The thermodynamics of mood

2020, Jul 09    

There’s a famous study that says that 3 months after a life-changing event people return to pretty much their same level of happiness - whether that is a lottery ticket or a marriage. I don’t know if ‘life-changing’ event is defined in some extremely loose way but I find this to not be the case. It has been about 1 year since I left Google. I have had many anxious periods in that 1 year, and been able to work some weeks very productively in a consulting capacity, and completely incapable other weeks of meeting my own basic human needs.

1 year out, I am much, much happier than I was at Google. I feared being left to my own devices - if I have no one to blame and no way to externalize my discontent, I told myself, I would end up beating up on myself and spiraling into the type of depression that marked my late teens. I failed a semester at Brown, almost failed a second one and ended up with few friends and fewer good memories by the time I turned 20.

Left to my own devices, I ended up pursuing a couple of little side projects, learned swimming, got much better at yoga, deepend my meditation practice, published several short stories, went on solo trips, trips with friends, trips with family. I told myself for a long time that the world wasn’t the problem, that my adaptation to it was. Maybe the idea of having to adapt to the world is what’s wrong in the first place - this belief and acceptance that you can’t get what you want, so you should learn to compromise.

I am an expert compromiser. It is almost second nature to me to play out the way an exchange would go: “Saurya wants something and reaches to get it, burns out and destroys a bunch of shit in the process, let’s skip all of that and instead just ask for less, expect less, make our own joy and live outside of the coil and toil.” But this isn’t really a way of being human. It’s a way of pseudo-enlightenment that borders more on self-punishment than true ascendancy of the spirit.

As long as I want, I will suffer. A life lived without suffering is not life at all. Anyone who chases suffering or avoids the pursuit of contentment because of the potential of suffering is getting it wrong.