely this summer even when I was estranged from my close friends. It is not the quality of existing intimacy but creation of new intimacy that shapes our perception of intimacy. We become habituated to the friendships we already have. No matter the quality of our existing friendships, we require the creation of new friendships to feel change in intimacy. It is only through the creation of new friendship can we feel intimacy at all.

In college, I didn’t make that many friends. I did, however, have an abudance of romantic relationships. I never quite understood why that was the case, but everything makes so much sense in retrospect. Friendships are slow and steady. They require years to build, but they rarely fall apart when a certain threshold is reached. Relationships, on the other hand, are quick and volatile. Everything is accelerated in relationships, but this acceleration comes at the cost of stability. You can get close to someone extremely quickly in a relationship, but it’s common knowledge that most relationships end quite quickly, especially in college.

The quicker you become close to someone else, the more intimacy you would feel. I wanted to feel intimacy. I feel intimacy by sharing as many experiences with someone before the initial honeymoon phase ends in a relationship. I took a lot of trips with people I’ve known less than a month because that generated the most intimacy in the shortest amount of time. Then the relationship ends, and I would feel the crushing change in intimacy caused by the breakup. Then I would have to start over with someone else. The cycle of highs and lows continue. It’s always the chase for the same change in intimacy.

I’m not sure how this realization would affect my attitudes towards friendships and relationships moving forward. Now that I understand what causes me to feel intimacy, does that make me more or less likely to pursue new friendships with new people? I understand the intimacy cycle in which I live, but I do not know if I want to continue living this cycle or to break this cycle. Is this a reality or a condition? Does being aware of what causes feelings of intimacy make me more or less to pursue additional opportunities of intimacy?

aesthetic capital

In college, I had no money and no friends. Now that I have graduated and have a full-time job, I find myself having money but still no friends.

They say that money doesn’t buy happiness. I agree. But at least with money, I can glamously aestheticize my sadness. If I didn’t have money, instead of smoking cigarettes on the windowsill of my Manhattan high-rise apartment gazing into the skyline, I would have to smoke in some ground-floor apartment in Queens next to a laser tag arena, which is not as aesthetic.

I never thought that money would bring me happiness. That being sad, I think the only thing that could bring me happiness are friends, but friends are often in short supply nowadays. There were a couple moments in my life when I felt like I had friends, but those moments come and go quickly. After reflecting for the past couple of years, I realized there’s not much I can do to form friendships beyond the opportunities that are naturally presented to me. Friends, after all, cannot be forced, and I don’t enjoy the process of making friends from scratch. I choose to forgo that effort in my life. But I can control how much money I make at a given time. Money can purchase aesthetics, which makes my life less sad.

I can choose to take some jobs over other jobs that offer better compensation or advancement opportunities than other jobs. If I cannot get the jobs I want now, then there are immediate efforts I can pursue to get the jobs that I want in the future. I used to think that there was some unpredictable force in recruiting that arbitrarily favored some candidates over others. There is a force, but it’s far from arbitrary. It’s just competence, and we can control how competent we are by how much effort we put into achieving competence.

Making friends, on the other hand, does not follow the same laws of competence as interviewing for jobs. In fact I would argue the opposite. The more people we become acqainted with, the more selective we are in who we call friends and who we do not. The more experiences we have, the more unqiue we become as individuals. The more unique we become, the less we are able to connect with other human beings who do not exhibit our same flavor of uniqueness.

Since the inception of storytelling as a medium, people have been writing about stories of the rich (@ all of premodernist British literature). These stories sell well because people are interested in the lives of the rich. From the Bennets in Pride and Prejudice to the Kardashians, there’s never been a time in society in which being rich was not a popular point of public discourse. This is because money, although unable to buy happiness, can buy aesthetics. It is only the object of aesthetic that has changed. Back then, it was horsedrawn carriages and ball gowns. Nowadays, it’s sports cars and designer jackets. Although I cannot buy my way to happiness, I can sure as hell buy my way to beauty.

I can’t choose when I suffer, but at least I can choose to suffer beautifully.

sense and necessity

I finished reading Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning on a plane ride the other day. Although I agree with his understanding of the importance of love and work in constructing meaning, I don’t agree with his view on suffering. In particular, I don’t think that we need to make sense of our suffering in order to lead a fulfilling life. A couple of years ago, I used to think that suffering was necessary to understand the value of joy, but I no longer believe that anymore. In fact, my idea of a perfect life is one without suffering. I don’t think that suffering allows us to derive any more meaning from a life absent of suffering.

I think we tell ourselves a lot of things to make ourselves feel better when we are suffering. Whatever we tell ourselves — it helps — but that doesn’t make it true. Just because I wrote 120,000 words in college trying to understand my own suffering, doesn’t make it coherent. When I reflect on those experiences — the profound sense of loneliness and lostness I felt in elementary, middle, and high school and college — I no longer feel that those experiences have shaped me to be a larger person than I would have been without those experiences. Life is finite. Youth is finite. And those years felt like wasted time.

I used to embrace the amor fati attitude Nietzsche outlined about being grateful for all of your experiences, the good and the bad, for the way they have shaped you to become the person you are. Now, I think that he was just coping. We were all reading his coping thoughts as some divine truth, but in actuality Nietzsche was just an sad incel who wanted to feel less sad. I am not grateful for my past because there is so little to be cherished. Since I have graduated college and have developed better control over my consciousness, I have actively been purging these memories from my thoughts, and I think that’s made me happier.

It is unfortunate that suffering is inevitable. Life would be a lot better if there was no suffering. Alternatively, if everything was suffering, then there is also no suffering. But precisely because we have individuality, we have suffering. If everyone turned into the primordial human soup in Neon Genesis Evangelion, then we wouldn’t have to deal with all this consciousness crap that is the source of our suffering. If identity was collective, then individual wishes would not exist. The world would be at peace.

I think it’s quite unfortunate in human physiology that we require the company of others to feel not shitty. It’s probably the only thing that is preventing me from packing up my stuff and moving to hut next to some mountain in Utah, which is exactly what I’m doing right now (and it does not live up to my expectations). I’ve been reflecting a lot lately about what makes life meaningful, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I won’t be able to find meaning in my life unless my experiences were shared with others. Considering how reluctant I am being a member of society at all, this is probably the worst curse I could have.

I don’t like people, yet I need people to feel that life is worth living. The appeal of love, similar to the appeal of drugs, is the destruction of the ego. As much as we want to contain ourselves from other people, we also want to surrender ourselves in an attempt to relinquish our identity. The unforunate thing is that love and drugs are only temporary fixes. Love wears off. Drugs wear off. Then we’re back on square one, fully aware of our individual identity and in pursuit of another moment of forgetfulness in attempt to shatter all that makes us individual.