I don’t always pay attention when I’m supposed to and I hate following the rules. Rules annoy me and I don’t say that to make myself seem like a badass I say that because rules actually make me angry. This isn’t to say that I’m advocating for an anarchist world. Quite the opposite in fact. However, I cannot stand those who are so willfully compliant with the world as it is. Who is to say who is right and who is wrong? And why don’t we challenge existing conventions? I’m not endorsing the Joker’s position in the Dark Knight that the world “needs a little anarchy,” but sometimes we need to go without so that we see the value in what we have.
Given that I tend to ignore things that are important in favor of things that the average person would probably say are not I suppose it is not altogether shocking to learn that I often get mad at myself for being unable to simply do what everyone else does. There are times in life where I wish I was better at following rules. Indeed, a frequent criticism that I get is that my life would be much easier if I simply followed the rules and paid attention. These people apparently don’t see it as duplicitous that one who follows rules would not also know exactly when to break them or vice versa. Most people I know are not happy because they follow a pattern in life that is lack significant punch 0r seem overly mundane. What I see is a world lacking passion.
When you’re passionate about something or someone the rules go by the wayside and it becomes difficult to concentrate. This happens to me all the time. I’m constantly working on my next story, essay, or idea and following the rules or paying attention would require that I shift resources away from what I’m passionate about on to things that I often could care less about. This is fine if you’re okay with being unhappy, but I am not okay with that. On it’s face, this seems like a rather ridiculous argument to me. You give equal attention to everything in life and are surprised that you are unhappy? It’s not surprising to me at all. No one can give anything one hundred percent of their attention. I am absolutely positive of that. The workaholic neglects his family, the family man is imperfect when it comes to his work, etc etc. Life moves on. Life is about allocating resources. Some allocate resources on the obvious, others on the details.
Part of the reason that I miss some of the more obvious things is because I’m very detail-oriented. This may seem rather counter-intuitive but it’s not. Going back to what I said earlier; in order to do well at one thing we must sacrifice resources that would normally be spent on something else. My guess is that a lot of detail-oriented people miss out on a lot of the big picture stuff, but you can’t concentrate on everything. We give more attention to the things we value and less attention to the things we don’t. It’s relatively simple. This often means choosing whether we want to focus on the obvious or focus on the details. I think that those who are more detail-oriented understand that the final result of whatever they’re doing is a result of the process they went through to get there. The bigger picture crowd tends to view the day to day activities that go into something as something that simply “should” work without considering the day to day realities of what had to happen to get to that present situation. Pay attention to “the condition my condition is in” as the song goes.
There are advantages to being of either mindset. If you think big picture you like won’t be bogged down by the small, process questions but you will likely have a product that you don’t entirely understand. If you’re detail-oriented you’re going to worry about all the little stuff and will likely have to avoid coming up with a realistic big picture outcome. Part of this likely has to do with the fact that if you knew what the big picture odds were or what work awaited you when you were done hammering through the small stuff you would likely be too discouraged to go through with the details required to complete a major project. What I’ve found to be true over the years is that being detail-oriented in the right things day to day leads to the more desirable long-term outcomes. Were I not detail-oriented my stress in day to do living would be off the charts. Now, my major stress comes once the day to day tasks have been completed. There are always going to be trade offs in life. What you need to decide is which one provides for the highest potential upside or the most manageable downside. I suppose, like most everything life, your preference comes down to who you are, what you do, and how you need to live your life to feel happy and successful.
Oftentimes when I realize the obvious it upsets me that I did not think of it sooner, but how could I have thought of it sooner when I was clearly focused on something else at the time? People who think that I should simply “follow the rules” annoy me to no end oftentimes because these are the same people who praise my artistic talent. If you’re not an artist you’re not going to see the conundrum here. Indeed, it is, I would argue, a great societal divide. We live in a world of scholars, intellectuals and artists and then there is everyone else: the masses. This is not to say that one is better or the other. How could either side know with any certainty? We cannot live in another person’s body therefore it seems illogical to suppose that one is necessarily happier or better off than the other. What I can say is that these are different worlds and the people from the one world are not necessarily compatible with those from the other.
I find most people, most situations, and indeed most stories to be incredibly boring on the one hand and exhausting on the other. Yes, boredom exhausts me. When I live in my little writerverse I can think about ideas; when I’m out with regular people I have to worry about people and people bother me. People who talk about events in their lives or what happened to their friend or whatever annoy the heck out of me because that’s not something I haven’t heard before. Many of the worlds problems are the same and the reasons that these problems are universal is because there is no easily identifiable solution to them. If someone knew the solution it stands to reason that they would tell the rest of us so that we could avoid the hassle, but alas no such person exists so I’m pretty sure that you’ll have to labor on with your problems just as centuries of people before you have done. Perhaps I would be better off if I just listened to everyone’s stories and feigned interest in their stories about people that all seem the same, but to do so would be an even bigger headache than living the life I currently have.