My therapist once told me that I was afflicted with “the perpetual inability to be satisfied.” Offended, naturally, I clutched my pearls and shrieked, hand over my face, flush with the vapors, as that theory was rude, and it was uncalled for, and it was absolutely, positively, 100% accurate.
Alright, maybe 97% accurate, give or take the extra three percent. But enough for me to nod my head, once the faux outrage had subsided, and reluctantly agree. No matter what happens in my life, no matter the circumstances, no matter how happy I consider myself to be, I am forever, everlastingly, perpetually unsatisfied with where I am.
Look, it’s not that I can’t be content; I can.
Nor is it that I’m ungrateful for what I have; I’m not.
It’s that I’m always looking for whatever could make things even better. The next step forward. The upward mobility. The stair-step, the hopscotch from good to great, from great to exceptional.
I’m never willing to get comfortable and settle in, even when the comfortable may be something I love. “Comfortable,” as a concept, makes me decidedly uncomfortable.
More than failure, more than mockery, more than actual harm, even — I’m terrified of mediocrity.
I am terrified of being average.
I am terrified of settling for less.
In an interview once, I was asked “What do you believe is your best quality?” I replied, “My inability to take ‘no’ for an answer.”
The interviewers nodded approvingly, silently acquiescing that hardheadedness was most likely a positive attribute for a young associate.
But when they moved on the the next logical question — “What do you consider to be your worst quality?” — I responded, “The same thing.”
And that isn’t just a cutesy interview blurb (though I truly believe it got me the job). It is God’s honest truth: the zeal can be confusing. When does vigor become greed, drive become overkill? On one hand, it fuels my ambition, but on the other, it is so damn exhausting. Am I mistaking contentedness for mediocrity, simply because I’m not working as hard to obtain it? Everything that I have ardently left in the past — the people, the places, the circumstances — the things that seems so perfectly situated now in the darkness of my youth were once things I thought I couldn’t live without. And maybe it isn’t so much that I cannot be satisfied with the present as not trusting myself enough to know when to stop. When I begin to feel restless, I have to ask myself, what if I have reached the peak and just don’t realize it?
I’ve probably spoken of my love for Joe Versus the Volcano previously. It’s one of those movies that I adored in my childhood, but appreciated in my adult years. It is the story of a man who, for years, shackled himself to a life he despised. Until he was told he was dying, he didn’t believe there was anything to be gained from his existence. Once he realized that his life meant something, that he had options to be better, to be great, to be exceptional, he began taking chances and forgoing complacency.
Like I said a while back, you are never more than one decision away from an entirely different life. Rarely is there a decision made that can’t be undone, or at least revisited. In that sense, there aren’t any mistakes; there are simply choices that can be reviewed. You become mediocre when you stop trying to become extraordinary. It is all in the attempt. Right?
So what the hell am I even rambling about?
Well, okay, so I don’t even know anymore.
I just know that this isn’t the peak. Tiring though it may be, I’m entirely unwilling to stop being who I am because it’s difficult. The desire to live beyond an average existence isn’t the end goal; the extraordinary is in the journey. Maybe I am insane for wanting to keep moving, to be something more special than what I’ve been, but I am wholly at peace with that. Even if, every now and again, I have to take a step back to remind myself.
I am at peace with my dissatisfaction.
I take ownership of my ambition.
I want to keep moving upward.
“Nobody knows anything. We’ll take this leap, and we’ll see. We’ll jump … and we’ll see. That’s life.”
And if that’s the case, I’ll keep on jumping.