Lofty Ideas Destined to Fail

As a young man, I must necessarily make the many follies of youth. I have only so much time to make those mistakes before I’m old enough to know better. Furthermore, I have to share my talents with the world before I realize I don’t have any. So, what are those talents and how can I use them to make mistakes?

I have spent a lot of time thinking about the things I’m good at, and eating tops the list. I can eat more food more quickly than just about anyone I know. There are two ways I could use that skill: eating competitively or becoming the fattest man in the world. On the one hand, I don’t like hot dogs that much and the Japanese have cornered the market anyway. I might be able to set records for speed eating or consuming something I do enjoy, like raw cookie dough or salami sandwiches. On the other hand, I can’t afford to become the fattest man in the world, despite being perfectly capable. Logistically, I suppose my reach exceeds my grasp.

When I was 8, I started learning to play the piano. I have essentially been playing for 15 years. In that time, I think I have learned about 9 songs. Despite my ability to read music, I don’t have a thorough grasp of musical theory and I am at a loss when it comes to understanding or composing melodies. Many pianists play by ear; I play by eye. I have discovered a lot of what one can discover by constant playing, but none of the abilities to show off or be creative. I fear I will never be the next Liberace.

So what about mathematics? When I first went to the University of Nebraska, I intended to eventually complete a PhD in math. I wanted to do research and teach or something. Once I had a bit of experience with both, the reality sunk in: it’s not my thing. I don’t have a passion for math in the same way that most math professors do. I can do a lot of work in math and computer science, but if I don’t have the passion, I definitely won’t be able to finish a doctorate.

In summary, those things are all side projects. I’ve spent a lot of time on them but I can’t say with certainty that my future lies with any of them. I’ll continue doing all of those things, eating, piano, math, etc, but I don’t know where it will go. Hopefully a place where I’m able to keep going

But the thing I really want to do, barring ability and opportunity, is writing. I love writing, but I hate that I want to be a writer. I hate it because it’s common and stereotypical. Wanting to be a writer has nothing to do with talent, understanding the writing process, or even being able to communicate ideas. I think it’s an ego trip for people who have a little bit of knowledge and want to exploit it, for whatever reasons they might have.

I’ve written a few things. You’re reading one right now. I liked writing them and I liked reading them, but unfortunately I’m a little bit biased. I have to think about 2 things: why I want to write and how to do it. Ultimately, I write things that I want people to read. If people read my dumb blog posts or whatever, I’m a happy guy. I like to know that I can do something that other people appreciate and say things that make them feel or think. I want to get something out of my head and into theirs. No, not like spit. Gross.

My real problem with depression is that I never have the energy or concentration to do any of the above. I wish I could sit and write and get all of these things out of my head, or eat enough to get really fat. I have these dreams. I want to write a stupid cartoon series. Maybe I could be the next Liberace. I just have to have to get started.

5 thoughts on “Lofty Ideas Destined to Fail

  1. Have you ever experimented with adderall or anything similar?

    A lot of what you describe is very similar to what I have experienced. Going into school, I was pretty good at physics and thought I would get a PhD or something similar. Once I tried doing physics, however, I found myself just completely unable to muster the motivation to actually pursue mastery of physics or become as interested as all my peers appeared to be in the subject.

    I also felt depressed about all of this because everyone had always told me how smart I was but when it came to actually doing something with my brain I would always end up getting bored. Furthering my feeling of depression was the fact that I couldn’t choose what I wanted to do with my life because everything I thought I was interested in seemed boring when I tried to pursue it.

    Finally, my senior year of college, I tried adderall and so much of the intellectual boredom that had haunted me began to drift away. Because I was actually able to get past the initial drudgery of studying and doing homework, I found myself becoming interested in many of the things that I had always liked but had not been able to focus on.

    Shortly after that, I went to a psychiatrist and got a prescription for adderall. It’s been 2 years since I started taking it and I can safely say it has made a huge difference in my life. I have since moved out to Silicon Valley to work at a startup, and started really focusing on becoming a better software engineer. Where before I had no idea what I was going to do with my life, now I have a few different things I intend to try.

    So TL;DR: you should try adderall. It is simple enough to borrow some from a friend and it might make a huge difference. Paul Erdos, for example, was famously unable to do math when he didn’t take stimulants like benzedrine. Maybe you are wired in a similar way.

    • It’s definitely something to think about. I’ve been shuffled through a lot of psychiatric medications since my suicide attempt with mixed success. I think the biggest frustration has always been that when other symptoms improve, my lack of concentration/energy has usually remained. I have mentioned it to my psychiatrist a few times.

      Right now, I’m doing fairly well with my current meds (I take 3), so my psychiatrist doesn’t want to rock the boat. Unfortunately I can’t just borrow Adderall without running the risk of serotonin syndrome or some other complication, but I’d like to think I will get to a point where my prescription meds will help me deal with these symptoms too.

      In the meantime, I’m still working on all of this stuff at the pace I can manage, which is one step at a time. I have seen some improvement lately, which is why I wrote this in the first place.

      Thanks for taking an interest. I really do appreciate the advice.

      • Ah, yes, good call. I forgot that mixing SSRIs/MAOIs/etc. with adderall can lead to trouble. I’ve been on Zoloft and Adderall at the same time before, but that was with my psychiatrist warning me about serotonin syndrome. If you already have a psychiatrist who listens to you, then you are in a good position to at least talk about whether you have ADD.

        The problem I ran into was that when I first started seeing therapists/psychologists/etc. was that none of them had any idea what was wrong with me. The UNL health center CAPS people were the worst. One of them suggested that maybe my problem was that I “was just really smart and not challenging myself”. Sigh.

        After reading a bunch online and then the book “Driven to Distraction” I suggested to the therapists that maybe it was ADHD. It was another 3 months of IQ tests and appointments and arguing with them before I was finally able to get a prescription. Rather than all those years of assuming I was just depressed, anxious, lazy, or dumb, it would have been nice to have just tried adderall in the very beginning so that I could see if it made things better.

        So that’s why my standard advice to people in a similar boat is to just try adderall rather than battle against psychiatrists for months. In your case, of course, I agree that doing what you’re doing is the best route forward.

        Anywho, glad you’re doing better, and glad you update this blog occasionally. It’s very rare for people to talk openly about mental health stuff, so thank you for your candor.

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