Pressure, quirks and chopping wood

A close friend shared that his plans for today involved a quiet day at work. He also mentioned that he was getting screamed at by everyone he shared the plan with. Today is new year’s eve after all and there’s a certain pressure to do something memorable.

I was reminded of an evening a bunch of us spent together as teenagers. I think it was new years eve. After some time spent gaming in the afternoon, we spent about 3 hours in the side walk discussing our plans for the evening. Ironically, it was well into the evening by the time we ended our discussion. And, this wasn’t a one-time occurrence. We enjoyed talking about what to do. That meant everyone shared their preference and pretty much got berated for suggesting what always seemed like a dumb idea. Planning what to do typically meant lots of laughter and, I think, as a result, we spent a significant portion of those years planning.

Planning was the excuse, of course. It was just a blast to spend time together.

When I look back to my childhood, some of the best moments my friends and I spent together were spent on the most unspectacular things. An evening hanging out at my place, “planning,” a sleep over with a movie or two, riding to the beach (It was 1 hour away. So, it wasn’t the hanging out at the beach as much as it was about the ride), playing, eating panipuri at a roadside chaat shop, and just cracking up at each other’s expense – none of these cost much. But, they all made for really cool memories.

One of the funny consequences of the digital age and social media is that, somehow, they’ve added a certain pressure of expectation to moments of fun. Suddenly, it is not enough to be on vacation, it matters that it is a really cool vacation. Similarly, it is not clear if a fun evening with friends counts without a tagged status update or photo. As a result, fun occasions like new years days and valentines day have become high pressure days where we compete for likes and social status. Maybe some find it fun. I sure hope they do. This is for all those who don’t.

As you think about your fun events either to celebrate this new year’s day or an upcoming vacation, I really hope you think about what makes it fun for YOU. If that means, spending a week by yourself, so be it. In doing this, you will have to embrace your quirks. I realized a year or so ago that I don’t mind working on “stuff” when I’m on a break. What does matter to me is waking up without an alarm. You see, I sleep 10-11 hours on average most vacations and, as long as I do that, I’m happy.

It is up to us to design a life that will embrace that quirkiness. There is no shortcut to looking inward.

Finally, I came across this Zen quote – “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

It is a fantastic quote. Applying it to this context, it doesn’t matter how rich/successful/enlightened we are – at the end of the day, we are still human beings who crave love, attention, engagement, good food, good times and sleep. Here’s to that and more – on this new year’s eve and beyond.