A Young Mans Fears and Fuel
Francis Piche Student Software Engineer, McGill
November 9th, 2017
You’ll run faster away from a lion than towards green pastures.
I ride the metro to and from campus every day. And even though I’ve spent at least 75 hours underground (yes I calculated) in the last two months, I can never get used to it. When I used to ride the bus to highschool, or drive to college back in Kelowna, (ironically) I remember not-remembering most of the time I spend in commute.
It’s a common thing. We usually just call it “zoning-out”. We’ve done something so many times that our mind just goes “oh I’ve seen this before, nothing to pay attention to” and just blanks it out.
The thing is, I haven’t had that in the metro. Sometimes I’ll try to distract myself for the ride by listening to a podcast, or reading a book, but it never quite works.
I always end up people watching.
I can’t stop looking around me, at all the people who are so clearly running on auto-pilot. Crammed up in a metal can, underground, surrounded by people with heads down, scrolling through Twitter, or staring blankly straight ahead, or bobbing in and out of sleep.
It’s weird. It’s scary.
I can never get over it, because it scares me. Am I like that? Well, I cant know for sure, but I don’t think so… Is it only a matter of time? How long until I am? How long do we have to do the same thing every day until our brain blocks it out and shifts to auto-pilot? Is it even a bad thing?
Public transit etiquette is to not look at other people, and definitely, CERTAINLY not make eye-contact.
If everyone’s eyes are down, that lets me observe without making people feeling uncomfortable. (I’m aware of how creepy that is).
I don’t want to judge anyone, but I can’t help but speculate what the other people’s lives are like. It’s hard to tell, when they’re mostly blank, in default-expression mode. Maybe they’re super happy, maybe just tired in the morning. But I can’t help but get this feeling…A vibe of plain misery. Gradual exhaustion. Subtle hopelessness.
It scares the living shit out of me.
Everyone’s Aware of It
I’m not pretending to be above it. (I’m not #woke) We’re all people. Every single one of these people has had a life just as complex and unique as mine. Who knows what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling. Maybe they’re even thinking the same thing as me.
Comedians joke about it. Songs sing about it. Movies are made about it. Speakers make a careers out of it.( ie: 5 Easy Steps to Take Control of Your Life! How YOU Can Be Your Own Boss! Blah blah.)
Everyone knows on some level that our jobs will make us miserable, and most of us just accept it.
That’s why it’s so scary. 52.3% of Americans are unhappy at work (Conference Board). 150 million people, just like you and me, who were (at least on some level) aware that they’re “settling”. It could so easily be me.
This stuff keeps me up at night.
What To Do About It:
As the theme of this blog hopefully makes clear, I’m doing everything I can to avoid that.
Nothing scares me more than waking up and being 50, wondering what happened to the last 30 years. But at least I’ll have a good health plan and a retirement fund…right?
Adam Sandler has made a lot of garbage movies lately, but Click (while incredibly cheesy), does a pretty good job of showing how easy it is to “fast-forward” through life.
The (eye-rolling-ly forced) moral of that movie is simple: cherish moments, be present, give time to what’s important.
Seems simple enough.
I get a lot of time to think about it though, and it’s become evident that it’s really not that simple.
Actually, transitioning into adulthood has made two and only two things perfectly clear:
-Nobody has it figured out.
-Nothing you want will happen unless you make it happen.
The only somewhat viable solution I’ve come up with is to let the fear be fuel.
To come face to face with what scares me every single day. To constantly be reminded of what the life I’m afraid of looks like. To never let myself forget what will happen if I don’t do something about it RIGHT NOW.
So, in a way, if it’s being in the metro that reminds me of all that…
My morning commute is a cycle of: people watching, existential dread, solution finding, which, miraculously turns into inspiration.
Every morning I come out of the underground walking fast. I feel so much better when the crowd emerging from the hole is behind me. When I walk into the empty library I feel amazing. Being the first one in makes me feel like maybe I really can do something special. (Even if I know rationally that most people study late, and I study early)
There’s an issue with blogging about this stuff. I always feel preachy. I sincerely hope it doesn’t come across that way.
I don’t know what’s best for people, I only know what’s best for me (as much as a non-fully-developed-frontal cortex 20 year old can).
Lately I’ve been worried that my posts make it seem like I think I have all the answers. I don’t. Nor do I want to pretend like I do.
I really don’t pretend anything that I write is even insightful. There’s always the thought in the back of my mind: “People already know this, you’re just stating the obvious”.
Even if that’s the case, I truly believe that bringing up these (obvious) things, so that they’re in the front of your mind, is valuable in itself.
I just want my readers (I have Google analytics, I see you there 😉 ) to see what my experience is. Maybe it can be useful to someone.
The blog is a companion more than a guide, we’re in this together, after all.
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