When I was a teenager, I ended up in a heated debate with an older friend of a friend. This man, who must’ve been more than twice my age at the time, looked a bit like Jim Carrey and had a great deal of earnestness about him. As we sat with our larger group at a local diner, we became embroiled in an argument about whether we could really expect people to make a greater effort in their daily lives. According to him, people who were slovenly, thoughtless, or just plain lazy in their daily dealings couldn’t be faulted because they were inevitably doing the best they can. I, as an angry teenage firebrand, adamantly insisted that we could hold people to task for their failings and shortcomings, because they always had the capacity to do better.
The debate was long, interminable, and never satisfyingly concluded. Somehow, life managed to go on in spite of the this, and we continued along on our respective journeys.
Lately, though, my mind has been returning to that debate. I think about how my life has changed since then, and with it, my attitudes. When I was a troublemaking teenager, swept up in a sea of hormones and uncontrolled emotions, and picking fights with the cosmos, I was paradoxically quite convinced of my absolute mastery of myself – this in spite of the fact that I didn’t know a damn thing about anything, least of all myself. But now that I’ve quieted most of my inner struggles and molded my life into more or less what I wanted it to be, things feel a bit grey and monotonous, like there is nothing left for me to push my will against. And now, I feel like I’m doing the best I can, too. Adulthood feels like something that we shuffle our way through, trying not to trip on the speed bumps, and just doing the best we can. (more…)