My dad has a mantra of sorts when it comes to life: "It's never as bad as you think it's gonna be, and it's never as good as you think it's gonna be." And while you will find exceptions to this rule, it's actually pretty accurate.
A few months ago, I was reading a book that pointed out there isn't a golden threshold where you've "made it" and everything is near-perfect in your creative career. Instead, the reality is, you just exchange one set of problems for another set of problems.
Every dream job has aspects people hate. Once you get published, you have to deal with people and situations you don't want to. You have problems you never pictured. This sort of thing is one reason why some people actually fear succeeding in what they want. But this applies to anything in life: going to college, wanting to be a mom, getting married. There will probably always be some amount of problems, situations, or emotions that make you go, "I didn't sign up for this."
There are things in life, states of life, that can be almost simultaneously amazing and horrible; thrilling and terrifying. Often some of the best things are that way. People tend to think that reality is the negative. If something is portrayed as amazing, people might say, "that's not reality," but in actuality, reality isn't made of only the negative, harsh truths, but reality is simultaneously made up of the negative and positive.
And the reality is, pretty much everything, everything, has positives and negatives. But do you want to hear one of the best parts about it all?
We actually get to pick a lot of our problems.
Some problems we have no control over--maybe you have health problems you inherited. But we have some power to pick our own problems. Slaughtering a concept and line from John Green: We don't have a say in whether or not we have problems in this life, but we do have some say in which they are.
Rich people have problems. Famous people have problems. International bestselling authors have problems. Whoever we are, we will have problems. But the revelation that we actually pick a lot of them can be very empowering.
Instead of slumping in a puddle and letting life simply hit us, we can pick our problems.
We have some say in what life hits us with.
You can either sit around and deal with the problems life throws at you anyway or you can pick a path you want and deal with those problems.
Will you choose the pain and problems that come with being passive? The pain of living with regrets? Or will you choose the problems that come with chasing success?
Because honestly, there are problems that come with being successful. And choosing that anyway--well, there is a sense of empowerment you get when you chose your own problems and accept it as that. "I chose this problem, and I chose to be willing to work with its difficulty." I chose to be a artist, and I chose the problem of a small income. I chose to be a parent, and I chose the problem of sacrificing sleep to care for a baby. I chose to start a D&D club, and I chose the problem of stigmas and teasing. I chose this--with all the good and the bad, the horrible and fantastic--this. is. mine.
When you accept the fact that there are problems no matter what and you have the power to choose some of them, you stop becoming a victim to them, and can move forward. You can move on and progress.
Seeing yourself as a victim can be hugely detrimental to your life, or rather (in actuality) your perception of life. When you have the attitude that you are a victim to your problems, you expect the world to owe you something . . . and you can spend a lot of time and energy waiting for it. You may get stuck on the idea that it isn't fair. But someone once said life is fair: it's unfair to everyone.
When you are a victim, you waste away your talents and emotions waiting on someone else, society, or the universe to help you, when you could be moving forward. I've seen people waste away years of their lives by keeping themselves victims. (And a lot of times, it's victims to problems that come with a path they chose.) They are difficult to be around. The world is moving, and it will move on without you. That's one of the things I learned when I was 19, at a point where I was the most depressed I've ever been: life moves on without you.
But when we realize we pick our problems, they suddenly become easier to work through and endure.
In contrast to when I was 19, my phase of life right now is the happiest it's ever been. I'm pursuing my lifelong dream. I have a job--where I spend most of my time getting paid to read stories. And I confess that while I want to get married someday, I love being single. I love that if I want to spend $100+ dollars on a ticket to see Muse or The Killers, I can do that. Or if I want to fly to New York just to meet J.K. Rowling, I can do that. I love that I not only get to, but require myself to write every day. In the LDS church, I serve in Young Women's--where I wanted to be a leader since I was a Young Woman. But guess what? Even with how near-perfect my life set-up is to me, there are problems.
Like many writers, I can get lonely. At some points in my career, I've had to do things that I loathe with a passion. Even though I'm not a parent, I sometimes fall asleep worrying about family members, and if I'm doing enough to help them. In my pursuit of my career, I've stopped pursuing some of my other interests. In Young Women's, one thing I never foresaw were the moments that sometimes last months where I can't tell if I'm even making a difference. Sometimes trying to write a good book feels like the worst thing on the planet.
But I chose this. I chose the occasional, little baby bouts of loneliness when I chose my career--and I knew it. And you know what? Any loneliness I have ever felt has been worth every single second, and I wouldn't give it back. Even going to sleep after a sucky day of getting nowhere on my novel is better than going to sleep without having tried. There are problems everywhere. People who don't have enough time in the day have to deal with stress, meeting deadlines, and trying to fulfill demands. People who are stuck at home have to endure having all the time in the world. It always appears greener on the other side.
Do you want to let life pick your problems through your passivity?
Or do you want to pick the problems through your pursuit of life?
There will always be problems, but one of the beautiful things is, we have the privilege of picking some of them.