Back in civilization, with all its pleasures, and with all its struggles, too. Back with questions to be answered, with problems to be solved. Don’t you know how? Neither do I. Don’t try.
The escape to Stewart Island (read more) was brilliant. However, there still is over a month left before my departure from New Zealand. I decided to take the next days easy and drive through relatively quiet Catlins Forest part of Southland. I’d been hearing about this lovely place called Curio Bay where small dolphins play with surfers and even smaller penguins hop out of the ocean at dusk. Although when I arrived the dusk was beautiful, penguins got shy, I assume, and didn’t turn up. Next day the weather change to worse, surfing became unpleasant so dolphins didn’t show up either. But it was a nice place I must say. After that I drove to the popular picture-stop Nugget Point only to see rainy nuggets under the melancholic lighthouse’s supervision. Rain and clouds then made me follow the sun and drive all the way to Wanaka.
Just after four days being with a car and internet again, it was pulling me back to walking and getting out of reach. Rising peaks of Mount Aspiring National Park and favorable weather forecast seemed appealing. I couldn’t resist. And I wanted to attempt to answer my questions, too.
I have been wondering since the time I graduated the uni about why am I doing what I am doing, if it’s a right thing to do, who actually considers what is right or what is wrong for me, who am I or how should I somehow define myself. Every time I tried hard to answer these, but never really satisfyingly. These questions are always there either they are quiet at times or we try to avoid them. Though we feel strongly that they should be answered. Many people, myself included, throw it in and decide to travel, instead of some reasonable after-graduation moves like getting a job, all in search of the desired answers. And then many people, myself included, realize after being more than one year away that nothing really changed and questions are still here. Traveling is not an enlightenment.
By the time I started walking first kilometers of the mountain hike called Gillespie Pass Circuit, I was already deeply into re-reading the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fu*k by Mark Manson. That’s when I figured that I will bring up Mark’s influential thoughts together with my responses into the light by writing this article.
The problem Mark, me, we, all of us have to deal with is an idea of our so-called modern society:
“Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations: Be happier. Be healthier. Be the best, better than the rest. Be smarter, faster, richer, sexier, more popular, more productive, more envied and more admired. Be perfect and amazing and crap out twelve-karat-gold nuggets before breakfast each morning while kissing your selfie-ready spouse and two and a half kids goodbye. Then fly your helicopter to your wonderfully fulfilling job, where you spend your days doing incredibly meaningful work that’s likely to save the planet one day.”
Thank to my walking enthusiasm I had days and hours to think about this mess, or to figure it out perhaps. And Mark helped me with that.
When someone asks us what we want to do in life or some other smartass meaningfully-painful question, we usually come up with something nice like having a great job, a great family or somehow managing to have a great life. However, it’s good to keep in mind that life is not always a pleasure, it’s rather a struggle. I believe everyone can admit that, pessimists immediately, realists with bit of a thought and optimists after opening their eyes. And as Mark points out, that’s alright:
“No matter where you go, there’s a five-hundred-pound load of shit waiting for you. And that’s perfectly fine. The point isn’t to get away from the shit. The point is to find the shit you enjoy dealing with.”
This is also why a pleasure is a shitty value to follow, to let it determine our lives. Nothing is a pleasure itself, it’s a form of suffering at the same time. The car you buy is the car you fix. The girlfriend you make love to is the girlfriend you argue with. The food or coffee (or any other kind of drugs in general) are the same what your wallet is bleeding for, the comfy bed you go into to procrastinate is the bed you need to eventually get out. I’m a realist, life is a suffer. But that’s good. It’s good to go through the pain. Ask those guys sweating in the gym. Ask any businessman what was the best, and the worst, part of all his/hers efforts. Ask married people why it’s good to be fighting with each other (laugh). It is a part of the deal. The pain is what we come out stronger from. And thus, it is not the point finding the pleasure, it is about, too positive freaks will excuse me, finding the pain. While a positive experience is cool in the short-term, a negative experience means more in the long-term. Then it comes to our emotions how they (non)impulsively deal with it. All this is really good to keep in mind when taking decisions about the next meal, girlfriend, car, bed procrastination, whatever. Also when thinking what the hell am I doing with my life and if it’s right. It’s right and wrong, too. It always will be. And that’s fine.
