Simplicity Security Self
Forty is the new thirty. What is thirty? Thirty is the new twenty. A time once when our lives were beginning, families were created, and security was established. That was twenty. Today, twenty is a child. Naivety beyond comprehension. Overstatement? Of course. But hyperbole assists illustration. It takes a man until the age of thirty to even begin considering establishing roots. To consider building a home. To consider a life's direction.
Do not get me wrong: I don't believe this is a cause for serious concern. It is merely a by-product of the times. It's resultant from an economy of abundance. But as I turn thirty this year, and I consider the last decade of my life, and the decade that preceded, it’s obvious to me that our challenges today are significantly different from those of yesterday. Your teens do flash by. The foggy ignorance of those years are astonishingly helpful for the task at hand: to suffer. Suffering through identity, sexualization, competition, interpersonal relationships, family, poverty, intoxication, growth and desperation. It’s a suffering that not only requires ignorance and wonderment, but actually demands it.
Fifty years ago we were paired off and raised young families in our twenties, while grinding up the social hierarchy. It was a struggle, I’m sure, but a different struggle to that of the modern man. The last ten years have been about identity, more than anything else. I’ve fought and kicked and screamed both in quiet torment, and in breathtakingly loud defiance. I’ve essentially had five careers. I recall being in high school and being advised that ‘[we] ought to expect to have five careers in [our] lifetime…’. And so perhaps the median holds true. But it certainly isn’t my truth, my experience.
The world has shifted dramatically. We’re unable as a society to accept that we all suffer (in different ways), and that any suffering can be acknowledged independently without detracting from the suffering of another.
It’s no secret of humanity. We all compare and measure ourselves. Yet it’s the inability to respect individualism that has defined the last decade. It’s a contest for victimhood. If you struggle and wish to express yourself, you’re promptly advised by the mob that ‘your suffering is not enough to claim acknowledgement’. We’re all in tribes, groups, factions. Guilty by association. Individualism irrelevant. Our inability to understand that a person or groups suffering or struggles can and do operate independent of another, and therefore have validity by default, has made fools of us all. Attempting to understand all that is around us is the attempt to understand life. Detachment or reduction of a person(s) serves only our youthful ignorance. An ignorance perhaps required in our teenage years as we seek a form of inner-peace and our place on Earth.
Perhaps then in this dragging period of life: the twenty stretching to thirty, perhaps this pulls with it a form of ignorance. Just because we are not special as humans, relatively, and just because characteristics or traits or desires are similar, does not mean we are the same. It’s perfectly normal to categorize people in order to save processing time in our minds. This saves mental bandwidth, I’ve no doubt. A trait passed on to save our minds from being consumed by minutia. But that does not mean we ought to externalize or act on this function. We’ve forgotten how to understand each other.
We’ve forgotten that we all suffer.
As I approach the age of thirty I consider my path and my direction. My goals, dreams, and achievements. I consider my values, my conviction, and my tolerance for pain. And not just mental pain: literal physical pain. I don’t need to repeat myself often but it’s been a couple of years since I’ve typed these words: I’m a relatively private person. Something I haven’t written about is my ongoing chronic pain, stemming from a back injury sustained in my early twenties that never fully recovered. It’s impossible for me to say it’s a footnote. It’s also impossible to convey exactly what multiple years of chronic pain can do to the mind and soul, bar actually experiencing it for yourself, which I do not recommend.
The method I employ in managing this aspect of my life – this demon that enjoys my suffering – is by running towards the trauma.
There is a difference between being put in a fire, and walking into a fire.
For one, it’s on my own terms. Pain is an energy like any other energy, and can be utilized for fuel. Suffering is one of the only guarantees in life. It’s one of the only universal states of the human condition. It binds us closer than any other frame of mind. It’s powerful, and should be treated as such. I try my best to convert my physical pain into a willpower. I coerce myself into the fire, into the feeling, into a frame of mind where desperation and humility are not occasional, but consistent.
I have bad days. Days where the synapse feel like they are being eaten by angry ants, constantly, relentlessly. Days where I’m left tossing and turning deep into the small hours. I’m human, and those days ensure I’m fully aware of that. But if I were to accept my fate and stay down it would be an injustice to myself and my character. To my virtue.
I could kick and scream and claim to be a victim all I want: the reality is no one would care. This has a positive effect, as it forces re-evaluation of the reason I ‘do’. Do I respect myself enough to keep going? I do care enough about myself to fight? Do I understand that no-one will blink an eye if I succeed or fail, and the outcome affects only myself? We all have our own struggles. We all suffer in one way or another. Yes, I feel fortunate to have utilized opportunities that have presented themselves. Yes, I feel gratified by my perhaps wild decision making and the pathway I carved in my great escape from an ‘Office Space’ environment instead of suffering in quiet desperation like many other men and women. There are plenty of parts of my life to feel fortunate about: plenty of aspects which reduce suffering of one area of life or another. A reduced suffering comparative to the wider population. But it’s my chronic pain that ensures I remain on the dirty black soil of the Earth. It’s my suffering. One cannot assume a person does not suffer because of a preconceived notion. My pain ensures my head cannot grow. There is no light-headed sunrise in my morning, regardless of the reduced suffering in other areas of my life. Resultantly I’m assured that any one person selected, regardless of circumstances, has suffering inside of them. This must be considered through every interaction and action, and I’m certainly reminded to consider this on days where I cannot think of anything else: for if I internalize fully, I miss an opportunity to connect with the most meaningful feeling a person can feel, and a feeling that reduces us all to one.
It’s a constant and consistent reminder that externalities mean little when sympathizing or tapping empathy: we all suffer, in one way or another.