One night I put on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas for very specific background noise to my existential crisis. On the threshold of the future I lay down pleading with whatever neon God decides it all, “Please please let me succeed, let me have some money, let someone love me, and for God’s sake let me be happy.”
When you don’t know what you want you tend to spend a lot of time begging, and beggars can’t be choosers. I wait around for some silence but all I’m left with is the Circus Circus scene of the movie, where the incoherent main characters watch trapeze artists fly through the air with ease, right above them, while they remain clueless on the ground, in a haze.
It’s a great metaphor for the life of a college kid about to graduate. All around you there are people doing vital acrobatics, challenging your ability to understand success in any capacity. Someone who graduated last year has a major job, a new house and the distinct feeling that everything is falling into place, while you like a baby deer are flailing around hopelessly.
When you see your friends get engaged on Facebook while you’re netflixing a show you’ve watched a thousand times, these feelings can creep up on you, and quick like a bunny you search for something you’ve done in recent history that can compare to their success. Most of the time you come up empty, save for some moderate happiness on a Friday night, somewhere in the darkness.
These people who have it all…it’s like they’re flying above you, careless and free, working and happy. While you’re rooted in the uncertainty of a life becoming less and less permanent they are unhinged and ready to take the next steps toward adulthood or even worse, happiness.
Then you realize, you haven’t even given yourself the chance to fly. By giving the trapeze artists the power you’re sacrificing your own meteoric rise to the sky. Those who are achieving the illusive American Dream can’t be too far away from those living in the American nightmare. Ultimately, you have to choose which camp to be apart of, or just live with both, such is the duality of life.
Windbags of all shapes and sizes will tell you, “Go out and be somebody, lose weight, get happy and do your best.” What they’re missing are the steps to get there. Nobody ever tells you those. They leave it up to chance, and discovery, and some people just never get to that point.
Nobody can map out the jagged road that will lead you to success, or happiness or God forbid, love. All we can do is stumble around in the darkness until we find what illuminates it. Is it the American Dream we’re chasing, or are we just waiting for some clairvoyant sign that we’re in the right place, doing the right things? We’re never going to get that.
Some of us learn at an early age that we only have one choice: to buy the ticket, and take the ride. Despite the cost or the hardship, the grotesque renderings of first experiences and last words we have no choice but to live in the world we are provided. Those who transcend their worlds and touch other ones are the ones we remember. It’s just no easy task to do that. Only in times of extreme clarity will we find what we were meant to do, and even then, try getting a job doing that.
Suddenly, the trapeze artists start falling from the sky, and just then we realize they’re human again. They’re capable of hurt, longing and sacrifice just the same as us. Those who have succeeded at a faster rate before us or have surpassed us still have the same issues. It’s tough to recognize through the jealousy and the tears, the misplaced anger and the long nights.
Throughout history it’s evident who spent their time as a jealous wreck and who spent their time working toward the ultimate goal of freedom and happiness. I guarantee you’ll find a lot more trapeze artists on the side of freedom, and a lot more villains on the side of jealousy.
One day, you’ll decide which one to become, and that’s the scariest part.