Why My Life Will Never Be Good Enough For You Idiots
By David Metcalfe
June 24, 2018
If Only I Had…
If only I had money, my life would be good enough. If only I made $30,000/year, I could live in a nice apartment, eat out at restaurants, and own a car. Actually, I’d rather live in a house than an apartment. Let’s make it $50,000/year. Yes, then my life would be good enough. But I’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii. In fact, I’d be happy if I could go there once a year. Let’s make it $60,000. But I also want a family and multiple vehicles; $80,000/year. I want nicer vehicles. I want my kids to be in the best private school. I want more vacation time. I want to go to more sporting events and concerts. I want to own more property. I want a bigger house. Let’s make it $500,000/year. Once I have that income, my life will be good enough.
Money obviously makes you happy. Robin Williams, Kurt Cobain, Chester Barrington, and more recently, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, were all extremely wealthy. They must have died of natural causes, because they couldn’t have suffered depression while having all that money.
A Good Career
If only I had a good career, my life would be good enough. If only I was more respected, held in higher esteem, and received more praise for what I do. If I told people I worked at Wal-Mart, they would look at me like I’m trash. If I told them I was a brain surgeon, they would look at me like I’m a god. If I was a lawyer, a doctor, a professor, a CEO, then they would treat me well. Everyone would approve of me, who I am, what I do.
So, I’ll study. I’ll sacrifice to attain this ideal career: my time, my hobbies, my relationships. The entirety of my twenties will be devoted towards education. The entirety of my thirties will be devoted to building my career. Then in my forties, I’ll be rich and loved by everyone. I’ll drive the nicest cars to the nicest restaurants and meet up with my fellow high-class friends and we’ll spend however much money we want and have a great time. It’ll be easy to get a hot wife because women love power, money and status. I would be the greatest. My life would be the greatest.
A Romantic Partner
If only I had a romantic partner, my life would be good enough. If only I had someone who thinks I’m so amazing that they are willing to spend the rest of their lives with me, that would prove that I’m good enough, that I matter, that I have worth.
No one is complete without a romantic partner. No one has ever been happy while single, and no one ever will be. People who are single into old age are terribly depressed and die alone. If you don’t have someone who has devoted themselves to ensuring your happiness, you are nothing.
Praise From Others
If only I had praise from others, my life would be good enough. If only people approved and cheered at the sight of my accomplishments. I need everyone to acknowledge how great I am for what I do. I need to build up a reputation in my social community as an awesome guy. I need to run a marathon, volunteer with a beloved charity, win a trophy, etc.
When I put effort into something, I need everyone to say, “Wow, that guy is incredible!”. If no one acknowledges my effort, whatever I do is a failure.
Deconstructing the Cultural Narrative
That is the predominant cultural narrative in America, as well as majority of capitalist, first world countries (Canada, UK, and Australia included, among others). These values are deeply ingrained in our society, and appear in every social interaction. When you meet a new person, the first question they will ask you is “what’s your name?”, the second question they’ll ask you is, “what do you do for work?”. That second question defines the interaction. It’s basically an appraisal of how much you matter as a human being.
I hate it. I can’t stand the superficial, money-obsessed, “humans as commodity” culture we live in.
The thing that is most celebrated in American culture is weddings. It’s like, “oh, you found someone to be in a romantic relationship with, let’s celebrate you like a god for a day (and the entire lead up to it).” If marriage is the best thing, singleness is, by default, the worst thing. The larger the party is for the winning team, the harder the loss is for the losing team.
I hate it. I can’t stand the artificial superiority of couples, how we praise them excessively, and the idea of being single as “half human”.
We are inundated with thousands of advertisements every day. They all say the same thing, “Buy this product or this experience, and it will make you happy.” The fact that we hear it every day isn’t the worst part. The worst part is that it works. How telling is it of our society that a car commercial can literally say, “owning this vehicle will make people like you more” and then it actually sells more?!?!
I hate it. I can’t stand that we are so easily tricked into this stupid idea of happiness, and still fail to understand why we aren’t fulfilled in our lives. We reduce humanity to “humans as consumers”; a bunch of seals barking for a fish.
