The dark side of personal growth

May you achieve just enough success to keep you from giving up and finding satisfaction elsewhere, but never enough success to truly relax.”

This is the first curse on The Toast’s list of powerful modern curses. It’s a chilling list — the sorts of things we tend to fear most. These are the backside of all that personal growth chatter that tells us to find the work we love, follow our passions, engage with our romantic partners, and generally be wonderful people who do great things. 

Sometimes, though, that’s not where we’re at. We ebb and flow. We work day jobs whose primary purpose is to pay for food and shelter and a moderate amount of entertainment. We slog our way through fallow periods that seem to have no real value, and it’s possible that we won’t even look back on them and see how they were actually teaching us valuable lessons. 

But if these are your biggest fears, then you’re doing OK. If you’re afraid of being misunderstood at work, that means you have a job. If you’re afraid of growing distant from those you love, that means you have love. These are top-of-the-Maslow-heap fears. These are not the fears of street orphans in Ghana. And if you’re doing OK, that means you’ve got the capacity to do something more, along with the freedom to blow it off for now. 

Not everything has to be building to something else. We live in the mess of real life, if we’re not afraid to tune it out. I find myself reminded these days of the value of staying in the moment, of living for today, because this is my actual life. I work in an office where people misunderstand me. I make mistakes in my relationship with my girlfriend. I have a nervous fear that I’m forgetting to do something important, and several pounds to lose. I stumble. A lot. This is my life, and it’s real, and it’s imperfect, and it’s good. I should probably show up for it.