By Olga Agafanova
A story I heard on the radio the other day made me think about how many people have resigned themselves to muddling through life, some at a surprisingly young age.
I remembered meeting this stereotypically awkward programmer who shied away from nearly everything, unwilling or unable to change his habits, not taking the risk of inviting someone into his world. His colleagues considered him to be very good at his job and very bad at living.
He made me wonder how things would play out for a guy like him in a setting other than a Southern suburb: what if he lived in some charming small European town, where old men while away the evenings playing checkers and couples stroll through generous public parks? Would he feel more at ease in another society where people are forced to interact with each other simply because there are more of them living together per square mile? Would Tokyo with its thirty-seven million dwellers in tiny apartments be too much but the island of Cozumel in Mexico, with a mere 100, 000 people living in tropical paradise, could be just right?
Or, perhaps it really is all in one’s head and the measure of success is to what extent we can squeeze the best of out what we get handed by fate. The rule ought to be that you’re better off taking a stab at something than not. Every day does not have to resemble an issue of National Geographic: it can be as simple as finally auditioning for that community theater troupe or joining a writing group such as the SCWW Columbia II. Some people are very physical and they express themselves by doing physical things. That’s not my life but I do admire those who have the inner drive to climb mountains and run triathlons.
Life is rarely spontaneously delightful: we have to make an effort to experience it, instead of just sleepwalking, stumbling from one decade into the next, until one day the end is near and the regrets kick in.
Another memory comes to mind: once, I observed this unhappy woman in a checkout lane. Her kid was nagging her, the supermarket was crowded and noisy – all mundane things -- but there was something about the expression on the woman’s face that caught my eye. She was not just tired or annoyed, she was defeated, not by an insignificant interaction with the cashier but by life itself. Her eyes did not shine or twinkle: they were dull and dark, all joy having gone out of them a long time ago. The woman clearly was not looking forward to the next day or the next thirty years.
That, to me, is the life that is absolutely worth avoiding. So let us keep on writing and keep on trying to have an abundant, purposeful life.