Every now and then (though the occasions are becoming more and more rare), I have a reason to mention my life in New York in conversation, and—as a corrollary—to remember that I used to live and work there.
Because, you see, I forget. I forget all about it.
© Aron Hsiao / 2011
And then, when I get to talking about it, and allow myself to remember, I feel desperate and frustrated and despondent and regretful and furious and utterly without hope at the fact that I no longer live there, that that life is now long gone.
I was happy there. Happy. I loved my work. I loved my lifestyle. I loved the place. I loved the people. I love the picture of the future that hung somewhere in my mind when I lived there.
I was happy. Happy.
— § —
I feel as though I am wasting myself here. I remember what conversation used to be like and the things that I used to do every day and the strategic and practical problems that I used to work on and I realize: this is what making a catastrophic mistake in one’s life looks like.
What I am afrid of is this: That over time, my cognitive function will decline, but nobody will notice it, because there is no opportunity for 95 percent of anything that I know or or 95 percent of anything that I can do to ever be expressed or used in the life that I lead now. That I will forget what I know and fall behind currents of knowledge. That I will never again feel as though I have a voice of any kind in public life. That I have become small, smaller than myself, smaller than I ought to be—that my life will become similarly small, shrinking even more than it already has, though it has already shrunk to such a degree that I feel imprisoned. That I have committed the sin against virtue of not using my talens for the greater good.
A lot of things.
— § —
There are few things in my life that make me feel really, trully burdened, beaten, and hand-wringingly unable to tolerate things.
Thinking about the move from New York, and the move out of academics, makes me want to chew my limbs off. I live in denial about it because in no way am I able to confront it consciously without losing it. Hopefully I get to that point.
But boy, oh boy, was it a mistake. The mistake of a lifetime. The critical mistake that separates a live lived correctly from a life gone wrong.
— § —
When the kids are older, and they are asking me questions about how to make decisions in life, I will tell them: Never, ever, ever compromise on your path in life. You know your path. We all do. If we say that we don’t, it’s because we can’t face the degree to which we are betraying and have betrayed it.
Stay on your path, always. Do not let anyone talk you out of it, no matter how much you care for them.
Because any sort of caring based on pulling people out of their paths (a) will never last, and (b) is a shallow sort of caring to begin with.
Of course, I was told all of this and it didn’t end up making a difference for me. They may end up in the same boat. But as a matter of integrity, that Is what I will be compelled to say, whether it will be easy for them to hear it—on any particular day or in response to any particular question—or not.