All I Ever Wanted

The two things I need to see before I die.

I walked into my condo this Tuesday evening, fresh from a productive day at the office where I made things that will one day, hopefully, make people feel warm and fuzzy about a tech giant.

I bought some groceries, some water, some fruit, but mostly some things to make pizza. Why? Because making — and, quite especially, eating — pizza brings me great joy. I can take ingredients — tomato, mozzarella, basil, mushroom, olive oil, dough and corn meal — and turn them into a colorful, flavorful disc that can be inhaled as deliciously as possible. It’s one of the things I love to do. Writing is another. They aren’t all that much different.

Why do I tell you all this? Because, at their core, those two things — the office and the pizza — succinctly put a bow on what I now want out of my life. Or, more accurately, describe how I aim to fuel my ambitions for getting what I want out of life.

I’ve yet to accurately assess whether it’s a side-effect of either aging or depression (it’s quite possible that they’re one and the same in 2018), but I’ve lost a fair amount of interest in things I used to have quite a bit of interest in: I’ve had enough sex. I make enough money. I don’t necessarily need a promotion. I don’t have much use for drinking anymore. The din of Facebook and Twitter has grown annoying. I don’t watch much TV. I’m over goat yoga. I’ve largely soured on the institution of marriage and it doesn’t appear kids are in the cards for me anymore. I’m 35, have yet to find someone with whom lifelong love has flourished, and I’ve been the lone wolf for so long that I’m not sure it’s even reasonable to expect that I’ll adapt to a life of domestic familial bliss without a good deal of fuss. It’s semi-sad but I’ve made peace with that last part, and it’s freed me up to think of other things.

That’s not to say life is bad: I live in a good city. I love my job. I have a solid and eclectic ensemble of friends. I have a cat who keeps me company and occasionally swats at me. I’ve been everywhere in North America I’ve wanted to go and continue to travel. I get to write and make music a lot. I talk to the parts of my family I want to, when I want to. I give back to the community in ways I never really expected, and I’ve even very quietly gotten into attempting to enact meaningful sociopolitical change. (You can, too, without being a blowhard — c’est posible!)

All that said, those are pursuits are nice, and they are meaningful, but they are mostly significant in the way that they ladder up to the two things I yet want. I think about them all the time, but I’d never quite vocalized them until now:

  1. I’d like to see more of the world.
  2. I’d like to see less of the world suffer.

And that is all. Now I’ll expand upon them.

What do I mean by I’d like to see more of the world? Well, to me, it means to fully experience as much of our planet as humanly possible given the short time I have left breathing on it. I’d like to travel more: I’d like to see places like Italy, India, Nigeria, Argentina, Antarctica and this amazing dragon tree. But, scaling back a bit, it means I’d like to see more of what’s around: More flowers. More mountains. More meadows. More skylines. More subways. More restaurants. More people. More cultures. More countries. More smiles. More markets. More coastlines. More concerts. More waterfalls. More deserts. More elephants. More yet-blazed trails. More open roads.

I’ve always been fascinated by the unknown, the novel, the curious, the beautiful, the artful, the fanciful, the wondrous, the illustrious, the talented, the brave and so on. These people and places speak to me. I have but very little interest in the day-to-day, and merely do enough to maintain my lung function and make sure the electric bill’s paid every month. (Health, wealth and happiness have never been my three fortes, in fact, one could argue they are the three pursuits I am categorically worst at, although I have run a marathon, I’ve paid off my debt and I’m not singularly miserable most days.)

And so I accomplish this by continuing to stockpile loose change, traveling and learning voraciously, talking to as many people as humanly possible, and saying yes to almost anything that doesn’t sound like it would instantly kill me. That’s the point of the office job. That and the health insurance.

What do I mean by see less of the world suffer? It means to fully give as much of myself to as many people as possible. Sure, I’d love to fight for progressive, inclusive, global Egalitarianism in its purest form, but — aiming a little lower — I’d like to merely make more people feel a little less lonely and a little more hopeful. This means more favors. More (quiet) activism. More writing. More cooking. More picture-taking. More music. More good turns. More random acts of kindness. More speaking engagements. More podcast episodes. More philanthropy. More volunteer work. More long talks with friends. More listening to strangers.

I’ve always paved over my sensitivity with an aura of detached sardonic cool — and that, to this day, continues to serve me in ways I never really imagined — but I am largely puzzled by and repulsed by the way the world in 2018 continues to operate when our darker demons are allowed to roam free. You don’t have to stray too far from the front page of the Times to see why. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve lost interest in the trappings of success or the normalized milestones of hashtag-living-my-best-life, and, so I’m mostly here to make sure the rest of the elephants in the circus have enough water and peanuts to one day break free of the tent and do their own thing undisturbed and unencumbered. (And, yes, I understand there’s a touch of Messiah Complex in there, except I’m really awkward at taking credit for things and will often deflect it or outright refuse it. I’d like to say this is a sign of altruism but it’s mostly just blanket awkwardness.)

And so I accomplish this by continuing to give away loose change to people at car washes and soup kitchens, volunteering and giving generously (and anonymously, when offered the opportunity), talking to as many people as humanly possible, and saying yes to almost anything that doesn’t sound like it would instantly kill me. That’s the point of everything but the office job. That and watching the Philadelphia 76ers make the playoffs. (#TrustTheProcess)

I’d like to see more of the world. I’d like to see less of the world suffer. I want to be able to, when my time on Earth has passed and you’ve all forgotten my name, and my ashes are scattered somewhere over Niagara Falls and my Medium page has been archived to give as a peace offering to our new robot overlords, I want to be able to say I went as many places as I could go and made as many lives a little less sad as I could. I have no desire to take credit for any of it, I just want to know that it happened.

I find myself now just wanting to surround myself with pretty places, and create pretty things to help other people feel less lonely and more permanent. I don’t know what else there is to do; everything else feels like a sub-optimal use of my limited time on Earth. I get that this isn’t terribly sexy or magnanimous, but it’s all I’ve ever wanted. And I don’t think that’s too much to strive for. That and more pizza, anyway.

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