I tend to be a very unhappy person. It’s just kind of the way things work out. I look to my left, I look to my right, and I tend to be dismayed by what I find. I’m constantly going on about how we can do better.
If you work with me, you’ll recognise these traits in me, and will probably have a less complimentary way to describe them. It is a thing I try to be mindful of, to varying success.
I was talking to my boss, Ry4an (of whom I am a huge fan), and he told me I can portray myself as an “impractical zealot” at times. His use of the term, while gently and kindly intended, did not cast the impractical zealot in a good light. But when pressed to give myself a job title, I often insist upon calling myself an “Impractical Zealot and Windmill Jouster”.
I get told a lot that it is my expectation, my demand, that things get better that is at the root of all my existential angst. And I can more or less agree with this proposition. If, as many seem to suggest, I could just accept that everything is horrible and that’s okay, then I would be much happier.
And, to an extent, I actually believe this is the case.
A lot of my internal turmoil right now revolves around the question of whether I should just give up on things and become practical. Stop trying to make things better and just try to let things go.
I’m not entirely sure I can do that. My quest for “better” is what drives me. When I get out of bed it’s the thought that, when I go to sleep, I’ll leave things just a smidgen better that makes that worthwhile to me.
When I don’t get out of bed it’s because I can’t conjure the belief that it actually matters. Not in the put a dent in the universe sense, but in the simple I’ll be happy tomorrow that I did sense.
It happens more often than is probably good for me, at this point.
But if there’s anything that defines the impractical zealot, the jouster of windmills, the greater fool, it’s hope. The only way to become a greater fool is to hope, beyond all reason, that your endeavour will turn itself around. To hope, when all others have quit the field, that things will get better.
Ironically, it’s not the part where things actually get better that interests me. I don’t need things to get better before I can be happy. In fact, I think it’s downright dangerous to insist upon things being better. Better is subjective, and being too invested in your version of better means that others will get left out in the cold. It means doing violence upon those who do not agree that your better is actually an improvement. It is a recipe for madness, chasing a utopia that will be as fault-ridden as the present.
Instead, I find my happiness in making things better. It is the process of improvement, not the end result of that process, that matters to me. I need not have my vision of better be achieved, I just need to be working towards something better. I can course-correct when I learn things and change. I can disagree with someone over what is better, but still find happiness in pursuing the common elements of our respective betters.
I don’t need to make the whole world better. I can find happiness in just making my own little corner better.
And I think that’s why I’m struggling. I’m not making my own little corner better. Getting out of bed wasn’t worth it.
But I don’t know how to reclaim that agency, reclaim my ability to pursue better. I work at it, but progress is frustratingly slow. I still feel like I have no latitude to make things better. But I still hope to regain that agency soon.
More the fool me.