“Hectic, but great”

I find it challenging to decide how to answer when people ask me how I’m doing. I try not to be superficial, so I give my answer some consideration. I want to strike the balance of respecting that a person may be just be making small talk, or they might be asking out of a desire to really connect. So I want to keep it brief, but open to further conversation. I often end up saying some variation of “hectic, but great”.

“Person juggling all the things” — generated by Stable Diffusion

From one vantage point, I feel like I’m killing it. My life is at a stage where I feel like everything I feel humble enough to think is achievable feels within my grasp. I’m really proud of where I’m at. Sure, I could already have “FU money” or I could be world-renowned, but does anyone really have a right to expect that? In my worldview, the answer is “no”.

I’ve been depressed or existentially lost for enough of my adolescent and early adult life to feel extraordinarily fortunate right now. There are times when I couldn’t see a path towards merely being OK. I kept it moving out of obligation to my loved ones and some sense of objectivity that I had a lot going for me for things to maybe work out.

Even as the toughest times faded, I still felt driven to want adulation, in spite of my values. I’d guess this was probably driven by trauma and insecurity..

As I approach the last year of my 30s, I feel much more satisfied with what I have and much less driven by what I don’t. I may be past my physical prime and starting to feel the accumulation of minor medical issues, but I’m also not in the worst shape of my life. Other than that, I’m better than ever.

And yet…

And yet, I feel like I’m just baaarely able to keep up with the things I need to do to meet the obligations I’ve created for myself around family, home, work, and finances. Friendships have been a struggle to keep fresh. I talk to many of my best friends only a couple times a year. And I feel shame around how I’m showing up for society.

It makes me question whether my wife and I have made the right choices. The constraints we feel are our own creation. We have had all the tools to have struck different balances. We have so much privilege that we can’t point the finger anywhere else.

And so, I tell people, “life is busy, but I’m great”. I try not to be a martyr about it. It is what it is.

Whether we’ve made the right decisions is an open question, but I suspect I’ll have more perspective in about 5 years, based on how our family is doing, whether we’re able to work our ways out of the holes we’ve dug—the foundation of our house, debt, lapsed relationships, and so forth—our career paths, and whether we’ve been able to maneuver towards the balance we want.

I try to “think in bets“. Judge the process, not the outcome. But sometimes, you don’t have the perspective to do that. All you can do keep controlling what you can, to try to make your own luck, and keep checking in with yourself.

If this sounds a bittersweet, I don’t think that’s what I’m trying to portray. I think it’s just that I don’t want to spend the rest of my working years “hectic, but great”. It feels right for these next few years, but I do believe there’s an even better plane to achieve. No one’s going to hand it to us platter. We’ve gotta work our way to it.

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