I know this sounds awful and makes me seem like a deadbeat, but I don’t want to be that type of person. My girlfriend of three years is even contemplating everything because she can see how little ambition I have. How can I change my thought pattern on life? — Not Excited
If your sole pursuit in life is excitement, then you are right: you’re going to be thoroughly disappointed. Excitement, in whatever part of your life, is temporary. Excitement isn’t sustainable; it isn’t meant to be sustainable. But that doesn’t mean that what comes when the excitement fades is less worthy or less fulfilling or less wonderful than the experience during the peak of excitement.
Take falling in love, for example. Falling in love is SO exciting, mostly because there’s an element of disbelief. It’s as if we’re walking around in a haze, thinking, “I can’t believe this is actually happening to me! I can’t believe this person I adore so much feels the same way about me! I can’t believe this is my life!” That’s thrilling and fun. But if you stay in the relationship long enough — say a few years — the initial excitement of falling in love and the immediate stages afterward (like moving in together and/or planning a wedding, getting married, being newlyweds, even having a baby) fades and I’d argue that what you’re left with (if you’re well-matched), though not as exciting in the traditional sense, is so much better.
What you’re left with in a relationship that passes the milestones of falling in love and committing to each other and spending a few years together is an actual LIFE together. You no longer walk around in a haze of disbelief; instead, you believe very much. You believe that, yes, this is real, this person does love you, you are worthy of the love, and this IS your life. What you are left with is trust and faith and stability and security. What you are left with is someone to make plans with all the time, both long-term and short-term. You’re left with someone who, hopefully, deeply understands you, who not only knows and sees your flaws, but also accepts you and loves you in spite of them and doesn’t ask or expect you to change. This is, honest to God, so much better than falling in love when you can only hope that once your flaws are apparent, you won’t be rejected for them.
Let’s use another analogy I am well-acquainted with: parenthood. I have two kids (7-1/2 and 3-1/2) and there was nothing so exciting as when I was pregnant with them. It was a new experience – and one I knew I’d only have once or twice. There was so much unknown, which is thrilling – so much to look forward to. Now, 7-1/2 years into my parenting experience, I can say that the excitement I feel comes in small, sometimes unexpected, ways: watching my kids learn new skills (reading, riding a bike, speaking in a different language — hell, just going to the bathroom); observing my kids making connections to life lessons I try to instill (experiences are more valuable than material objects, for example); seeing them develop new interests, independent of anything I myself might like or am purposely exposing them to (i.e.: they are becoming their own people, with their own opinions and thoughts—-how exciting!). But parenthood, for as exciting as it can be from the first positive pregnancy test to watching your children grow up to be contributing members of society, is a lot of work — something you say you dread. And, yet, it’s hard work that brings the biggest rewards. And rewards are exciting!
You know what isn’t a lot of work? Taking a nap. Naps are wonderful, but unless you’re someone exceptionally sleep-deprived, I wouldn’t call them very exciting. And that brings up another point: Sometimes being withheld certain pleasures or rewards makes the eventual delivery or experience of them much more exciting. Take chocolate cake, for example. I fucking love chocolate cake. I get excited when I eat it. Why? Because I only eat chocolate cake maybe, I don’t know, five times a year or so. If I ate it every day, it would not be exciting.
You want to change your thought pattern so you can enjoy adulthood more? Don’t pursue excitement relentlessly. Pursue it sparingly, like I pursue chocolate cake. Let excitement surprise you as you pursue other things such as: knowledge; new skills; paying your bills; making life a little better for someone else; practicing gratitude. There is excitement in these pursuits, I promise; it will find you as you reach a goal you’ve set for yourself or when you figure out something that’s been puzzling you or when you discover that you can be self-sufficient.
The fact is that unless you die an early death, which I sincerely hope doesn’t happen, you don’t have much choice anyway but to keep moving forward. You don’t have a choice but to become an adult, to earn a living, to contribute in some way to the world around you. Maybe you haven’t yet figured out what that way is going to be. Maybe you wrongly assume that the only contribution you can make is through your job or that “ambition” relates only to pursuing career goals and so you can’t be ambitious if you aren’t excited about working. But what if ambition exists outside of career pursuits (spoiler: it does) and what if you can contribute to the world simply by making one person’s day a little better? And what if being kind did the trick? What if you could make someones’s day better by being kind? Isn’t that exciting? Isn’t that an ambition worthy of pursuing?
Here’s another spoiler: Your life as an adult is going to be full of tedium, challenges, disappointments, frustration, and occasional boredom. It is also going to be joyful, rewarding, and, yes, even exciting sometimes. The key to managing the hurdles is to expect them, to know they’re coming, and to fully embrace the joyful moments as your reward for getting through the harder ones. Another key to managing the challenges and disappointments and occasional boredom is to get yourself a circle of people (and animals too) that you love and trust and like being around. Hold them up when they stumble on their own hurdles, and lean on them when you cross yours. Celebrate the joy together. And accept that excitement, like every other human emotion and experience, is fleeting. Whether for better or not, this, too, shall pass. Isn’t that exciting?
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.