Reflections on healing trauma, writing, and books by Tokyo-based memoirist
I’m Freed by Frivolity

I’m Freed by Frivolity

Last week, I was pretty stressed about the US election, but I’m feeling pretty good today. I guess I’m having a pretty common experience. I could look on the dark side and start lamenting the way almost 48% of the population voted (I haven’t checked the numbers, lately, so I don’t know if this is number still holds). Also, how messed up is it that a candidate can have 4.1 million votes–maybe more, again, I haven’t checked lately–more than the other, and the race is considered close? When will they get rid of this antiquated system?

I could lament all of that stuff, but I’d rather just feel good for now. Yeah, we have work to do, but work can’t happen without rest and contented basking. It’s really nice to go on social media now and see so many celebratory posts. Everything is so much lighter and more joyful and the world is starting to make sense again.

Personally, I started feeling better even before the election was called. I listened to the second podcast interview Malcolm Gladwell did on Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso. First, I love Sam Fragoso, he’s like a hip Ira Glass, and I wish that I listened to Talk Easy more, but I’m so inundated with podcasts and audiobooks that it’s hard to keep up. Secondly, Malcolm Gladwell is so stubbornly optimistic, it’s infectious. Another mood-lifting interview is the Talk Easy with Elizabeth Gilbert (duh, of course, I’d say that).

Listening to that interview helped me feel more positive about my own life. I usually view myself as someone who has squandered opportunities and/or someone so hopelessly broken (or defective) that she’ll never be able to get what she wants out of life.

Some of the fuel that I like to throw on my fire of self-doubt is the impracticality of my skills. As I sit here trying to figure out how to define “impractical” to clarify my point, I realize how subjective the word is. But, we all know what I mean, right? No one ever suggests that an accountant should work for the love of accounting and not be paid, but we hear that often enough about artists. The reason I find it so hard to define, though, is because art enriches almost everyone’s life in some way. If art makes our lives more liveable, then how is that impractical?

Maybe I should divide practical and impractical by using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I’m talking about the lower tiers versus the higher tiers.

I studied art in college, and I studied integral health in grad school, but despite those impractical choices, I still managed to have a rich and interesting life that has included high-paying jobs, property ownership, living in cool cities, and having the time to write a book (and no, my life isn’t over, I’m still fairly young). There’s no direct relationship between what I did in college and the life I had after college, and the same goes for graduate school, but my education helped me a ton in indirect ways. If nothing else, it taught me that I could put up with a whole lot of bullshit, if necessary. It also made the world much more manageable than it would’ve been otherwise.

That doesn’t mean I think that people should pick impractical majors or do the impractical thing. I’ve merely found a way to value myself and my own life-path. I can accept that I was made to serve the higher tiers and that’s it. I acknowledge that the higher tiers can’t exist without the lower tiers, but now I’m buoyed by the knowledge that it’s ok if I don’t serve those lower tiers. We cover the lower tiers in enough places that a whole bunch of people like me can exist.

Most of all, my impractical, high-tier loving self has not stopped me from having a full life. It’s weird that I say that my “self” hasn’t stopped me, but so often, I feel like my biggest obstacle is me. This is where Malcome Gladwell comes in. Even though he never explicitly said anything about this in his interview, I was inspired by his attitude. He stays out of his own way most of the time, and when he doesn’t, he finds it amusing, rather than devastating.

His example allowed me to step out of my own way a little bit, and measure my life by what it has been, rather than what it hasn’t been. Also, I don’t have to approach the high-tier stuff, like ideology, with the same urgency as the low-tier stuff, like food and shelter. It is frivolous, and frivolity is freeing.

I realize that this is a really abstract and jumbled entry, but it’s where I am, right now.

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