Please Kill Me,
“The only constant in life is change.”
Some of you may not know, but that quote originates from the pre-Socratic Ionian philosopher, Heraclitus of Ephesus. You should look him up when you get the chance (interesting dude). He was known for his word play, paradoxical philosophies, and rationality. He was also a misanthrope—so many creatives can relate to him in some way, shape, or form.
Anyway, that quote has been on my mind for the past few weeks, and I’m not entirely sure what to do with it (Write a story…you idiot. #InnerVoice). Not that I haven’t done some deep dives on the idea. I’m sure that more than a few of you have heard the saying—in high school, college, the end of a long-term relationship (the Fast & Furious franchise?) etc. The idea, IMO, implies an ever moving, growing, and shifting life. As they’re wont to do, my mental gears began to spin.
I’d always looked at life, prior to this writerly journey, as something of a rat-race. Not a marathon, but a sprint. We train for the first portion of our lives (18-25 years or so) — looking for a path to follow, preparing to walk that path, and (if we’re lucky) riding that road until our hearts stop ticking. It would seem that’s the motivation for most people. The never-ending search for risk-free “stability” is something that signifies success in our era. But what if it’s wrong? Not the goal. The silently agreed upon motivation on the road to it.
Though the idea of chasing stability doesn’t always pan out how we’d like, I’m inclined to agree with the notion. For many of us, particularly those with no significant creative ambition, it’s better to have something to aim for, rather than floating through the ethos until the inevitable day the reaper comes for your whittle soul.
Conversely, I think there’s some undue effect that the idea has on our psyche. Is it good to let the idea of “being well off,” consume us and drive us toward subsequent success or failure? Maybe. Is it okay to eschew the idea all together and take life as it comes? Also, maybe. The tricky thing about life, as said above, is that it’s only constant is change. Due to that, it never really matters how good or bad anyone is doing in a particular moment—because it could all be lost or gained in the blink of an eye.
That’s where my thoughts usually come to the cliff edge of sanity. I’ve seen the ideology of over-achievers, watched them accomplish what they’d set out to do, and then watched them fruitlessly wade in a sort of purgatory—not moving much of anywhere, not doing much of anything, self-important, and simultaneously unfulfilled.
I’ve also seen the mentality of under-achievers, watched them “take it easy,” watched life use them at will, and ultimately watched them flail in self-resentment (for giving in), or (similar to their counterparts) not move much of anywhere, not do much of anything, self-important, and unfulfilled.
The similarities are uncanny. However, I believe that those two personality types are reacting to the same “safe and stable” mentality. One submits. The other rebels. Very few ever escape the conditioned spectrum of perceived ‘success’. They just react to the expectation differently. As is their right. Without a blueprint, roadmap, or general idea of what an individual should do—society would crumble pretty quickly.
In both scenarios, the individual in question is clinging to stability—for better or worse. This is what troubles me, because “…the only constant in life is change.” Sooner or later person A or person B will need to adapt, adjust, or simply crash and burn.
In this way, our cultural embrace of “unchanging stability” is damning. It’s a myth. In addition to leaving people unfulfilled, angry, and resentful—it positions us all as rotating seat-fillers. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand the idea of living as just another replaceable bolt in the cultural machine.
That’s all person A and person B become—seat-fillers—chasing risk-free stability or avoiding the risk altogether. To me, the 29-year-old pencil-pusher and the 29-year-old pot-smoking burnout are one in the same. At least, they will be at 45—unfulfilled, unhappy, trapped in their own patterns.
But what if there’s an out? What if a select few of us could transcend the heeding jowls of capitalism, without sacrificing a comfortable life? Without giving up a part of ourselves? Without taking our ball and going home?
That’s what I think creatives are. At least, the ones who “make it.” They’re a group of individuals who refuse to chase the encouraged “safe” path and/or refuse to flee from the uncertain abyss that comes with taking a risk. In this way, creatives come to embody the balance between freedom and stability. If we work hard enough, the ‘risk’ gradually dissipates.
Simply put, I don’t think it’s necessary to make a trade off, all just for the sake of a risk-free, stable, and semi-fulfilled life. Similarly, I think that with a proper goal in place, it’s unnecessary to hold oneself to (or reject) the societal roadmap, in exchange for the illusion of freedom.
We should treat life like a double beam balance scale, for which we hold ourselves accountable to both sides. We should ritualistically re-weigh options against our own sense of self-satisfaction and reality. A consistent checking of this scale could do wonders in the way of keeping life within our own grasp. Keeping us happy and prepared for the next major shift.
Because the only constant in life is change. We can either change with it, or be left behind. No matter who you are, or how much you’ve done, that’s the REAL game.
Live intelligently. Live happily. Embrace both sides of the ethos.
Life’s a marathon we can all win. We just have to keep checking the scale.
Until Next Time,