The sadness of “I wish I could have a life like yours”

July 20, 2014 by Joshua
in Fitness, Freedom

I’ve always wanted to experience the feeling of surfing when I’m skilled at it. Have you ever asked a surfer to describe it? They can’t put it into words. I love skiing and playing ultimate. Surfing seems to have something similar, maybe more.

So I’ve meant to learn for a long time. It turns out they teach surfing at the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, New York City, a subway ride from my home. After years of meaning to, I scheduled a lesson Friday morning.

But I’m not writing about surfing.

When I left my building as the sun rose, I ran into a neighbor who asked where I was going. I told him I was going to take a surfing lesson.

He said, “I wish I could live a life like yours.”

This statement sounded sad. Who would want to envy someone else’s life over theirs?

But it doesn’t make sense if you compare us. He can take the subway as well as I can. He can sign up for a lesson as well as I can too. I tried to think of reasons keeping him from doing what I did. The four main ones I could think of were that he didn’t have time, he didn’t have money, he was too old, or he wasn’t in good enough shape.

None of these reasons held water. He makes a lot more money than me—he has two apartments in my building that he connected by putting a doorway between them. He used to work for a big bank, which probably limited his free time, but I understand he works on a consultancy basis now, which I think means he can choose his working hours more freely. Even if he can’t, he still has weekends free. And what’s the point in making money if you don’t have time to live?

As for his age, first, he’s not that much older than me. More importantly, during my lesson, I saw a guy surfing, clearly a beginner, who was yet older. And as for being in shape, he can choose to get into shape when he wants. That’s his choice.

Why he wishes instead of acts

The reasons he doesn’t live the life he wants aren’t external ones he can’t change. He doesn’t do these things because of his beliefs and the emotions—fear, anxiety, etc—they create.

I write about beliefs and mental models a lot. Beliefs can create mental jails more secure than physical ones. Physical jails don’t stop you from thinking freely and you can mentally resist them. Mental jails stop you from thinking and, to the extent you believe what creates them, you can’t resist them. You just live complacently.

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