Question #3: Which problems do you want?

Because You Gotta Have Some

The Ideal

Ever wanted your problems to disappear?

For some benevolent cosmic genie to just reach his magic hands down into your life and scoop them right out?

You’re probably thinking, “Well, duh, Kev. But, I’m at least marginally aware and well-adjusted, so I know that that’s not how it works, you silly imbecile.” I feel you. It has been a lot of years since I thought that getting rid of problems could be that simple.

If you’re like me, at some point you realized that your problems would certainly never evaporate. Instead, you figured you could grab some buckets, and, with some smart strategy and ferocious willpower, scoop them all out and overboard on your own.

And then the party’d get started.

The Complication

I always figured there was some kind of threshold you eventually cross in life where, on the other side, career, relationships, and passions all reached homeostasis. That was the point of perfection, the top of the mountain where you could sit your tired ass down and stare at the view endlessly.

What I didn’t consider? The obvious.

Even in my brilliant, make-my-English-professors-wet-their-pants mountain metaphor, the whole scenario makes no sense. You can’t stay at the top of a mountain forever! Between weather, erosion, and the fact that there’s probably not a fully-stocked Mickey D’s at the top ready to sustain you for eternity, you’d be screwed.

So you’ve got two choices: get off the mountain, or die.

The Reality

So, hopefully, you get off the mountain. It’s probably heartbreaking, as gravity drags you stumbling back down to the base of an unknown mountain, maybe even a whole new range that you’ve never explored.

This past week, I’ve been reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson (relation to Charles: unknown). Despite the title, at no point does Mr. Manson try to convince you not to give any fucks at all:

What determines your success isn’t, “What do you want to enjoy?” The relevant question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?” … That’s the hard question that matters, the question that will actually get you somewhere.

I don’t know about you, but that shift is pretty massive for me. For the past few years, I’ve been so hung up on trying to focus on what I enjoy (and half the time I don’t even know what that is), because I was one of those folks who believed that you could get to the top of the mountain and stay there.

That assumption led me to an even more dangerous one: that I could shortcut the path up. I focused all my time and energy on figuring out different ways I could cut the trail, and minimize the effort required to get to the peak.

But, as philosopher Miley Cyrus said, “There’s always gonna be another mountain.”

That’s what has sunk in for me lately… that I’ll never be finished learning, finished screwing up, or finished having uncertainties.

The Resolution

So, in the face of that reality, how do I pick the problems that count, the pains that I want to sustain?

My best guess so far: get brutally honest with myself.

Stop for a second to look at the problems I’m dealing with right now, and figure out which ones I want to solve, versus which ones are only a drain. While that may sound straightforward, it’s only so on the surface. What I’m finding is that many of the drains are ones that I’ve chosen because they fit my vision of who I am.

Getting rid of those is damn hard, because it means accepting that there are some pieces of my identity that I just don’t care about anymore. To get rid of those, I have to allow myself to be someone different than who I expected.

How? By being brave enough to listen to myself, instead of dictate to myself.

I am currently very sleep-deprived, so I leave you with the above vague statement in order to do what all writers do when they’re exhausted: leave you with a cliffhanger that will be picked up once I’ve had a little sleep and a lot of coffee.

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