My first day of the hike I walked from Blue Lakes to Young Hut, where more than 20 people tried to squeeze in so in the morning I left before 7am with the torch on my head. I hiked up 1628 metres high Gillespie Pass to get the views. The peaceful views of the mountains, valleys, clouds and sun. The hike was steep, it was painful but guess what – I enjoyed it. I found my shit, the shit I like to deal with. The realization made me feel happy. I remembered another big thought of Mark’s: “Happiness is a problem.” More precisely happiness comes from solving our problems. Let me explain it in short, there are good problems and bad problems. Bad one is a cancer, good one is to choose between the movies in the cinema. When we run out of problems we are happy. And then other problems appear or we make some new. It’s kinda a never-ending story because one’s life is impossible to live without any problems. And that’s good. The pain and the problems are good for our eventual happiness.
For the next night I walked to undercrowded Siberia Hut. There was a pool under the waterfall close to the hut. I thought it would be a sin not to take a swim in it. As much I’m a religious person I jumped in it for like 7 seconds. I’ve never felt such a cold water before. It might have purified me from all my sins only if I stayed longer. Sitting on the hut’s porch and chatting with other backpackers on the afternoon sun surrounded by snowy peaks was definitely the highlight of the day. Eating artificial powder meals is never a highlight but well it’s a part of the deal.
The third day I got out of the popular track to walk to Top Forks Hut and its surrounding alpine lakes. Though the Best Lake award winner after all belonged to Crucible Lake side-tripped from the last Siberia Hut. Fourth day with most of my food supplies eaten, carrying no water but a mug which I simply used to drink from every time I was crossing any of thousands of pure mountain streams, I walked light and fast. I did 31 km that day. I was pleased by small encounters with people on the way or in the huts. Unlike during my previous hikes I felt no special compare to them. I was just doing my thing which I enjoyed. I think somewhere along I learnt the last and the most important Mark’s lesson: Don’t try. Don’t try to be special, don’t try to define yourself. Things what make you special and define you already exist either you see them or not. There is actually no such big reason to be happier, smarter, richer, be the best, better than the rest. Finding your passion? Screw that (read more). Most likely you are already doing what you like and enjoy dealing with. There is an example from my life called walking.
Only about this time of my life I realized it has always been there. I always preferred to walk rather than to take a bus (despite my friends’ weird looks saying “why the fu*k would you do that?”). When I arrived to my hometown from the uni for the weekend and looked that the next bus goes in 30 minutes I walked 3 km home for 45 minutes instead. In San Francisco I walked from downtown to Golden Gate Bridge and over it. In Wellington I walked every day to work 30 minutes. In Auckland I walked to the airport (now come the weird looks). Lately, on Stewart Island I covered 143 km in 7 days of the muddy walk. I didn’t mind any of it. It’s been always there and I didn’t see it. Until now. I know, for most of you it does sound boring, not for me. Believe it or not, for me it’s exciting. Why? I have no clue. That explains why I don’t enjoy adrenalin sports I suppose. Non of my business jumping off that bungee. So now well, this passion won’t save the world and I won’t probably find any well-paid job walking all day, but I feel happy I solved one of the problems of mine. To give it some sort of the meaning, I decided to walk famous Camino de Santiago in September. Let’s see how I will handle or enjoy that.
Don’t try to find yourself, you are already who you are shaped by your daily decisions. On the contrary, never stop discovering the inner you. It’s an on-going process, you don’t want it to end. Once we find ourselves there is no more to look for so why to bother. Don’t be special. It’s not necessary to be special to live a good life. And never know what the hell you are doing. It will work out okay. Don’t try.
“You will have a growing appreciation for life’s basic experiences: the pleasures of simple friendship, creating something, helping a person in need, reading a good book, laughing with someone you care about. Sounds boring, doesn’t it? That’s because these things are ordinary. But maybe they’re ordinary for a reason: because they are what actually matters.”
If you think Mark and me are assholes who think that found what’s at the end of the rainbow you’re probably right. But you know – whatever, life goes on and it goes good without knowing who we are, without being depressed trying to find our passions or something else… To prove how deep I feel about these relieving thoughts and to remind them to myself every time I look down I got a tattoo on my forearm. Remember, life is good, good enough. I walked out of the mountains to State Highway 6 on the fifth day and hitched the ride back to the carpark. Who the hell would walk another 15 km right?
Mark Manson’s book for Kindle users here.