On Motivation

What motivates the brain to call the body into action? I imagine many things, they’re probably ranked, and high on the list is the threat of punishment, or in the grownup world, embarrassment. For example, the possibility that someone might come over (say someone who’s picking me up on the way to the airport) was enough to get me to clean the bathroom halfway. If people were dropping by once a week even, this place would be spic and span. As it stands, I don’t have much social shame to keep me in line.

Why is it that I can live with piles of envelopes collecting on every flat surface in my apartment (including under my left arm and laptop as I type this)? It probably comes down to the fact that I really don’t care, and I’m sure it’s not helping that I don’t have a 43 folders-esque system to scream at me when the piles reach a sort of critical mass. I think things started getting out of control because the previous tenants still get piles of junk mail every day, none of which seems to get forwarded. Since the modern world requires such a high noise threshold, I feel like many things become just too banal to bother with.

At Tony’s BBQ and pool party on Saturday I met the wife of a O’Reilly employee who is a professional organizer, in addition to being a full time mom. Wow. Believe you me, it has crossed my mind to contact someone like her to figure out some strategies to deal with my envelope pile problem. I’m already thinking one solution might be to buy a console table to put near the door to create a central drop spot for all the paper that comes into the apartment. And maybe on top of that a snazzy leather envelope sorter or something. Clearly I need to make filing sexier.

There’s this line of thought I’ve been having lately, namely the sense that previously exceptional individuals (in their mid-twenties) are finding themselves on a precipitous trajectory towards mediocrity. In this instance I’m actually worrying about myself. I’m thinking the cause is as follows. Those of us who thought we were exceptional were able to succeed by gaming our educational institutions for the past 17+ years. I think graduate school was really the death knell, where I elevated doing the least amount of work for the highest possible grade to an artform.

Now that I’ve been ejected out into the larger, heterogenous world, the rules of the game have changed. In fact I don’t even know what they are, and I’m pretty sure the ones I’ve figured out I don’t like. So I and anyone who feels similarly are kind of struggling to right ourselves. Trying to find like-minded individuals not because we need an echo chamber of sameness, but because the rest of society can seem like a blackhole sometimes, diffusing our once exceptional talents with a revolving litany of papers to file, bathrooms to clean, laundry to wash, food to buy, meals to plan, bills to pay…

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