Well, guess what? I’m not a commodity, a half of a human, or a mindless consumer, and I don’t expect to be treated like one. But if you don’t buy into this mentality, you get punished: socially and financially.
So, everyone buys in.
My Life Outside Cultural Acceptability
There are only three things I want in this life: to learn, to love, and to serve. Or, to elaborate: to acquire knowledge to come up with solutions for problems in society and the lives of people, to give and receive affection with people I care about, and to find ways to care for and serve others.
Overlying these three pivotal concepts is the idea of total, relentless authenticity. I don’t want to act a certain way because someone tells me to, or because some arbitrary social construction has dictated it to me. I want to act, think, and believe exactly the way I am, all of the time.
People don’t like this.
Employers hate it. High-end jobs want me to do whatever they say to become successful. They don’t like it when I care about truth or doing what’s best for society if it goes against the company’s profits. Low-end jobs can’t figure out why I choose to work at them when I could do higher paying, more “successful” jobs. Thrift shops and grocery stores take one look at my resume and say, “you’ve spent five years in university, have traveled North America, and have published over 100,000 words in magazines and journals, and now you want to stock shelves? Yeah, right.”
I’m an academic by nature. I live to study. If I didn’t have intelligent books, magazines, and internet content to read, I may as well take a permanent nap in a 6-foot-deep hole. But I’m not an academic in the practical sense. I don’t like being pigeon holed into a discipline, and being told how to write, how to research, etc. I want to do exactly what I want to do in the way that I want to do it. One day I want to read the history of Beethoven, the next day I want to study 1990’s media discourse on homosexuality, and the next day I want to compare the political philosophy of Hobbes and Rousseau. I can’t be a successful academic.
My writing is good. Sometimes, it’s really good. But it’s too polemic to be popular. I’ve published things that have been huge hits, but then I get annoyed at my own popularity, and feel the need to write something so offensive and critical that no publisher would ever take it. I put some polemic stuff on my blog, and it gets tons of views, and then subsequent articles have a significant drop in viewership. Basically, people read the polemic and are like, “ooohh, I don’t like this guy anymore because he criticized something I like.” I can’t be a successful journalist.
There’s nothing else I have any degree of propensity for. How rare is it that someone will spend hours reading complex literature solely for their own interest’s sake? But for me, it’s far more than interest’s sake. It’s my livelihood. It rarely ever pays me anything. It often loses me significant amounts of money through the books I buy, the conferences I travel to, etc. But I couldn’t live without it.
No One Understands Me
The worst problem I have is that no one understands me. I thought this blog would accomplish that. I think this blog has always had an underlying desperation of, “someone please understand me”. Someone please understand why I have trouble believing in Christianity. Someone please understand why I have trouble with romantic relationships. Someone please understand why I can’t do a normal job. Someone please understand how I’ve found enjoyment in life despite all these difficulties.
I don’t think the message has gotten across.
When I came back to Edmonton a couple months ago, I had this lofty ideal in my mind that everyone would be so happy to have me back and would be so enthralled to talk to me. After all, I had spent several months studying very complex topics with top professors, read lots of fantastic literature, and learned to apply these in practical ways to problems in society and within individuals. I thought people would ask me things like, “so what is the moral foundation of our legal system?” or “do all religions have truth in them?”. No one asked me that. They all asked, “how much money did you make?”, “what job are you going to do for the summer?”, “are you going to buy a car soon?”.
If I cared about that kind of stuff, I would have stayed in the petroleum engineering program or the pre-medical program. But I hate that stuff. I don’t want money or material possessions or a job. But people are unrelenting. All I hear from my family and friends is: “you need more money, you need a girlfriend, you need a better job. The way you are isn’t good enough.”
All I want is for someone to say, “David, who you are is enough.”
Is that too much to ask? Can I just be who I am and have you idiots be content with that?
