Note: Something I wrote for New Slang’s “Ambition” theme. It took me forever (and a lot of bribes) to get to 907 WORDS BITCHEZ so putting it here for posterity. Support the mag, leave me loving comments, and read the actual post here.
The Weight of a Polar Bear, Madame? Why, Enough to Break the Ice Of Course
One of the most terrifying questions on a first date has to be, “So what do you want to do?” It’s hard enough to decide on the night’s outfit, an entree, a quirky yet appealing activity that if love is elusive can at least simulate the feeling of it. It should be criminal to demand a life plan.
You rifle through your options with a mounting sense of panic. Give back to the community? Too bleeding heart. Get promoted? Screams workaholic. Have the photogenic family, complete with golden retriever (one piece) and uniformed yayas (two, one for each child)? Perfect date ender!
You babble something inane and depending on the alignment of the stars, the amount of alcohol consumed, and the datee’s level of infatuation vis-a-vis your obvious lack of direction, you finish the night with a bang or a whimper. Whatever happens, the next morning brings a nagging feeling of inadequacy. Surely, at your age, you should have a Grand Plan?
It only takes a few exhausting minutes of soul-searching to realize why you never bothered. Grand Plans take effort – effort that would be better spent with your vice of choice. You are, however, willing to fake it ‘til you make it so you try everything your friends propose in the name of “finding yourself.” One of two things happen. You enjoy it all, even love quite a few, but don’t find any that grab you by the ears and drag your guts out via your throat. Or (possibly worse), you do.
In Which We Confront the Twin Monsters of Ambition and Fuckery
(or, a Grammar Lesson in Desire)
You’re obsessed. You gush about it shamelessly, discuss it ad nauseam, and plan your life around it. You drift into a completely new galaxy of friends as most of your old group can’t understand this new cult you’re in and can’t stomach hearing one more word about it. You want it so badly that just hearing it mentioned gives you Tourette’s. Congratulations, you have direction!
A few months go by, though, and you realize it wasn’t so much a direction as a wrong turn. It turns out obsession isn’t the same as that steel core of ambition everyone else seems to have. While you’d planned your big entrance and award-night speeches down to the last snarky aside, you’d somehow overlooked all the shit shoveling, backroom politics, and sheer amount of work you’d need to get there. Stripped of its shiny new packaging your newfound love doesn’t seem quite worth it and you begin to suffer serious buyer’s remorse.
Eventually, you say fuck it and walk away.
This is not depressing. It’s not even really surprising. After all, the premise of the entire exercise was always discontent. Being ambitious isn’t about loving what you do. That’s passion. Ambition is never having it be good enough.
Now that you’ve let yourself sink back into mediocrity, you have a lot of time to yourself. You fool around, make desultory attempts at self-improvement and generally enjoy life. After some thought it’s clear that your ambition, like that fateful date, was overrated (and no, you don’t get the guy. Ambisyosa ka nga.) You wonder if the passion was nothing more than the emotional equivalent of a drunken one-night stand. What, after all, has dreaming big got going for it other than peer pressure? Just Say No.
Dreaming big, you trade your comfort zone for cranky bosses, all that lovely free time for one shot at the big leagues. You tell yourself it’ll pay off one day and console yourself with dreams of making it, while you try not to think about when “one day” will be. You realize that your best party stories all happened months ago, when you still had no idea what the hell you wanted. It turns out that while you were figuring out what to chase (the perfect career, the trophy partner, the glossy Facebook photos) via chasing everything, you were also having the most fun you can remember. You don’t quite understand why you gave it up in the first place and promise yourself not to make the same mistake again. You promise to dream small.
This works until you realize you actually need to fund dreaming small. Since your previous obsession is so familiar, you fall back into the old routine. You no longer think of it with that innard-raping desire, but you manage to convince yourself that you still enjoy it more often than not and that it’s only until you find something better anyway. You come full circle and realize that despite all your searching, desire had never been a requirement for ambition. You just had to be a stubborn sonuvabitch.
Ambition is what keeps you pushing long past the point when you’ve ceased loving it, or even really wanting it. It’s about the job or the house or the money. It’s about beating the other guy. Ambition is, at the end of the day, about winning – and by God, you’re going to win.
The next time you go on a date, though, you learn “I want to win” is not a socially acceptable answer. You change it to “I’m trying to find out. Want to join me after this tequila shot?” So far, it seems to be working.