The June 24th issue of The New Yorker is wonderful, an enlightening issue among consistently educational issues.
“Last Call,” by Larissa MacFarquhar, and especially “The Gift of Doubt” by Malcolm Gladwell (loathe as I am to join the venerable choir heaping praise on him), which introduced me to the unorthodox ideas of Albert O. Hirschman, have helped dislodge me from a rut I had been stuck in for the past few days.
So what if I have taken meandering detours, made uninformed decisions in my life? Due to my planning (or lack thereof), I am past the point of being able to present myself as a 20-year-old wunderkind with a tunnel vision focus. But why did I want to be that, anyway? To be honest with myself, the pursuit of glory and attention for vanity’s sake, the desire to maximize practical earnings potential for a better retirement, and the yearn to be less of a psychic and financial burden on my parents — they were the chief provocations sourcing my regret and insecurity. In terms of the latter two motivations, I am young enough that I can still hold true to them. For the first one, my envious ego will just have to put up and shut up.
And wondering about the circumstances of a universe where I would have made none of those detours? I already realized it was useless behavior before, but Hirschman’s anecdotes have further spelled out and reinforced its uselessness in my mind, conditioning me to better fight off pointless, pining speculation of alternate histories in the future. Human speculation is a weak tool because we typically discount the mischief of chaos in producing unintended outcomes (Murphy’s Law). We overlook the fact that we are who we are because of the experiences we have undergone, and that a different background would have also generated a different set of speculatory fantasies because it is base human instinct to pine. Just because I chose x, does not mean that a better, ideal y would happen. An non-sequitur accident from left field could have prompted a lateral, or worse z.
Through my wanderings, I have developed and refined an artistic taste that has guided me towards works that I would have rather experienced than not. I have met a wide array of people in different industries, which has helped me sample the breadth of human variation, empathize with my friends. I have acquired knowledge that I can force myself to holistically apply in the future by exploring interdisciplinary ventures that lie between fields. I have acquired knowledge that I perhaps have already unknowingly used to my benefit.
And so, for the time being, I have grappled Melancholy to a stalemate. I relish the momentary reprieve and await the next assault of my familiar adversary, for I know we will battle again in the near future.