Chronic Ambition

Chronic Ambition pic

I saw this Tweet the other day:

“My friends to me: I got my dream job & into the 6 grad schools I applied to!

Me: I didn’t cry today.”

It’s humorous, but behind every piece of humor I find, is an underlying truth.

As a recent grad, I’m all too familiar with the “So what’s next?” interrogations from inquisitive, well-meaning family and family friends. I even had my mom put off the grad party as long as possible as to give me ample time to establish a concrete plan before serving as target to such questions.

I’m not used to 1) not having a plan or concrete next set of actions, 2) “just relaxing,” or 3) doing nothing for extended periods of time. I’ve probably had no less than two panic attacks since graduating related to all the above. If there was any doubt before, I am indeed the stereotypical (but not too intense) type-A personality (not exactly a Rory Gilmore, and definitely not a Paris Gellar).

But you need not be a type-A or B or any “type” at all to have or know your own ambition. I’d venture to say that most people, or at least most of the people I’ve met have a lot of ambition. Everyone has a desire for a satisfying end result but not everyone has the means or necessary game plan for getting there.

What makes ambition potentially ‘chronic’ though is the almost detrimental impact it can have. I’m convinced that even if you eventually “have everything,” it still won’t be enough in the long run.

I liken it all to this:

I can have everything going for me (at least in the public eye), but still second-guess myself when I see that a friend or acquaintance I haven’t talked to since high school has scored a really great internship, or an acceptance to a prestigious university, or an amazing post-grad European backpacking trip, or a June wedding that puts Pinterest to shame, or or an interview for a job I perhaps was looking into as well.

What am I doing wrong? Dang, maybe I should’ve interned last summer instead of working for min wage. Wait, I had better grades; why don’t I have X,Y, or Z? What am I doing with my life?

I probably need to take a sabbatical from social media.

The point being that even when the main, primary goal is achieved, we’ll always, ALWAYS want more. Which is only natural. Growing up, my objective goal of eventually being allowed to read and watch all the Harry Potter series installments as a child has dramatically shifted to more adult, pragmatic goals. “More” is temporary once we eventually get that “more.” And if you didn’t see it already, pride and insecurity play into the deadly concoction of chronic ambition.

I wonder if all this ambition we’ve accumulated will result in yes, eventual success, but also a lethal mentality in which we believe that whatever we have in one moment isn’t good enough.

So now that I’ve posed this problem, this is where I usually offer some sort of solution or solace. Unfortunately I have none, not right now anyway. I’ll let you know when I do…and whatever “next big thing” I’ve moved onto.

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A ‘Weighty’ Matter: When Appearance is Not Everything

A Weighty Matter pic 3

Every summer I come home from college, I get an LA Fitness membership. If you’ve ever gotten a membership here, you’ll know it comes with a complementary fitness assessment with a trainer.

Although very educational, the worst part of it is getting a reality check on what I’m doing wrong in terms of health/fitness/weight management. My body’s probably not good evidence for the fact that I do work out 5+ times a week (and thus dread the perhaps slightly skeptical looks the trainers give me when asked about that). The other ‘fun’ part is finding out my (dun dun dun) body fat percentage.

So here goes – I am at slightly less than 25% body fat. It’s average, but if I think about it, that basically means that ¼ of me is fat. And the rest is like muscle, bones, blood, etc. Vital structures and whatnot.

For the rest of the session, Mr. Bodybuilder Dude and I discussed my goals (or what they should be), such as eating more protein (as I keep developing mysterious bruises possibly because of protein deficiency), getting my fat percentage down to 20%, and developing some rock-hard abs (the least likely of these things to happen).

I have no problem with improving some of my health habits. None. But something that’s been weighing (no pun intended) on my mind is this question:

Is it possible to live a full, happy life knowing you aren’t necessarily attractive, or in constant pursuit of trying to be?

The simple answer is yes. But living in a Western culture constantly saturated by consumerist ideology and the “You need X, Y, and Z in order to be happy” mentality challenges this idea.

A Weighty Matter pic 2

Sometimes I think I’d like to go on some sort of solo, spiritual nomadic journey where I can shepherd some animals, wear some gaucho pants, and get in touch with my soul outside the confines of shallow society.

But I’d probably get bored pretty quickly in that much isolation.

I once turned on my car radio to hear a Beverly Hills Physicians ad advertise, “Give the gift of plastic surgery or lap band to the loved one in your life!”

What. The.

If a ‘loved one’ gifted me with this…that’s practically akin to gifting someone a one-way ticket to a vacation spot and ‘neglecting’ to purchase the return ticket.

I once worked in a position where I saw first-hand how one’s looks can be just a little helpful in getting a leg up in the workplace. Haha, no not my editing job and not MY looks, but those of some of the ladies I worked with. Let’s just say I saw how some their charm, perfectly arched eyebrows, enviable facial features and other assets could be more valuable than applicable skills. I didn’t see it a whole lot, but it was there.

Maybe that’s why I like writing so much. I’ve had most if not all of my academic or writing-related achievements recognized by their own merit. There was no need or expectation for me to look a certain way – my worth can be measured by my work without any thought being given to my appearance. I’m like Phantom of the Opera!

A Weighty Matter pic 1

OK, so I’m not a semi-psychopathic, musically-gifted and architectural genius, but you get the idea.

On the other hand, I’ve noticed how different people have treated me differently based on whether or not I was wearing makeup or glasses, or whether I’d chosen to wear clothes that didn’t happen to flatter my figure, or even if something as frivolous as lipstick shade seemed to unfortunately have more of a “come hither” effect. I know what I look like. I’m not Emma Watson by a long shot, but I’m not going to cry about it.

That’s why I get frustrated by people who criticize Adele or Kelly Clarkson about their looks. They’re not marketing their looks to the world (although they’re both ridiculously beautiful); their craft is music. Who cares if a celeb ate more than a stalk of celery for dinner?

For people who automatically associate heftier bodies with sloth or lazy lifestyles, I could equally ignorantly make the assumption that someone with a perfectly made-up face or body spent more time on themselves than their intelligence or family lives. Of course I could be wrong, but they could be in their assumptions too, right?

Will I be OK if I never get down to 20% body fat? Probably. What if I got into an accident that left my face permanently scarred? It would obviously not be ideal, but I would survive. What I wouldn’t be able to handle is losing some sort of capacity that left me unable to do the things I’m good at.

There’s a thousand more qualities I’d rather have attributed to me before “attractive.” And there’s a thousand more insults that are far worse than “unattractive.”

And after reading this if you still feel blue, just go onto the missed connections section on Craigslist and look up the sketchiest ad placements. You’ll feel a lot better about yourself knowing you did NOT put those ads in.