This is a post about how safety is an illusion and we’re all going to die.

The other day I asked on Facebook if I should apply to Clarion West’s writing workshop and I got a pretty loud resounding no from everyone for various reasons – that the average writer at Clarion didn’t get published, that I was too much of an advanced writer to benefit from it, that ‘real writers’ didn’t live in environments similar to a workshop, that I was already published, waste of money, etc. Many people said they were too advanced for Clarion West and so surely, I was as well. I think a lot of people seemed to think I had self-esteem issues about my writing because there was a lot of reassuring that I was way too awesome of a writer to learn anything from Clarion West.

So, I decided to ignore all the advice and apply to Clarion West.

I have a long history of ignoring thoughtful and sound advice and doing things that are typically deemed, well, stupid.

I dropped out of college.
I moved to Austin back in 2010 with less than $1000 to my name.
I took a job in Seattle, away from everyone I knew.
I often take long walks alone at night
I’ve gotten into cars with people I just met
I’ve spent money frivolously
I quit my job back in 2014 without a backup plan
I moved back across the country to Austin with almost no money, and moved in with my boyfriend who I’d been dating less than a month (long-distance) at the time
I quit another job in 2016 to write full-time and I depend financially on my boyfriend, who I’m not married to and has no legal obligation to support me
I got 3 dogs

All in all, I’d say everything worked out okay – I’m still alive, I’ve got experience in the game industry, have several published works that I’m proud of, have been with said boyfriend for nearly 4 years, and generally have begun to enjoy life on a daily basis. But that’s not even the point. I’m not a prophet, and I had no real idea if any of that stuff I did was going to work out. And neither were the people who told me I was being stupid and unsafe. Being a human in this world binds us to an implicit contract with fragility, instability, and unpredictability – the world is an inherently dangerous place and no amount of saving money, staying in the lights, or waiting the requisite 2 years to move in with a potential life-partner is going to mitigate potential disaster.

An important thing to understand is that I didn’t do any of those things I listed above for the hell of it. I didn’t do them on a whim, although I often made the final decision quickly.

I dropped out of college because I recognized that being financially bound to my parents was harmful to me
I moved to Austin because I wanted to make it on my own, and I realized my life wasn’t going to wait for me.
I moved to Seattle because I had a job and new experiences were valuable to me.
I quit my job because I recognized how destructive it had become to my mental health.
I spent money because I recognized that life was ephemeral, and I wanted to live in the moment instead of stockpiling it for future potential happiness
I moved in with the boyfriend I had been dating for less than a month because I saw a rare opportunity to potentially pursue a happiness greater than I’d ever known before, and the potential for that far outweighed the risk.
I quit my job despite how terrifying it was (Ever since I was 20 I have been financially independent) to rely on someone else because I saw that I had the rare opportunity to write full time that many of my peers never get. Even if we were to break up or something were to happen to my boyfriend,
I got 3 dogs because they make me fucking happy, despite how much of a mess

The reason that I ignored the advice to be “safe” was that I was pursuing my happiness and my freedom. From a young age, I have learned that freedom isn’t free – it requires a willingness to sacrifice everything, and potentially your life, in order to have the possibility to get what you want.

Doing that often requires going against conventional wisdom, and having to listen to all your family and friends telling you you’re making bad decisions. Because happiness is idiosyncratic, and the choices you decide to make won’t always be popular. Opportunities do not always come at the best times, and not all of us have the savings, wherewithal, and safety nets that allow us to pursue them in a safe manner.

I’ve met many of people who have followed “the rules”, played it safe, and still found themselves miserable – because life comes with no guarantees, our happiness is a gamble, and life ultimately doesn’t care whether or not you’re fulfilled. That can be an incredibly difficult lesson to learn, because we are often taught that if we make the right choice, we’ll be rewarded. But it doesn’t always work like that. Sure, there are inherently safer choices – like I’d say in general spending your money on college is a better choice than spending it on heroin, but it’s important to remember that neither is a guarantee for an ultimate outcome. Staying inside the walls of your apartment won’t protect you from a sudden unemployment, an economic recession, a stray bullet that goes through the wall. Marrying the “safe man” won’t protect you from being cheated on. Wearing turtlenecks won’t protect you from the possibility of getting raped.

In order to be happy, truly happy, we have to become comfortable with the fact that we have no control over anything except ourselves, and at any moment we could die.

Otherwise we let the “No,” run our lives, the “Why Bother,” run our lives, the “What’s the point?” ruin our lives, the “That’s not a good idea,” ruin our lives.

When you’re weighing whether or not you should do something risky or stupid, you have to ask yourself:

  • If this is successful, is this going to push me closer to my goals, or further away from them?
  • Do the potential positives of this action outweighs the potential negatives?
  • What is the worst that could plausibly (as in, likely, we’re not accounting for freak accidents here) happen and am I willing to take that risk?

 

Other people can offer you advice, but if you don’t listen to the internal pulse inside of you as your ultimate guide, it’s going to be difficult to achieve success. Other people don’t often understand you, your motivations and goals, or your internal psychological structures.

People often tell me that they wish they had my courage to do the things I did – to make the decisions that I did. But it didn’t feel like courage when I did it, not really, because I recognized that I had to do those things to move forward in the way that I wanted to. Living in unhappiness brought on by stasis was not acceptable to me.

Nothing can ultimately keep you safe, and we’re all going to die, but safety shouldn’t be the goal – it’s happiness.

There’s no point in preserving a life that you’ve suffocated under the weight of other people’s opinions, until you’re doing nothing but carrying around a body that’s waiting for better days instead of going out and pursuing them.

And the thing about life is that it doesn’t wait for you to make a decision – it continues on its trammeling way whether or not you’re ready for it.

And if you’re not pursuing your happiness, you’re just carrying around dead weight, waiting to die.

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