What’s something you say you’ll do, but never get around to it?
I’ve always wanted to try to make vegetarian bacon at home but never got around to it until recently.
It was… okay.
I’ve been saying I’ll relearn French but never got around to it until 2 months ago. Then, life happened and I had to pause my French lessons, but that’s not the point.
I’ve been saying “I’ll return to this topic” in quite a few articles, but never got around to it.
There’s a pattern with the topics I cover and the questions I explore, but I haven’t ever fully returned to a subject to write another article on it.
Going through my Notes app, something stood out to me from the file where I keep all my article ideas. I’d written something about Stoicism.
Granted, I just wrote about Stoicism 3 weeks ago.
But like I mentioned–and some of you found this as amusing as I did–I wrote the article at 3:17 AM.
After reading my note, I realized I’d forgotten to include in the article the thing that made me write it in the first place.
It was a conversation with an old friend.
My friend and I were talking about what we’d been up to since we last saw each other.
Then, the conversation–as it often does with Albanian friends–steered to Albania and our peculiarities.
Albanians have a lot of opinions about Albania and Albanians.
Like I said in The 3 Horsemen of the Choice Apocalypse, some people truly abuse their god-given right (evolution-given right, if that’s what you want) to tear apart at other’s life choices.
These people can be divided into 3 groups:
- Devil’s advocates: If you tell them something, they will, without doubt, dig deep into their consciousness to find something that discredits what you just said.
- Special snowflakes: Special snowflakes’ only hope at making an impression is faking one. From food to movies, to fashion, to random conversation topics, they will say things just to…say things.
- Lazy thinkers: They have a somewhat solid foundation of ideas they rely on, they’ve usually held those beliefs for years. Lazy thinkers have a weak set of arguments, though, especially if you dare to as much as stray a bit from the conversations they’re used to having.
You can read more about their traits and how to handle what I call the 3 horsemen of the choice apocalypse (lol, I love this title) on the article I linked above.
In the meantime, let’s focus on devil’s advocates. When it comes to Albania, I’m like the opposite of a devil’s advocate. An angel’s advocate, if you will.
I think that a lot of what people consider Albanian-specific problems are actually global.
If I hear someone complaining about something “that only happens in Albania,” I try to respectfully provide examples of times the same thing has happened to people in other countries.
I don’t consider myself a nationalist, but I like to give credit where credit is due. I appreciate everything that goes right in Albania. A lot does. When things go wrong, I consider whether what went wrong is “common” in other countries or not.
My friend wasn’t having it, though.
She started complaining about the healthcare system here.
I respectfully told her about the American health system.
She debunked my statement.
I made the argument that the story she shared wasn’t representative of Albanian healthcare.
She debunked my statement, sharing more examples of things that had gone terribly wrong.
This continued the same way with her problems with the educational system here and the legal system. My final attempt was to finish on a positive note with something I was sure we’d agree on.
Albanian food is great, right? At least we have that going on for us?
Well, I was wrong again. She knew someone who worked at the FDA Albanian equivalent and, apparently, our food is literal poison.
I was defeated. I’m rarely at a loss for words, but this time I was.
I had nothing to say.
Everything’s fucked- What now?
What do we do when everything’s fucked? What should I have said to my friend who was so painfully right and understandably angry at the system?
You might’ve guessed it: Stoicism.
Well, no, I shouldn’t have just mouthed the word “Stoicism,” my friend wouldn’t want to hang out with me again.
Unless she’d seen Pitch Perfect and knew that mouthing words is the pinnacle of humor and she’d want to be best friends… I digress, I digress.
The main premise of Stoicism is that the only thing we need to get good at is differentiating between things within our control and things out of our control and learn to put all of our energy into the former.
But maybe being immune to misfortune is more about the way we react to misfortune rather than about never encountering misfortune.
Think about it.
Can you imagine how much energy we’d save if we only focused on what’s under our control?
But it’s not just about energy or productivity, but about our feelings and inner turmoil as well.
Can you imagine how much calmer and happier we’d be if we focused on what we can change?I was wrong, so now I’m writing about Stoicism at 3:17 AM
My friend was right. She wasn’t lying or exaggerating. The stories she shared were things that had happened to her or her family members. They were important and definitely needed further investigation from the right instances.
But all she could do was… do what she could.
I don’t want to sound condescending by writing down a list of what she could do to affect the healthcare/legal/educational system.
It’s harmful to focus on individual effort when we should be focusing on the institutions that are paid to get these things right and still don’t.
But again, Stoic teachings tell us to focus on what we can control and give those things our 100%. We can’t control those institutions.
We can control how we react when a nurse asks for a bribe or when a teacher says something mean about another child or when we witness injustice. Our vote matters. Our petition signatures and our protest turnout matter.
In this case, we control to some extent where we live. Living in Albania does make some people terribly unhappy, just like living in England makes some people terribly unhappy. If these people want to achieve long-term happiness, well, they need to focus on finding a job in another country.
I’m a rational optimist, so I don’t think everything’s fucked here, or anywhere for that matter. But for the days when it’ll feel like the world is ending, I’ll know what to do.