A middle-aged white man is wallowing in regret as he tells Kumail Nanjani how he cheated on his wife and made the biggest mistake of his life. It was a moment of weakness, the pleasure didn’t even last a moment, he was filled with regret. A marriage spanning decades crumbles with a bad decision.
“You’ll know you’re with the love of your life when you cheat on her.” He wisely quips.
Kumail then says something along the lines of “So… I have to cheat on her to know she’s the love of my life?”
I find myself pulling my phone out and writing this exchange down in my slightly uncomfortable movie theater seat. Why is it that Terry (the aforementioned middle-aged white man) needed to cheat on his wife in order to understand how much he loved her?
“The grass is greener on the other side.”
We’ve all heard this clichéd phrase, we’ve probably rolled our eyes as someone told it to us. But clichés become clichés for a reason.
There’s an odd tendency we have to squirm in our seat, looking to move, to change, often without stopping to see if we are where we belong.
Terry looks at the younger woman he’s working with and loses sight of who waits for him at home. He goes after her but the problem is, he was already at his destination. He just didn’t have a clue until he got off at the wrong stop.
Oddly enough this conversation brings me back to a scene from The Office finale where Andy nostalgically looks around his old work space and says “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”
That’s the thing, we are raised today to be ambitious and to work.
We are taught to plan for the future, we’re taught to set goals, we’re taught to work to reach them. Why aren’t we taught to love the process?
We go through high school looking at college, college looking into the work force. We’re dating looking at marriage, marriage looking at children, we’re anxiously awaiting each of the children’s milestones, and soon we’re awaiting retirement. A series of flashes and our lives are over. *
In each photo, we’re trying to peek at what the next one will be like. The idea of how our lives should be seems to be more perfectly curated than a model’s Instagram feed and yet none of the images seem to contain what we already have.
The search for what’s better propels our society forward but I can’t help but think it holds us back too.
Even as we smile and pose with our wine glasses, a little part in the back of our head is searching around the room looking for a better photo op. Hotter wife, better job, cooler friends.
We’ve become unable to understand when to stop, breathe and say, I love this aspect of my life and I want it to stay.
This is, of course, no surprise when in our society, happiness is taught to be something that is earned. You earn your happiness by getting that hot wife, good job, cool friends.
Ambition + hard-work = happiness?
Sometimes I can’t help but wonder, how will I know once I’ve found the one? My perfect job, my perfect husband. Despite writing this post, I am someone one that always wants more. Always finds herself painting her grass a shade greener.
I’m in a place in my life where I have nothing but future ahead of me. In college, it’s the perfect time to be ambitious. We know everything is temporary and we can work for the life we want. But how will I know it once I have it?
Will I have to cheat on my spouse like Terry or quit my job like Andy in order to realize that I loved what I had?
If life is indeed a series of flashes, I want to appreciate every second and every part of it. I want to love the process, but how will I know when the process begins to close?
I’m seventeen so I don’t have the answers to this and sometimes I wonder if I ever will. I’m afraid of settling for a life I don’t want but I’m more afraid of getting blinded by ambition and letting a life I love slip through my fingers.
That may not make sense to you but as I read it over, half sleep-deprived it makes nothing but sense to me.
*I described the most suburban life ever and although every person’s life is unique this seems to follow the pattern of most of the lives around me.