What’s Really Important, Anyway?

I don’t want things to go back to normal. Seriously, what the hell does that even mean? “Normal.” We’re obsessed right now with the idea of restoring things to the “proper order,” or bringing back… normalcy.

Normalcy, or The Way the World Was, revolved around a system that benefitted a very small minority of people while the majority spend life perpetually indebted because we are told that to be successful, we must first pay a great sum of money to an institution with the thought that, surely, after we’d be gifted with a job, which would, naturally, be fulfilling both financially and emotionally. For some of us, that might even be the case.

But for me normalcy means working, not paycheck-to-paycheck, but day-to-day in a job that is fulfilling in neither way, relying on the goodwill of other people in order to pay off the mass amounts of debt I’ve accrued in pursuit of happiness, as is my entitlement as an American citizen .

You know, the thing I’ve always found interesting about the phrasing of that statement — Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness — is that we are not, as many interpret it, referring to happiness as an undeniable human right. We’re simply saying, “Well yeah, sure. Give it a go.” You’re allowed to try to be happy.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

No one ever said you would be.

The systems we’ve created are designed to make us miserable, whether that was what we intended or not. Social media doesn’t bring people together; it sells your information for profit. Banks don’t give out loans so that you can have the things you want; it’s so that you’ll be giving them more back when interest is factored in.

Everything in our society has been curated in such a way as to instill our minds with negative emotions— “I’m not as attractive as the model in this ad, but if I bought Nike I would be!” — envy, greed, gluttony, pride. Everything has to be newer, better, faster, BIGGER! and if it’s not, then we’ve not succeeded where other people have. We’ve failed.

But right now, where has any of that gotten us? Society has all but shut down. People aren’t leaving their homes; in fact, they’re joking about the differentiation between “day pajamas” and “night pajamas.” No one cares to dress in anything else because, frankly, it’s not as comfortable. Why would you wear a suit when you could wear a robe?

We’re starting to see people’s true colors come out, the truth about us finally revealed: a lot of us are really fucking boring.

We’ve been forced to ask ourselves what we really want in life, when this is all said and done. Can you honestly say you want things to go back to how they were?

I certainly don’t jump for joy at the prospect of returning to a restaurant job where I’ve no upward mobility, where I spread myself thin lying to the populace, pretending I’m happy to be there when every second is pure misery all in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, someone will like me enough to tip at least 15% of their bill so that I, in turn, can deposit that money in a bank and pay my own bills. It’s a vicious, soul-sucking cycle. And God forbid I ever become hospitalized because I sure as hell can’t afford it.

When each month is a struggle, scraping the burnt bits off a frying pan and hoping there’s enough left in that char to count as a meal, is the end of the world such an awful thing?

Sometimes, I want a do-over. I want to go back and do things properly, fix a few mistakes along the way, and make a better life for myself. But life isn’t science-fiction, and I can’t try again.

I know, I get it
I’m either at the bottom of a well
Or spinning into somebody’s outdoor glass furniture
Is this how I lose it?

The Pull of You — The National

So, I suppose, I’ll just have to make do with what’s left of my life. I’ve had a lot of time to think lately — I think a lot of us have — and that can be scary, to be alone with your thoughts for too long. It’s taking a step back and looking at everything from a distance, as a whole:

What’s important to me?

I used to want to fall in love, to have someone to share everything with. But love is tough and not easy to come across. It’s work, just like anything else is. I’ve watched a lot of people in my life wade through water in relationships that didn’t make them happy, watched a lot of other ones fail, been in a few myself that didn’t work out. I mean, that’s all a part of life. That’s nothing new.

But to have to rely on someone else, or worse, have them rely on you is just… daunting. I’m a relatively outgoing, social person, but I’ve actually found a bit of peace in solitude lately. I’ve caught up on a lot of reading, I’ve been writing more. I keep to myself with a candle lit and the window cracked, and it’s wonderful. It’s forced me to reevaluate my priorities.

Restaurant work is incredibly social, and I don’t want to go back to it. I like being alone. I like being self-sufficient. I feel like, for the first time, I’m finally being granted the opportunity to do so. I’m cashing in on my right to pursue happiness, and happiness isn’t found in the old normalcy of the world.

So no, I don’t want things to “go back to normal.” I want a new normal. I want to see a world that emerges from this bleak time better. It’s okay to be dissatisfied; in fact, I’d say dissatisfaction is the only feeling that will lead us to create better lives for ourselves and a better world for us to inhabit.

What’s important will differ for every person, but for me at least, the most important thing in life is living one that was worthwhile. I don’t want to look back, on my deathbed, and say “I wish I had done more.” I’ve been stagnant for so long, and I’m sick of it.

Things might seem dark, uncertain, and a little bit scary, but at the same time, the world has offered us a chance to make real change not just in ourselves, but in the world. We’ve been given a full-stop pause, and I don’t think we should squander it or just let it pass us by.

This shouldn’t just be a blip in our collective memory, an “Oh thank God that’s over with! Let’s just pretend it didn’t happen.”

It is happening. It will have happened. Nothing can change that fact, but we all hold the power to use this time to make changes in ourselves and in the world.

Let’s aim for a better future.

Writer, musician, rock climber, and human trying his best. Get in touch: www.austinharveywrites.com

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