I'm writing this from a coffee shop where the main dining room has been closed off for salsa dancing. Gregarious participants are counting their steps, moving their bodies, and probably feeling the rush of endorphins from the emotional bonds they're creating.
Meanwhile, I'm decked out in a Ninja Turtles hoodie, listening to Tupac on Tidal and dancing from project to project on my 12-year old laptop.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say those salsa dancers are more well-rounded than me.
And you know what?
Good for them. Seriously. The world needs well-rounded people. The world needs people who put "cultured" on their social media accounts. The world needs people who work 40 hours a week then have social lives.
For real. I'm at peace with these people.
But to get there, I had to find peace with myself. And to do that, I had to peel away some layers.
The world praises the self-made person. The person who defies the odds and climbs the mountain; the person who uses only the resources around them to pour their blood, sweat, and tears into something that impacts the lives of others.
The process fucking sucks. You don't get your needs met. You drive a beater car. You skimp on groceries and clothes to put more money into your endeavor. It's lonely. Thanksgiving night? It's just you.
And then there's the ugliness that's underneath the ambition.
The attitude of, "Oh, you think I'm going to fail, huh?! Well, just watch me," came from somewhere.
An experience is behind the endurance it takes to hang in there when the psychological growth feels like demonic claws ripping your brain.
And that reason is probably linked to abuse, poverty, or an extreme hardship. The intense grind is the only way to properly heal whatever it is that's driving you.
To people who haven't endured the ugliness, it's not worth it. But to you, it is.
If it's so unsightly why does society praise the self-made person?
Because society benefits from the process.
Your awful journey gives others hope. It makes their hardships seem easier. You do the work and they learn about it from a safe distance. And that's cool. For real. Because not everyone can do it.
Someone has to have a balanced education to have the versatility a corporate job requires. Someone has to make football popular so the rest of us can only watch the playoffs. Someone has to have the social skills to start a family. Someone has to search for good-paying jobs and low-priced consumer goods. Someone has to keep elections balanced.
No one asks for big ambition and an unclear path. No one asks to be born into disadvantaged circumstances. No one asks for a childhood they have to spend years recovering from. But if it's the only route—well, you do what you have to do. But that doesn't mean your human mind doesn't wander...
Having a mate, friends from college, and a good-paying job are cool. Being alone all the time, missing out on nearly every conventional stage of life, and being so busy you have to take baths because you'll fall asleep if you shower aren't cool.
But if that's what society said, you wouldn't be reading this.
Conversely, if it wasn't for the growth behind the "pull-yourself-up-by-your- bootstraps" route, an introvert wouldn't be able to watch a group of salsa dancers high-five each other and say to himself, "Hmmm...looks like fun."
Maybe we need both.