I suspect there’s a third path somewhere, as with so many things a simple binary doesn’t capture the complexity of things
but as I feel ambition surging, never have I hated it as much as now. Ambition has cost me so much, so many years, my youth, people precious to me…. and for what? Definitely this wasn’t an outcome I was expecting. I thought I would have achieved more, be admired more. Instead I learned how terrible those desires can be, and that my need to be loved and to love is stronger still than those.
I was reading someone else’s post, where they talked about the agony of not aspiring to more, to being happy with a low station. They didn’t put it quite that way, I believe they called it some sort of over generosity, enabling of a sort. It appeared to me this was part of their self loathing, but I identified with it. I thought to myself “Am I enabling? Am I accepting too little?”
There’s no simple answer. I’m well aware that I’m less than I could be. What I’m not convinced of is that it is a bad thing. Ambition has left scars that I’m still trying to heal. So by not being, by not pushing, I validate my pain, and attempt to forgive the self.
This makes me an outsider, an opposition to the central cultural theme of being all you can be. I was told I am a sort of satanic figure, questioning all that is “holy” and considering the value of the individual…. I think you can’t rebel against Christianity without coming across as a little satanic. I’m sure they called Martin Luther satanic, to say nothing of Martin Luther King, or John Calvin. I’m nothing like them, I don’t see my belief system being folded into faith, becoming the faith. No, faith must save itself. Those called to represent and serve it are tasked with reviving it, it isn’t my job.
That’s the bitter maturity of it all; so many things in this world aren’t my job. Perhaps nothing is my job, eh? My job is to tend, to care for, and otherwise to be unnoticed….. again how this opposes the idea of ambition and acclaim.
I never thought I’d be nihilistic, but then I never expected this amount of pain. I keep preparing to be challenged on it, asked to do more, only to see others afraid to confront me. They’re afraid I’ll expose the futility and pointlessness of it all. They fear I’ll tear down all they hold sacred. Maybe they’re right, I certainly consider nothing holy, and nothing worthy of reverence.
I’m an outcast, and nothing more than that do I aspire to. If such a small thing is such a threat, how fragile the systems of authority must be.
I vote ambition is an ally. The enemy is fear: the waste product of ambition. Think of it, suppose you were psychologically incapable of fear, if you were running on pure ambition/desire like a squirrel going for a nut despite falling on his ass 100x. There would be only 2 possible outcomes: either you get the nut or you die.
the problem is we arent like squirrels. Humans I believe process fear on a deeper and usually self defeating level.
Religion is a great metaphor here. On one hand we’re told parables of how god helps those who help themselves. We’re taught about David going up against Goliath and winning. But we’re also fed stories like Abraham, where you just gotta obey the rules and slaughter your son just bc you must follow the rules and never question anything. Personally I find rules unbearable, and it sounds like you also have an instinct to question/rebel. But then theres that fear again dragging you back to a unremarkable life which will never satisfy you. I think this state is true hell. This not knowing, always wondering if you couldve been greater but unable to accept mediocrity. I think the only resolution is to get angry/frustrated enough that you dont give a fuck… then fear disappears and youll take the consequences of ambition with no regrets
or to sum it up in one question: is it better to burn out, or fade away?
I feel like we’re made to be hungry for things that we are unlikely to get. That life of greatness, significance, self made success? odds are at best 1 in 1,000. Less if you’re born poor, more if you’re born rich but the actually likelihood of you or I being rich is also less than 1 in 1,000.
When I was younger I wanted to be a comedian, so I looked into it, people who succeed, but also people who failed. What mattered most was never ability, it was meeting that right person who can fling your career forward. Millions fail for every one who “makes it.” I decided those odds weren’t good enough for me to bet something as valuable as my life on.
I guess this is where I deluded myself, I thought psychology was more merit based, less chance. In some ways it is, if you start that run early, get into the right undergrad, set yourself up for success in grad. But when I looked at it, the degree I wanted, and the work it would take, it was no different than becoming a comedian. I had this fantasy of what making it would be like, but it wasn’t rooted in what actually was/is.
I intend to keep improving myself, I don’t know how to stop THAT. What I’ve stopped doing is craving the validation of others. I’d rather have a quiet life, one that I enjoy, than take that meager chance of big success.
I’ve met thousands of people in all different stages and statuses, from a district attorney on the high end, to a lowly single parent on the other. The people at the top are always calculating, always trying to figure out what they need to do to advance. They aren’t happy, they aren’t satisfied, they’re empty as the symbols they cling to. The happy? Those who learned to enjoy what they’ve got.
Yes, those are the ones I remember; the ones who despite humble surrounding managed to make a home there. Every massive failure I’ve seen comes down to one thing; over reach, greed. People think “if I just risk a bit more, try a bit harder, I can hit that narrow target.” Some actually do, but not most.
Everyone wants to believe they’re exceptional, but to quote Syndrome in the Incredibles; “When everyone’s special, no one is.”
Someone has to do what needs doing, not what is glamorous or rewarding. It’s not as plain on the face of it, that doing “important” work often comes down to ego. A weak ego needs an external validation of identity, to say “you’re doing right”. But everyone sees it coming.
I guess that’s also part of my situation. The only real advantage I have is being unexpected, being atypical. So if people see me coming, I’ve already lost. I have to find a better disguise, outer trappings that don’t confess my loyalties.
“I feel like we’re made to be hungry for things that we are unlikely to get.”
I think that can be a good thing if we hit the perfect balance between delusion & reality. Say for example a romantic relationship. The best time is right in the beginning, almost before anything really happens, when you get those butterflies as you imagine getting the girl/guy. After that, you either get your heart broken or you do get the other person but the thrill will never be as good as that initial desire for something you don’t/can’t have.
So back to general life stuff, like you said we’re almost designed to thrive on that hungry feeling. I bet that’s what has led to the most progress overall. What sucks is like you said only a rare few can make it last. Most of us get crushed early in life and we quit, then attempt to downshift into a sort of plan B consolation prize.
But there’s a lot to be said for never quitting. I suppose a comedian or entertainer can keep at it, thru the lame gigs, seedy motels & outright disasters, and as long as they keep going then it’s never truly failure because the dream is alive. The carrot is still there at the end of the stick.
Of course like the donkey going for the carrot, it can be seen as a pretty foolish venture but as long as the donkey never realizes it maybe he’s having a good time.
My biggest fear is actually getting that carrot and realizing it tastes awful. Or maybe even just the act of eating it and realizing there’s nothing left can be profoundly depressing. That’s why I’m intrigued at celebrity suicides. As bad as I have it, I never want to reach the top and realize it’s nothing but a cliff overlooking an infinite abyss.
Unrealised ambition is the mother of all hell and torment.