Stop Worshipping At The Altar Of The Status Quo

2009 October 21

It will probably comes as no great shock that I have a mental list of character traits and behaviors that set my (usually very low) blood pressure skyrocketing*. Don’t we all? Okay, so maybe not everyone archives theirs in bullet list form, but still. I was reminded of one of the big-ticket annoyances recently while reading this article. Is that not the most unsatisfying ending EVER? They decided that missing each other would suck, so breaking up was a better option? I don’t even know these people and I’m vicariously angry at their passivity and limp acceptance that this is the way things had to be. God, people. These are your lives. This is your future. Start brainstorming! Don’t force me to go all Tim Gunn with the “Make it work!” exhortations.

524844534_ecf408f869Photo by taberandrew

And then, just this week, I got another reminder of how much unquestioning acquiescence frustrates me while scanning the comments in reply to a Warp and Weft interview I did. More than one commenter suggested that the interviewee should just resign herself to the status quo. Things are what they are in her field of work and they aren’t gonna change for a damn long time. Better get used to it, sweetheart.

The idea that change is entirely exogenous, that things as they are now are how they’ll stay  (at least until the unnamed powers that be decide otherwise) maddens me. Resignation. A shrug of the shoulders. C’est la vie. What are you gonna do? Can’t fight city hall. Like hell you can’t. The people who change things, who make it happen, whose blood, sweat and tears make the world go around aren’t a rarefied breed. They aren’t “visionary change agents” (gag me). They don’t have grand game-changing plans.  They’re us. Let that sink in. You and me. They’re stubborn. They’re impatient. They’re not calculating the odds, the ROI, the failure rate, they simple want something and by virtue of wanting it know it be attainable/achievable and then set about the profoundly unsexy work of putting in the effort to get it. It isn’t glamorous, but the job gets done.

We tell ourselves that they’re special because it lets us off the hook. If we call them innovators, entrepreneurs, the exception to the rule, a fluke, etc., it allows us to keep ignoring  that what they have or have done is within our own grasp if only we’re prepared to make the same sacrifices or put in the same effort. It absolves of us holding ourselves to the same standard of accomplishment if we paint a 50-year marriage or a business model for electronic journalism as utterly far-fetched. We spin apocryphal tales of their unique talents, their lucky breaks, their charmed path, because it’s less painful than admitting that they aren’t any more extraordinary than us, except that they hit the gas when we hit the brakes (or talked ourselves out of getting behind the wheel in the first place).

It’s okay not to possess the things you sigh over others having or not to undertake the feats they’ve achieved, to skip the effort, write off the end result. That’s your choice.  What’s not okay is lying to yourself and buying into the fiction that whatever it was that you desperately need/want was out of reach in the first place and that even with all of your commitment, all of your hard work, your belief, your will, it still wouldn’t have happened, so why waste the energy? Stop kidding yourself and stop romanticizing the path to change, to happiness, to a new and better way. It’s just paved with the diligence of regular joes. And just like the road to hell, good intentions alone aren’t worth a damn in the grand scheme of things.

*Someday, maybe I’ll share this list with you and just to even the playing field, also mention  a few of traits for which I have a wealth of appreciation and affection. But really, after I tell you those things, what would be left to know about me?

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Taking Matters Into Your Own Hands: An Interview With Dr. Betty Dodson
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Be Happier By Being Happier