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The Conundrum of Comfortable

The Conundrum of Comfortable
This entry is part 30 of 36 in the series Every Single Day

I’m not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it. — Niccolo Machiavelli

This is an excerpt from the book “Every Single Day” coming out October 17, 2017. Want to pre-order? One click away.

We’re about to enter the choppy waters of Part 2: Passion and leave the quiet peace of Part 1: Procrastination. It’s just this one last chapter, I swear.

You often hear the heart-torturing stories of someone who has come back from the depths of hell to rise up to go above and beyond where they started.

Samantha had always dreamt of being a professional bowler, but her house had just been swept away by the avalanche (only the bowling balls remained — a sign!?), her husband was kidnapped by the evildoers, her job at the accountancy agency dangled by a thread, her doctor hinted that she might want to “get her affairs in order.” She struggles, she cries herself to sleep, she fights, she climbs, she ascends, and finally there she is, dirt in between her teeth, a dead cockroach in her hair, but she is at the summit and is beaming, glowing, at the top of her life and there’s pounding music and fireworks and it’s all just glorious. She did it! She truly, actually did it.

When she declared in a Facebook post to everyone she knew that she was leaving the accountancy and going after her passion to go pro in bowling, the virtual crowds lifted her up on their virtual shoulders and paraded her through the virtual streets. She was on virtual cloud nine. Everyone understood that after all of that torture and torment and terrible tragedy, this was a clear path to redemption. They applauded her bold move and the calls started coming in from talk shows for her to tell her story.

Then there’s Fred. Fred actually sat in a cubicle near Samantha at the accountancy, but they were not close friends. Samantha was probably going to get fired, but Fred’s job was safe. In fact, Fred’s whole life was safe. His house was on the hill, so it didn’t get swept away. He was pretty good health, at least that’s what his routine check-up said. He wasn’t really into bowling, but every single night on his drive home from work he dreamt of following his true and deep and pure passion: Macramé.

He’d only told a few strangers, usually on airplanes, about his dream because he thought most people would think he’s crazy. He’d done extensive research and was rather certain that there was a hole in the market for the variant called Cavandoli macramé. He had a secret business plan that he hid in the bottom drawer of the bathroom, under the extra cotton balls. He even went so far as to meet with a business strategist about his idea and the strategist said, verbatim, “Fred, you’re hiding a goldmine here. Based on your numbers and you passion, you’d be an idiot not to pursue this dream of yours. Oh, and if you don’t do it, I might just do it myself. No offense.”

But the accountancy needed him. He’d been there for seven years and he had good healthcare benefits and they had those everything bagels that were somehow toasted just right — he could never replicate that at home as much as he tried.

He had conversations with himself on those long drives home at night. “Everyone would make fun of me. I mean, seriously, who does macramé? And then Cavandoli macramé? It sounds like an Italian yoga pose.”

Every Single Night he tortured his soul in the silence and solitude of freeway traffic. Other than this “cute little side dream” of his, his life was perfect: a solid job with a good income, a perfect family life, a dog, they traveled to kind-of-exotic places on holiday, he even just bought a new weed whacker and when he wore his noise-cancelling headphones, the sound was blocked out and he could whack weeds in the garden and listen to his favorite podcast, “Machiavellian Macramé Master Class.” It was only 45 minutes and if he really got every corner of the garden meticulously, he could hear an entire episode. It was pure bliss.

Fred was torn up inside. On the outside, his life was just fine. It was as it should be. It was (WARNING: he comes a word that you might want to shield your eyes from): comfortable.

Like a tar pit that slowly kept even the strongest of dinosaurs stuck in its sticky morass. Or a sand hill that was worse than two steps forward and one step back and it wasn’t even one step forward and two steps back. No no. This was the ultimate in torture: this sand hill where Fred parked his life was one step forward and one step back.

It was a Groundhog Day of an existence. He secretly hoped he might get fired. When he heard about Samantha’s house getting swept away in the flood, he quietly accepted that his house was fine and he could continue on with the status quo — but why didn’t he buy on the lower part of the hill? Maybe that would have been the trigger that allowed his life to change.

“ … the trigger that allowed his life to change.”

He waited, extremely patiently for some external force to sweep in and make that change. He even kept an eye out for it and would have welcomed it with open arms — even if it meant no more everything bagels.

But it never came.

As he drove home on yet another night in traffic, he wondered if that big external change would ever come. He turned up the volume on his podcast and slumped down in the driver’s seat.

“ … in the driver’s seat.”

Who has it better off? Whose struggles are more “real”? Who are you?

  • Possible: Fred
  • Impossible: Samantha
  • Repossible: You
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