I have been thinking, recently, about the possibility of taking a pill to get through the various slogs in life. Or, more precisely, whether I would take a pill – were it available – to “jump the queue”, so to speak. If I could take a pill instead of having to swim the first (difficult) twenty laps; if I could take a pill to write my Ph.D. for me, would I? Would the sense of satisfaction at the end be equal to knowing what you had to go through to get there?
My instinct is no, of course not. Something like sports, for instance, is the opposite of drugs: you feel shit while you’re doing it, but great afterwards, as opposed to feeling great while you’re doing it, but shit afterwards.
There is something valid and important in process, I think. However difficult it is, there can be no comparison between the immense relief at getting to where you want to be with the knowledge of what you had to do to get there, and the just “getting there”. I suppose it’s like buying a driver’s licence rather than failing three times before achieving the damn thing.
Of course slogs get in our way too, and they often take longer than we think they need to. A swim is easy; you know it will be 20-30 minutes of difficulty, followed by relief and that general glow that follows physical activity of any kind. Then there are the emotional and intellectual slogs; things that you slave over for days, weeks, years, where every day seems an obstacle to not getting where you really want to be.
I think the important thing – to get where you want to be – is to accept and own the process. To acknowledge it, in other words, as the only way to get to the end. Because only then is the satisfaction genuine. Maybe it takes the form of an alcoholic resisting the temptation of a bottle of wine for a whole evening. Maybe enjoyment in feeling muscle pain as you sweat it through an exercise session. Maybe deciding not to send an email to a former lover.
It’s true, many of life’s stations are built on limitations. But it’s often in limitation that one finds the virtue which makes any kind of life worth living. If we can’t be good people who make the most of what we have, what’s the point?