The Best Version
For the first six weeks, the summer between my junior and senior years of college was shaping out to be more Stranger than Paradise than Animal House. For whatever reason (actually, for reasons I’ll explain immediately after this) it’s been a rather nihilistic month.
In addition to some to-be-expected transitional items, such as moving to a new city and starting a new job, I’ve been increasingly confused about what to do after graduation. I’ve always taken pride in my tendencies to over-plan, but even the imaginary career paths in my head have seemed blurrier than usual. As a result of some setbacks in one field and an increased interest in other ones, I felt like I had no idea of what I enjoy. Obviously I knew I’d pursue a career in writing, but I didn’t know what to write about. I’ve never viewed writing as my passion, but as the tool I use to access my passions. I love film and television, so writing scripts is (in theory) a way I can participate in that industry. The same could be said about politics or sports or any other number of interests (turns out I have quite a few of them).
There were a lot of paths I could see myself going down, but nothing felt like it was passing the most important test of all. A lot of thinkers I admire have spoken, in various terms, about being “the best version of themselves.” Whether it’s an athlete competing or an artist creating, they all say their profession is the activity that maximizes their potential as humans. And it really felt like I hadn’t found that. I’d come close a few times, but no cigar.
So that’s the backstory.
Then last week, I met on a whim with an old writing partner of mine. I hadn’t worked with this person in a long time, and we had lost touch for months. But for reasons that were social as much as anything, we got together to talk about an old sitcom idea we had all but abandoned. And it was easily the best I’ve felt about myself in 2019. Even though it was just for an hour, I felt completely revitalized.
It became clear that while I may dread the solitary process of writing alone, writing comedy with this guy is the best version of myself. So many of my favorite memories came from working with him in the past, and while we’ve had a few setbacks, the work we produce together is so much better than anything we do on our own. The existential dread I had been feeling was likely a result of only working alone for months.
As someone who likes to be charging forward at all times, feeling directionless is the most painful emotion I can think of. But, to paraphrase Robert Hunter, sometimes you just find direction around some corner where it’s been waiting to meet you. And once you do that, you can be off to the races again in seconds.
Student, blogger, reformed career nihilist