One of the advantages, of course, is that I can get in as much hiking as I want after work. Hiking is perhaps the ideal activity for thinking, and if I ever write a novel, I'm sure I'll work out the whole thing wandering up some mountain, admiring the yuccas and thistles and the occasional remaining indian paintbrush (saw a rather spectacularly scarlet one the other day, incidentally). Of course, I never will write a novel, because that way lies pain and madness. Every time I get the urge, I mercilessly crush it (well, not always mercilessly, sometimes I'm sorely tempted, you see), because the publishing industry is truly an institution perfectly shaped for crushing one's soul, and I want no part of it. The only people who should be writers are the ones that really, really want to write -- or have to write. Encouraging a writer doesn't do anybody any favors, least of all the writer. (Incidentally, Wil and I had an interesting conversation yesterday that covered this topic. He compared it to a book he'd read about human survival in extreme conditions. Sometimes, say, in the wilderness, stupidity can kill you, but most often it's mental -- it's because you give up. Given two equally skilled outdoorsman, the ones that survive under radically adverse conditions are the ones who refuse not to survive. Writing is the same way... The people who become the writers you read are the ones that refuse not to be writers -- although, like the stupid dead people, there are also those that will never be writers because they simply can't write).
But that's neither here nor there, because today I was thinking about angst.
Now, while I expect most people reading this will find it shocking, LiveJournal is full of angst and drama (I'm shocked -- shocked and appalled -- to find that there's gambling... Er, never mind). Now, while I'll occasionally mention something upsetting, or something that pisses me off, even to the extent of ranting about it, I never discuss my angst online, anywhere. And I never have. For one thing, it isn't interesting, and for another, I consider my angst personal (nothing I consider personal ever ends up online. Ever). I'm not involved in LJ for the love (there are far better places to rake in the love than online, and LJ could at best only be a poor substitute), I'm here for the entertainment. Well, such as it is. :)
But the funny thing is, in the last few years, I've lost all my angst. It's pretty much gone. Not that I'm happy all the time, and it's not that nothing ever pisses me off (hah!), I just... Don't care anymore. Not about the little things, anyway. And not too much about the big things. And it's made me happy.
I've certainly been depressed in my life, sometimes severely. The last time was not so long ago, only a few years. At the time, I tried to adopt a taoist sort of attitude, to cultivate a sense of detachment. It didn't work, of course, because deep down I wasn't willing to let go, and I bloody well knew it. (Not that frustration is all bad -- it's a terribly effective way to get in really, really good physical shape.) Of course, since then, I've stopped trying, and in the process succeeded. It's exactly the sort of contradiction that pervades the heart of taoism.
Part of that is maturity... Life just gets easier as you get older. You gain perspective, a measure of wisdom, and even strength. You become more comfortable with who you are. The other part, of course, is that I went through hell the last few years (the depression, ironically, was worst before that, when things were still going pretty well on the outside. When things started going south, most of the depression was displaced by stress). In the process, I learned what was really important, and what wasn't. I've been through the crucible. From the outside, it might seem that I've lost, if not everything, much of what I had, but as I see it I've actually gained immensely. There's nothing religious about it (I'm still just as curmudgeounly non-religious as I've ever been), but I do now know what I want to do with my life, where I want to go, and how I want to get there. I didn't know any of that before. And I'm now free -- all of those things I had were really an anchor. The cliche is true -- as much as I owned things, things owned me.
I don't even care about love. Not that I've ever really been in love, but I'd always cared about it before, at least in the abstract (I suppose I've always been the romantic, in the classical and every other sense). But the bottom line is that it doesn't fit into what I want to do right now. Later, certainly, but not now.
Of course, it bloody well took me long enough to gain whatever infinitessimal enlightenment I now possess. I do mildly regret that I didn't figure this all out ten or fifteen years ago when I was still in college and in a much better position to make the right choices. I was undeniably immature at the time -- unbelievably immature, even for your typical college student -- and the opportunities wasted are staggering. But, on the other hand, if I had taken the "right" path, I probably wouldn't appreciate it like I would now, and it's really never too late. It's certainly harder to change your path as you get older, but I think you're also stronger, more able to make that change.
But returning to angst... I've certainly thought about these things before, nothing here is really new. But what got me thinking about them today was various things people have written in their blogs, and there's another thing I wanted to say (although this is more specifically for one person). There was a meme that was recently going around, where you'd pick the people on friends list you'd met in real life, and it would ask you various things about them, including their relations with each other. I didn't post mine, because the page that generated the actual HTML you pasted into your journal had apparently collapsed under the strain, but one question I got (that I thought was particularly apt) involved a certain somebody with the initials JH (as secrets go, I suppose this is a particularly open one). The question was if JH liked JH, and my answer would have been "not as much as he should."
So, everybody, be as happy as you can, and remember that your friends do love you. Especially you, the one reading this.