The Social Strain of Misunderstanding
I completed more than enough credits for my bachelor’s degree, but the university said I need one more course to fulfill some arbitrary requirement. It’s not a course that I have any interest in, and I honestly don’t care whether I have the official bachelor’s degree. I sit in on classes with master’s and PhD students on a regular basis, and I know about as much as them on most topics. If I don’t know as much as them, I just spend some time studying it, and often surpass them fairly quickly. I don’t need some “official certificate” to tell me that I have the knowledge and abilities that someone with a master’s degree has. Any job or article publication I get should be solely on its own merit, regardless of some arbitrary designation. If I develop amazing knowledge and abilities, write an amazing article, and then someone says they won’t publish it because I don’t have an official degree in that field, then I don’t want it to be published.
My parents are trying to pressure me to do it. They offered to give me a car if I complete it. They don’t care about my goals, my ambitions, my process of self-discovery, or the kind of person I’m becoming. They just want me to get that degree. They know my story, and when I explained it at length to them, they had nothing to say other than, “well, we want you to do the course anyway.” They won’t even talk to me about anything other than the damn course.
Most of my old friends don’t talk to me much anymore. If I try hanging out with Stephen or Logan, good luck. They are busy pursuing money and romance and doing whatever culture dictates to them. Levi doesn’t talk to me about deep things anymore. I think he knows my disdain for things like money, career, and social status; things that he’s devoted his life to. I don’t think Jesse has the energy or expertise necessary to deal with whatever insane things are going on in my brain.
As for the people in US and Ontario, I sort of came to the unfortunate realization that friendships can’t survive distance. You’re just so separate from each other’s lives, and there’s no real connection. Like, I obviously think that Bryan, Allison, Evan, Jason, Reesey, Courtney, etc. are awesome people, but it’s not like I can hang out with them. I found that messaging them actually makes me miss them more, so I kind of stopped doing that.
Now, you might be saying: “but David, what about the Mormons? Didn’t you say they are awesome people who always love you?”. Well, yes, but I don’t know, I think there’s complications to that. I think the problem is that, yes, they are very nice people, but they don’t really know me all that well, and more importantly, I feel them trying to get me to act and think a certain way. I liked being an investigator, because I was allowed to doubt and it was fine. As a member, if I have doubts or hard questions, there’s a sentiment that I should just not have them. I’m just expected to go to church every week, fulfill a calling, believe everything, etc. But sometimes I don’t feel like it. Sometimes I think that I should just drink green tea or coffee and screw the word of wisdom. Sometimes I look out into the crowd at church and see a bunch of straight laced young men in white dress shirts and ties, and a bunch of young women in dresses, and I think, “These are great people, but that’s not me.”
The Mormons are all about marriage, and there is, of course, a strong culture that’s been built around that. It’s a good culture, though. It’s not like the stupid Christian/secular one in America. But at any rate, I’m not sure if it’s me. I’m not sure if I really fit into their idea of family, and work, and all these ideas they have about social interaction. Like, am I inspired to go to an FHE activity where I make balloon animals or decorate cupcakes? And I don’t mean to complain about FHE activities. The people who put them on do a good job, and lots of people enjoy them. But I’m not sure it’s really me.
And on the topic of marriage, I’m not sure if I can accomplish that either. Whenever I talk to my friends or family about the possibility of getting married, they always say, “well, you better get a real career together then. No woman will want to marry you if you don’t have a good job.” To which I respond, “I’m not interested in having a wife who likes me for my career, I want a wife who loves me for who I am.”
But here’s the thing: they’re right. Young women in America, including Mormons, will only marry men who have “real jobs”. Working at a minimum wage job for any length of time is a path to permanent singleness. And in my case, an unpaid journalist who works two days a week at a warehouse is prime material for singleness.
Is there a young woman out there in the world who would love me completely for who I am and not care about money or status at all? I don’t know. It doesn’t seem likely, does it? Even if I’m great in other ways, I’m not sure there would be any long-term takers. And beyond that, I’m not sure if marriage is really that great. I am not impressed in the least by my friend’s marriages. It seems terribly limiting, controlling, and mundane to have to dance to the wishes of someone else constantly.
My Ideal Life
Today, a friend asked me where I see myself in a year from now. I said I had no idea. She specified, “where would you want to be in a year from now?” It got me thinking about my life quite a bit. And I’d like to think beyond just a year, and into what it is that I’m actually working towards with this peculiar existence of mine.
