One of the worse causes of depression among my generation is this notion that we have to keep experiencing new things, that we should never be content, that we should always put ourselves outside of our comfort zones.
Is that the way it’s always been? Back before psychology was a thing. Before Freud and the practice of therapy, is that what the average human strove for?
Here’s what I think is happening. It’s just like in high school where the cool kids think they know best. Where the majority of the student body looks up to the popular kids and want to emulate them. We thought we left that culture behind upon graduation, but thanks to social media where the lifestyles and opinions of celebrities and public figures are instantly made available, we’re stuck. They’ve influenced normal people. Normal people emulate them. And then those normal people blast their lifestyles on social media to their friends and family, showing off how much fun they’re having in life through pictures and posts.
None of this should be a bad thing, if humans were content with life. There’s nothing wrong with having a friend going to Bora Bora and posting pictures from the most beautiful beaches, driving fast cars and lounging with hot women in bikinis. However, it becomes a problem when people like him and society start to pressure others to strive for something similar. Where, because you’ve traveled around the world and enjoyed it, you assume everyone should to really experience life. Where, because you’ve had sex with some of the most beautiful women in the world, you encourage others to do the same or else they’re missing out on life.
I used to be like the millions of my fellow Millennials where all that pressure was getting to me. I felt inadequate and impoverished, despite holding down a steady job, having a good car, and doing what I really enjoyed by going to my spot by the water and writing books. Even as an author, because we live in a world of trends set by the popular kids, I felt inadequate because I wasn’t going to book conferences or writing with styles that they wrote in, styles that publishers wanted.
I believe it takes strength and confidence to be yourself and shrug off the pressures of this world. You’ll never receive this kind of encouragement from the mainstream media because it affects their economy and deflates the magic of advertising. Instead of storing up your treasures on earth, treasures that can be taken away by the government, through natural disasters, through unfortunate hardships, through murder and theft…store your treasure up in heaven.
It truly is a blessing to have this kind of mentality and because many aren’t blessed with it, they’ll never understand and will always see you as a “stick in the mud”. Like the supposed “friends” of Job, they’ll blame this contentment for the reason why you’re alone, the reason why you appear to have nothing in their eyes, when in fact, God and the kingdom of Heaven is always in your heart.
And I get it. You really should put yourself out of your comfort zones and try new things when you’re a bit younger to find out what you’re good at, and what you suck at. Your strengths and your weaknesses. Your loves and what dissatisfies you. But once you’ve put yourself out of your comfort zone enough times, once you’ve stumbled in spectacular fashion to realize a particular hobby or lifestyle just isn’t for you…I believe stubborn is definitely a virtue when the small-minded who can’t comprehend keep trying to push you into an arena in which you’ve already been defeated.
I love what I do. I’m happy with my lifestyle. Things could always be better, but I’m willing to exercise patience and work to achieve it. This attitude brings me fulfillment in life. I’m content with it. I tried other lifestyles. I had other goals. But in growing up, I adjusted my views based on my experiences and I’m much better off now than in my 20s.
They’ll tell you things like, “Well, if you go in thinking you can’t win, you’ve already failed with that attitude.” They’ll tell you things like, “That’s why you gotta keep trying and never give up.”
Those people aren’t you. All people are not the same. Everyone’s different. You only have one physical life before Judgment. Why spend it trying to do, not what you want to do, but what others expect you to do. Think about it. Even if you do succeed because others kept pushing you down a course you didn’t want to take, how savory is that victory? Or have you noticed that the ones who were pushing you are 10x happier than you. Is that’s what’s most important? They’re happiness over yours.
When I was 29-year-old, I was prodded by a fellow black Millennial into becoming the first President of my department’s Toastmasters organization. For those who don’t know, Toastmasters is an organization that strives to improve people’s public speaking ability, they’re social skills, essentially. I told this black Millennial, Jabril, that I wanted no part of it because I have a knack for “offending people” and getting told on. I’d already been accused of sexual harassment and making others feel uncomfortable so why in the hell would I stand in front of these people and straight up talk about anything other than work.
He hit me with that black speech, “They trying to hold you down, brutha! They’re trying to keep you contained. But it’s up to you to break free and express yourself.”
All that sounded right and so I was convinced. I “stepped outside of my comfort zone” and gave it a shot. I truly committed myself to being the first president of my department’s Toastmaster and did everything to get the first meeting running.
And sure enough, when the first meeting came…I failed in what many have called their most memorable night working for my company. I started out well and everything was running smoothly…but as the meeting progressed and I saw my fellow peers go up and talk about their personal lives…it became glaringly obvious how different I was from everyone else. That’s why I hate it when the media talks about how it’s cool to be different. No the fuck, it’s not. I wish I could live like my peers. I wish I had their hobbies. I wish I could be more social and interact with others, letting go of my own self-awareness and not be afraid to just be myself…but when you’ve been accused of sexual harassment and making others feel uncomfortable, for a big man, I really had to contain myself and it’s horrible.
Moreover, it felt like life wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that people could be themselves and talk about who they were whereas I had to hide my honest thoughts and opinions. I’m a Christian Conservative. My peers were mostly liberal Democrat leaning and the ones who claimed to be Christians embraced worldly ideas. So yeah…alone.
I had a panic attack in the middle of the meeting. I, a 6’3, 228lb muscular black man started crying in the front row of this auditorium with everyone else behind me. Jabril came in and took over the meeting. And at the end, he tried to call me up to the podium to close it out. People started chanting my name, “Rock, Rock, Rock.”
I’m black, but my complexion was white that night. I got up to the podium, angry, frustrated and embarrassed. The second most painful experience of my life. I told them with my last bit of strength, “You guys…I really appreciate you guys coming up and sharing and participating. But what this has shown me is how much I truly am different from you guys. I’m sorry to inform you that this is my last night as your president.”
I resigned after the first meeting. The same people who accused me of sexual harassment were in that meeting. At the time, I saw them as my enemy and that night…I crumbled and let my enemy see me cry. On top of that, one of those enemies would go on to be the next President of Toastmasters, succeeding me. All of this…you could say it was a good thing I experienced it to learn what I can and can’t do. But I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone.
And as much as I wanted to punch Jabril in the face for convincing me to do that, I was more angry at myself. THIS IS MY LIFE! I got suckered. I let myself be fooled and convinced. I was coming up on 30-years-old. I can’t have any more of that. No more second-guessing yourself.
And more importantly, after reading the Bible from cover to cover, I find solace in the fact that my lifestyle is more aligned to what Jesus preached in the first place. I’m not materialistic. If I won the lottery, I’d have no joy in millions of dollars but I’d probably give most of it away. Just as Jesus commanded, “If you were given freely, you should give freely.”
So when people tell you how to live your life, what you should and shouldn’t do. I truly believe that when you get to a certain age, there’s nothing wrong with settling in. When you’ve found what you like, and how you want to live your life, go for it. Fuck the world. Fuck society. Fuck commercials. You are you. You’re not a celebrity. You’re not an executive. You’re not a professional athlete. You are an individual and regardless of how many people say, “you’re not the only one going through this,” you really are. There’s no one else on earth with your name, your face, your blood.
Consider the old days. People took on apprenticeships. Then the graduated to the occupation and they did this for the rest of their lives. I could be a ship builder for the rest of my life, and raise my family in a shack by the coast. I would be at peace because I enjoyed what I did and I had people to love. That’s it.