There’s a line in The Jerk that I’ve always loved. The owner of the gas station that Navin works at writes to him on a postcard:
“Don’t be a putz. See the world. Me you’ve seen already.”
For whatever reason, that’s always stuck. I love it.
I’d taken a cab to Liam’s party because it was freezing and they’d shut down the G train. They do that every once in a while without telling you. They just shut down the train for a day while they fix something. I met a friend at a bar and me and him shot the shit while we waited for the party to warm up – after all – you don’t want to be the first person at the party. You ideally want to show up right when it get’s good and leave when it starts to tail off. That’s about a 30 minute window of partying. Here I am instilling some knowledge to you kids out there. Another thing: the best parties happen in small rooms. Trust me on that.
Because this party was in a tiny room. And it was quite something. And I’d considered not going and not making the effort because it would have been easier not to go – it would have been easier not to have schlepped all the way to the LES. But this party was in a tiny room, the beer was good, and it was a real highlight of the year so far, for whatever reason. Maybe because I hadn’t expected anything. Maybe because I made the effort to go down there and stand in a room full of people I didn’t know.
The worst part about “effort” is the reward system. If you don’t make any effort, you win immediately. Hear me out on this. You get the immediate satisfaction of not going anywhere, staying put, and having nothing change. That, at times, like after a war, familial death, or particularly large starchy meal, can be a good thing. But if you MAKE the effort and actually do something you can win exponentially more in the long run.
My friend had to leave and when he left I got a text from another friend, a friend I didn’t know that well, and she said “If you’re in the LES, I can be there in 20 minutes”.
It was 9:30 and I thought about going home, having an early night, and saying “fuck it”. I really did. I was alone at the bar like an invalid that had escaped from a hospice, staring into a glowing rectangle in my hand, wondering which direction I should take. There was the relative comfort, which I knew, of going home and firin’ up the ol’ Netflix and the honey bear bong. Easy.
Or there was this whole other thing: hanging out with new people, putting myself into a situation I was uncomfortable with, where the reward wasn’t visible. Do I go with the washer and dryer set or do I go for what’s behind Door #3? I had a decision to make. Joe Strummer, or possibly Socrates, put it best: Should I stay or should I go?
I stayed. The group of us stayed until 1am, actually. I got up and did kareoke, The Pretenders “Brass In Pocket” - if you really want to know. While it is certainly uncouth to express nostalgia for the recent past: it was a lot of unexpected fun.
I believe you can go through life knowing exactly what your reward system is going to be, or you can sail the uncharted waters of the unknown and have the possibility of an infinitely better time. I think 98% of situational depression comes from being frustrated with not having enough options. So when life gives you them, even if it’s just for a night, even if it’s a simple “Hey should I maybe stay at the bar for another 20 minutes so I can do kareoke with staggeringly beautiful and conscience-warpingly cool women” – maybe you should take those options and run with them. Don’t be a putz. See the world.
The concept of saying “yes” to more things has taken me 28 years to understand. I think the kids call it “YOLO”. They’re right. You only live once. So fucking make the most of it. Sometimes the kids are right.
Don’t be a putz. See the world. Me you’ve seen already.