I would like to serve society as a public intellectual. I want to be a regular contributor to a variety of major magazines, like “Time” and “The New Yorker”. I want to give talks at academic conferences to share new ideas I have. I want to be the guy who has something to say when stuff happens. Like when Malcolm Gladwell writes an article, people listen. And if it’s really good and really timely, it gets read by millions, and actually changes the way we do things. Or Bertrand Russell’s ideas on world peace and denuclearization after World War II. He was heard by millions, and his ideas actually affected major policy.
I want to be an author. I want to write a bunch of books on various topics relating to sociology and philosophy. I absolutely love reading them, and I believe that I am capable of writing a book that is just as good or better than most of the ones in bookstores.
I want to have a wife and children. As strange as it may seem, considering I constantly criticize marriage, I actually would like it if it was with the right person. If she gave me my space and freedom, and loved me unconditionally for who I am. If my wife ever said things like, “David, you can’t randomly go to New York for a week, I didn’t give you permission!” or “David, you have to eat with cutlery. You can’t just take food directly off the plate with your hand”, the marriage would not last long. But if she understood who I am, what I do, and why I do it, I think we could enjoy our marriage. Because, as socially weird as I am, I am actually a very nice person and can be fun to hang out with.
I’m not sure what I would want the children situation to be like, but I would probably prefer to adopt rather than literally have them. There are a lot of orphans who need families, and I would like to provide that to them.
You might say, “well, David, having a family is expensive, and you won’t be able to do it if you don’t have a real job.” That’s not actually true. Let’s say my wife and I each work two days per week at $20/hour. That’s $2,560 per month. Taxes wouldn’t be much since we are low income and with children, so net maybe $2,300. We live in a two-bedroom apartment or basement suite for $1000/month. Food costs $500/month. We have one vehicle that costs $200/month for gas and insurance. And then we have $600 per month for any other expenses. Most children in the world live in far worse conditions than that. Also, that’s assuming that my wife and I work only two days per week each.
But I’m not yet sold on the idea of having a family, so I’m not too intent on that aspect of my “ideal life” anyway.
There is something I want more than all of this. Something that would be so valuable that would make none of this other stuff matter. And that thing is very simple: to figure things out. I just want to understand this world we live in more than anything. I want to understand people, and be able to recommend a better state of existence for them. A state of existence where things like murder, rape, and poverty don’t exist. A state of existence where everyone is loved unconditionally for who they are, and where we all work together to make the world a better place. Not that I plan on achieving that, of course, but I like to think of myself as a link on the great chain of thinkers that have worked, and will continue to work, on making the world a better place. It’s like how we go from Socrates to Plato to Aristotle… and get to John Locke, Thomas Paine, Bertrand Russell, and then there’s some guy like me and then I die and some young person reads my work, is incredibly inspired by it, and continues the chain.
I can never decide whether I identify as a sociologist or a philosopher. I think it goes in waves depending on where my mind is at.
Dang it, maybe I actually have a pretty good life when I think about it. And also, this is the most disorganized article I’ve ever written, and I refuse to edit it. This was literally just me sitting at my computer for two hours and writing out all of my thoughts. I think I said the “f word” a couple times, what is up with that?
Alright, let’s bring this together into something coherent. I believe that life really is what you make of it, and we ought to be free in doing that so long as it doesn’t infringe on the freedom of others. I’m just a guy who wants to learn things, experience real love, and serve others. I don’t need a degree, a fancy job, or some woman for that to happen.
It’s true that no one will understand me, but maybe they don’t need to. Maybe people can just be nice and stand back a bit and see what I do. Maybe if my parents weren’t so fixated on this one course, they could back up and realize that I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my adult life, that I’m learning some really awesome stuff and impressing a lot of big time intellectuals, and that I really do have potential to make a difference in the world.
From reflecting on my personal experience at various times in my life, I’ve found that I am not really that unique in what I want from others. I just want to be accepted for who I am. I don’t want to be pressured to act a certain way or believe a certain thing. I just want to do my thing.
My life isn’t good enough for our society, for my parents, or for my friends, but it’s good enough for me, and that’s all that matters.