The other day, I was chopping peppers for my orzo salad (go me), and a thought occurred to me. If I could do this, if I could teach and cook and go to the gym and drink tea before bed every day, I think I could live a happy and satisfied life.
I have points that I want to hit right away regarding this thesis statement. The first is that this is not a new sentiment. In high school, I talked all the time about this weirdly specific coffee shop life that was spurred on by a naive romanticism that I would have the money to BUY FANCY HIPSTER COFFEE EVERY DAY. But this thought was different, because it feels a little less romantic and a little more like what I’m doing right now.
The second, related followup is that this if seems much more within reach than any other if I’ve had in my life. In high school, it was always if I get into my dream college and if I find a major that I love so much that it doesn’t feel forced and if I know how to function in the world by myself, and even though on some level, I knew that I was prepared to achieve those ifs, there was something I had to do that was not a given.
I recognize that as much as I procrastinate, I do have to study for the GRE, and I do have to go to grad school and interview for a job and apartment-hunt and do things. But for some reason, I feel far more confident that I can do those things than I did in high school.
At first, this seemed like an act of complacency, which we all know I can not stand. Complacency is scary to me because a lack of skill can be fixed through practice (#growthmindset) but a lack of passion and motivation is a much deeper hole to dig yourself out of. As unintuitive as it sounds, having this thought of “I can definitely do this” felt to me a little too close to complacency, like I was settling for a life I knew I could have and not reaching higher.
But I think I need to be careful not to mix up complacency with growth in self-awareness. Maybe my assessment of what I want and confidence that I can get there is not me being lazy, but rather, me being conscious of what makes me happy and assured of the fact that I have the strategies I need to persist through the challenges that I anticipate facing.
I realize that this is probably a little too optimistic a statement to make at this point in my life, but I think my point is that some day, you have to get a little closer to your goal. I’ve always had this idea that the best way to fight complacency is to take one step further, and then move your goal by the same amount. But maybe that’s the wrong strategy. It kind of reminds me of sometimes when I’m at the gym, and I’m doing reps of something, and about 3/4 of the way in, I decide that my muscles haven’t suffered enough yet, and extend what I planned to do by 20 more reps, but then by the time I get to my original goal, I am SO TIRED and sad because I didn’t finish all my reps, even though I would have if I didn’t tell myself I was going to do more. Do you know what I mean? Sometimes, you have to let yourself be successful for a hot second, and then tomorrow you can try to do more with the knowledge you gained from your success today.
It’s a delicate balance, I think, because I always think I can do more. But I think if we set too many goals before we even reach the first one, we miss out on the opportunity to reflect on what actually makes us happy before setting new ones.
So for now, I’ll eat my orzo salad and be not complacent, but happy.