I grew up in a pretty strict household. It was my mom’s way or the highway. I think my dad worked three jobs just so he never had to stick around for long.
As a result, I have a lot of character traits that are less than desirable. A lot. I’m super controlling in my relationships, inflexible, regimented, and very, very unhappy.
And I keep setting myself up for more unhappiness by doing things that I think I should be doing, whether I enjoy them or not. Whether they add anything to my life or my general well-being. Whether or not they accomplish anything at all.
I read a newspaper every day. I watch a news broadcast on television every day. I listen to the news on the radio as I get ready for work every morning.
Why? Does staying abreast of all the world’s quotidian horrors make me happy? Of course not. I do it because I feel like I should.
And maybe when I was younger, this ritual of absorbing everything that was going on served some purpose. Maybe I thought it would motivate me to dedicate my life to…something. Anything. Helping others. Volunteering at a soup kitchen. Giving blood.
It did none of those things, but still I listened. And now, with my spirit whittled down to a tiny, diaphanous sliver by the brutal whetstone of time, I don’t want to listen anymore. I don’t want to read a newspaper, I don’t want to listen to the news. It doesn’t make me happy, and life is too short.
You think you know what that phrase means when you’re young, but you don’t. Life is very long when you’re young. You plant trees when you’re young, knowing you’ll see them bear fruit.
When you’re old, you plant trees for other people. Or you just say, “Screw it,” and don’t plant anything.
But the weird thing is that I keep forgetting that I can control what I do every day. I can control what I read, what I listen to. I don’t have to read the paper, or watch the news, or talk to people I don’t want to talk to, or enter writing contests I can’t possibly win because I feel like I should (yes, that’s what set me off).
If it makes me unhappy, I’m just not going to do it.
I’ll still eat vegetables, but I don’t have to eat the ones I don’t like. There are many vegetables to choose from. There are many things to read and listen to that do make me happy. If I feel like saving the world, I know where to go and who to contact.
Maybe I should wear a rubber band around my wrist, or maybe a shock collar, to remind myself that I’m in control of me. I’m the biggest source of my unhappiness.
I can’t control other people. I can only control me.