May 14, 2009
Louis C.K. had a great appearance on Conan a few months ago where he really lambasted the trivial things that people get upset about. Everything is amazing, but nobody’s happy!
I’m not sure where this mindset comes from. I think it’s a more American way of thinking. We are always moving forward, always trying to advance on to the next thing. Manifest destiny baby!
But this line of thought generally means that we are never content or satisfied with the current situation no matter how great it is. And that is a bittersweet attribute to have.
My friend Nate and I got a hard lesson while we were in Europe last summer. We were sitting in a stairwell in Dublin hostel with an Irish girl. It was late, we were both tired (and most-likely sauced), and we had to get up extremely early the next morning to fly to Paris for our last leg of the trip.
I glanced down at my cell phone screen to check the time. “Well, looks like we’ll be getting a solid four hours of sleep tonight.” The sarcasm dripping off my words needed its own downspout.
“That seriously seems like that’s all we’ve been doing,” Nate groaned. “We get up one morning, go to the airport, go through baggage check, wait in big security lines, fly to a city, stay the night and repeat. It sucks.”
“I know. I just wish I could sleep in for one time this week. Why did we book these flights so early in the morning?”
The Irish girl had had enough.
“Do you hear yourselves right now?” she asked in a lovely Irish brogue.
“Do you realize what you’re complaining about? You two are bitching about flying to Paris! Do you even know how few people in the world even get to step foot in that city, or have the money to spend on trips to Europe? You’re having a great experience. Be happy for God’s Sake!”
During the course of our European Vacation we had had our fill of US criticisms and now it was starting to really bother us. Bush is a Nazi. Americans consume too much. You are all uncultured warmongers…blah…blah…blah. Our mindset was slowly becoming that of “Go suck an egg, Europe.” Who the hell was this lady to tell us our business? We were allowed to be annoyed once and a while. There’s no law against that!
Dumbfounded at the genuine indignation that our potato-eating counterpart had exhibited, we deflected the chiding the only way we knew how: we tried to flip it back on her.
“Well where do you find happiness?” Nate asked with a fresh snark in his tone.
“It comes from an appreciation for the things around you. Your family, your friends, a good cup of tea, a cigarette,” she replied.
As with any drunken person who has been scolded, we could not formulate a snappy comeback. “Yeah, that’s…what…you…think,” was the closest we got. We sulked off dejectedly and went to sleep in our barren hostel beds.
I really don’t think I appreciated the meaning of that interaction until I touched back down on US soil. Everything was great at that moment in the stairwell: I was with my friends, we were on vacation, I had some money to spend…but I wasn’t happy enough, even with all that!
Sometimes when you find yourself complaining about life, you’ve got to stop and say:
“Do you hear yourself right now?”