Lowered Expectations

My mood always hits a nadir following a period when I’ve indulged in the notion that I can accomplish something big, something important to someone outside of my own small circle. I’ll publish an influential book or become a recognized leader in my community or do some important research, something that would make people who interview people want to interview me. But I don’t want Internet fame. I don’t fantasize about being interviewed on the Today show; I fantasize about being interviewed on NPR.

All of my life people have told me I’m clever, bright, motivated, and that I was destined to do great things. Now that I’m pushing forty, I realize that the likelihood of accomplishing “great things” is almost nil. Yet I persist in fantasizing, making plans, setting goals, signing up for classes. All of that would be fine if it actually led anywhere. But inevitably, I realize that, despite those well-meaning adults in my life, I am not destined for anything resembling greatness, and I plunge into depression.

It might actually be okay if I went quietly into the pit, but I don’t. Instead I yell and pick fights and make dramatic statements as I grasp at roots and clods of dirt in a futile attempt to keep myself from falling.

I suspect now that some baseline level of depression is just in my nature, and it’s not the depression itself that makes it so bad but the attempts to climb out. If I didn’t have those fantasies of doing big things, those glimpses of blue sky and fragrant breezes, I would be able, maybe, to reconcile myself to the pit and to just muddling through in mediocrity for the duration of my life. I mean, isn’t that what 99.9% of the world does anyway? Why should I be any different?

Because my family: They’re fine. They’re happy with the way things are. The only thing that brings unpleasantness to their lives is my yelling and sarcasm and carrying on like a perpetual teenager. If that unpleasantness doesn’t bring me any closer to something great, then there is no point in subjecting my family to it.

So, instead of my lofty goals, I’m going to aim lower. My highest goals:

  1. Don’t yell at my family.
  2. Flatten my belly.
  3. Keep the shower mildew-free.

If these are my goals rather than great feats of intellectual achievement that I’m highly unlikely ever to achieve, maybe I can be okay with where I am and stop struggling so much.

As with everything, I suspect that even this reconciling myself to obscurity will be easier said than done. Especially the mildew thing.

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