The Lives of Others


Nothing necessitates drama like the clear and present absence of it.  There are some people who constantly cry about the “needless” problems in their lives.  They bemoan the issues that confront them on a seemingly endless basis.  They loudly and persistently tell us that they wish the days of unending trouble could be put behind them.  Then when the inevitable lull occurs in their lives they complain about the dullness of routine and their longing to get out and do something “different” overwhelms them.

God help you if you find yourself in the company of those who seem to enjoy what is, at least on its head, contradictory behavior.  Aristotle said it was the mark of a learned man to hold two contradictory ideas in his head and give them equal value such thoughts lose their virtue when put into practice.  It seems quite natural to want to have a story in life.  We idolize an entire industry (Hollywood) who can make up stories out of nothing and many of us live in books where even the most insignificant things can have the most profound meaning.

I love the maxim: live life so it makes for the better story, but there are many people who I would recommend not using this as the guiding principle of their lives.  There are plenty of people who think that action in life works like a pendulum; you see a lot of it and that accounts for the bad days and then you see not so much of it and that accounts for the good days.  However, certain people exist who view that formula in reverse.  They believe that the good days are the ones filled with action and the bad ones are those with an absence of it.  What’s worse is that no one wants to say that they crave drama because we equate that with having an ego so those who genuinely do enjoy a dramatic existence tell us that they don’t like it when in fact they do and we are left to read between the tea leaves to figure out which way is up and which way is down.

I began to wonder recently what those who secretly crave a dramatic existence were like.  I wanted to know how to spot them so that I could know who to leave out of my life when I couldn’t take anymore stress.  Now, in the interests of not appearing too hypocritical myself, I will say that I am one of those people who secretly craves drama.  That’s something that has always been a part of me.  I’m an artist.  I’m a storyteller.  It’s my job to create stories out of everyday interactions.  It reaches a point though, at least it does in my own personal life, where I just can’t take it anymore.  Sometimes the worst thing you can do if you’re someone who enjoys drama is to hang out with equally dramatic people.  Indeed, I think that the more dramatic you are or the more you are inclined to view the world through such a lens, the fewer like-minded people you should have around you.  Life is about balance.  If you look at a bridge as something that looks like it would be fun to jump off of the last thing you should want are friends who would encourage you to jump.

It seems counter-intuitive for the drama seeking individual to avoid those who likewise enjoy living a dramatic existence or seek equally action-oriented lives.  The thought process behind this being that you can always make the adventure bigger and more exciting.  I would hardly be the first person to suggest that bigger is not always better however.  Bigger is rarely better in fact.  If you live a life full of action, adventure, and non-stop over the top hijinks eventually people are going to come to expect that from you.  You can’t always deliver peoples ever increasing expectations.  I’ve found that the problem with having high expectations for yourself is that other people naturally raise their expectations of you as well.  I had a class with a professor who thought I was the smartest person in the room and it didn’t matter how much I disagreed with him he simply kept on believing in this idea.  One day I had simply had enough.  I couldn’t take any more drama so I just kept my mouth shut for the rest of the day.  He called on me in class and basically beguiled me for not speaking up.  When I didn’t respond to his criticism he just seemed to get angrier.  He stopped me after class and laid into me again.  I sat there and nodded my head and simply said that you can’t always give one hundred percent.  Sometimes we just don’t have it in us.

People don’t understand how or perhaps more importantly why someone would not want to live up to their potential one hundred percent of the time.  The answer is quite simple; we’re not robots.  I try my hardest in everything that I do but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be able to do my best all the time.  Trying and executing are two different things.  While I may try to do the best that I can that does not mean that I always succeed.  Indeed, wouldn’t it be awful if I did succeed?  There would be no surprise.  Life would lose that dramatic value that makes life worth living.  Sometimes we need to do a little bit of everything to find out what we enjoy and also to remind people of what they have when we are at our best.  Anyone who has ever had someone in their life that didn’t know what they had when they had them can attest to the general principle here.  If you are unappreciated for too long any appreciation that may occur in the future will fly under the radar because the outcome has been preordained.  When we see that life is what we put into it and what we create from it we can see the value in the things that we do.

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