I was sitting in a crowded coffee shop in Dublin staring at the exposed wood walls with a heart and belly full of warm thoughts and liquids when I wrote these words. I had one simple thought on my mind: I wish I’d known how good life could get.
Gratitude has never been something that flowed naturally for me. I found it very hard to consistently focus on all the good things in my life until they were under threat. Yet I’m very lucky and always have been. I was raised in a beautiful place. I was accepted into all the schools I wanted to go to and graduated without any debt. I got the jobs I wanted and made friends with the people I admired. I successfully struck out on my own, defining for myself the work I want to do for a very long time. I live in the city I always dreamed of and find great meaning in loving people to the best of my ability.
But for some reason, it’s the parts that don’t fit so neatly into this positive framing that I find more meaning in. The loneliness. The self-hatred. The floundering, the fights, the heartbreak, the hard choices. Maybe it’s masochism or maybe it’s human nature, but I’ve always enjoyed a certain degree of suffering. It reminds me of why I try. It used to also bring me a sense of relief, like I deserved the pain in some way.
The logical conclusion here would be to view the world as scary and cruel, but I don’t. I hold a lot of conflicting beliefs, and have become happier the longer I’ve sat with them and realized that internal conflicts are a fact of life. You can do the wrong things sometimes and still be a good person. You can choose to see yourself as a victim, or you can choose to not. Beliefs don’t need to be true for them to be beneficial to you.
Which is perhaps a good way to view gratitude. I’ve become significantly happier upon learning to feel lucky and unlearning that I deserve a full plate of life’s pain. Maybe you feel the opposite. Either way, I think Simon Weil was right when she said that “love of god is pure when joy and suffering inspire an equal degree of gratitude.”
Stuff I learned and was wrong about in 2023 (notes)
I like documenting all the things I was wrong about on a yearly basis.
How to be a kid that goes places (essay)
My answer to “What makes the founders of your generation different?”
How Colleges Make More Money Than God By Giving It Away by Conrad Bastable (essay)
Deep dive into the economics of the American college industrial complex.
All of Jerry’s writing on uncertainty (the silent killer of startups) is excellent.
Whole Earth Index (archive)
A goldmine of hippy nostalgia!
Perhaps one of the most beautifully written books I’ve read in recent years. On grief, love, and loss.
Priscilla by Sofia Coppola (film)
It was just as good as everyone says!
New Blue Sun by Andre 3000 (album)
Andre branched out into flute music and it’s lovely.
Moondance by Van Morrison (song)
A classic, tailor-made for dancing.
Need it by Half Moon Run (song)
Beautiful, slow, sad.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.