Two Sides

I have always felt pulled in two conflicting directions. It has not been pleasant. It’s made me feel miserable when I should feel happy, afraid when I should feel secure–a sort of constant tension and uncertainty that takes an exhausting toll.

There is the part of me drawn to discipline. To work and do great things in this brief bit of time I have been given. It is the force that keeps my nose in books and rarely allows my mind to waste a second. You could say that this is the part of me that people see and assume I am much older than I actually am, as they often have and do. This is the reason I’ve done the things I’ve been able to do while the rest of my generation is unemployed or deluding themselves. It is the side I indulge most.

There is another part of me pulled towards recklessness. To simply live. To hate the things that most people seem to value. To not want to be anything like them, to barely give a shit about what I’ve done and where I’ve been so far. To so seriously consider trading it in to do nothing ever again that it makes me want to cry. This is an urge that I do not understand.

I fear I won’t ever be able to. When I try to explore it, to see why I am drawn towards these things, the other side takes over. The few moves I’ve made in my life that could be considered daring or even reckless–dropping out of school, packing up and moving across the country–were almost immediately overwhelmed by the responsible side. The pureness and freedom almost instantly corrupted by the instinct to ‘turn it into to something.’

I remember once on this site feeling like I could write and write whatever I wanted, that there was no idea end to what I had to say. Slowly, certain self-applied standards began to encroach stylistically. No, that’s not good enough. Or no, that’s not the type of stuff I want to here. What felt like rigor was actually the gradual removal of options, to the point of partial paralysis.

And so it goes. Running becomes something that must be done every day. Books must be read. Contacts must be kept. Friendships must be turned into business relationships. Everything must be made into an opportunity, because opportunities can be turned into something. An opportunity to…

All this is to say that there is a tension in me that I have trouble grappling with. It is the feeling of living in a house divided against itself. Worse, given the irony of the disagreement being rooted in the same philosophic principals: to value only what is important, self-direction and freedom. And yet I think they are both equal parts fear, the fear of simply just being.

I do not know the solution here, or the answer. This is not meant to be advice. The person who watches as one side of them strangles the other, shunting it off to the side where its only remaining role is to impotently undermine their earnest accomplishments should not be giving advice. I only know that this is no way to live. Finding the balance here–easing the tension–will be the next steps for me. It will make my next moves clear. And between now and then will not be fun.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.