We humans make things really hard. Animals seem to have the right idea. They eat, they sleep, they make babies. Done and done. In fact, the biggest problem in their lives is usually us. We humans make things really hard.
One of my college roommates had an interesting take on the complexities of life. The day we met was also the day we moved in together. It was a friend of a friend kind of thing. Here’s our first conversation:
Him: “Hey man, good to meet you.”
Me: “You too man.”
Him: “Let’s go.”
Me: “Go where?”
Him: “Bar. I can’t live with someone I haven’t gotten kicked out of a bar with.”
We didn’t get kicked out of the bar (Sin’s in Laramie for those of you in the know), but we were asked to leave an hour after closing time. Between those long hours sitting at the bar, and the long, long walk home, we got to know each other really well.
We got along great from the first moment. He was a little unhinged, yet was infused with this wild-eyed wisdom. Brilliant, and crazy. In the three years we lived together, he dropped enough Righteous Truth McNuggets to fill a book. When he partied too hard, he’d often sweep the kitchen table clear, and even with a house party raging around him, would start to study. He’d mutter over his Chemical Engineering text book, tugging on his hair until he looked like Nolte’s mug shot. He once broke an alarm clock because he didn’t like the way it was looking at him.
One night, another of my roommates and I were playing video games, most likely our interminable Street Fighter Tournament, the bracket for which had long since gotten out of control. My roommate walked in, around 11:30 pm or so and said, “Let’s go, I’ve got to get out of here.”
“Alright,” I said, as our other roommate turned off the NES. “Where are we going?”
“Not sure yet,” he said. “We’ll figure it out.”
“Let me get my shoes.”
So we got in his car. In shorts and me with no shoes. At 11:30 on a Saturday night.
And we drove to Deadwood South Dakota.
So my first time playing poker at an actual poker table was at 7am in Deadwood, SD, with a plate of crappy scrambled eggs and no shoes on.
But the most Righteous Truth McNugget he left me with was when he said he told his girlfriend he didn’t want the key to her apartment she’d offered him. It wasn’t that he didn’t love her, because he did. In fact, they’re still married. It was this:
“More than three keys on my keychain means my life is too complex.” He held up three fingers and counted each with his other index finger. “House. Car. Work.” Three keys.
I’d like to think that I treat life’s big decisions as a gift. Like they’re a chance for me to impose myself on the world. My chance to bend a tiny little piece of the universe. It’s not always true. I sometimes drunkenly pull my hair while the party rages and alarm clocks watch me like I’m an a-hole. But sometimes I hold my fingers in the air and count off the important stuff.
I may not be able to choose what is going to come at me next, but I can choose how I respond to it. I can choose whether or not I put that particular key on the ring.