Tag Archives: Harris Sockel

How To Not Give Up

1. Believe it’s your first minute of your first day of your first year of college. You can do anything, you ball of thumping blue-grey blood.

2. Know that the world is literally run (and won) by people who embarrass themselves on a grand scale. And they keep doing it.

3. Forget about your goals. Goals are for complainers. They (1) make you feel inadequate; (2) perpetuate a short-term work cycle, wherein you try until you accomplish something, then “reward yourself,” and start over; and (3) they assume you can predict the future, which you cannot. Goals are sexy, sure, but they are dodgy. Just take every goal you have, attach a helium balloon to it, and let it fly into the clouds. Focus on what you’re doing right now. Don’t worry where it will lead.

4. Take a walk. Sometimes you just need to feel the literal traction of traversing sidewalk squares.

5. Slaughter perfection. A statue of Hatshepsut at the Metropolitan Museum of Art spoke to me last weekend and said, “I am an ugly bitch. I am a pile of fucked limestone, and I can’t stop complaining about it. But you know what, I’m here. And you paid to see me.” Kill perfection and eat it for breakfast.

6. Call your parents when you need to. Call your parents and cry into the phone when you need to. Call your parents and say thank you when you need to. Take a bus home when you need to, and help your mom cook something that features nutmeg. It will remind you that, even if no one else cares, there are at least two people in this world who know how you like your sweet potatoes, and who have watched you press on since you took your first step and promptly fell the fuck down.

7. Sometimes, you have to turn off your Wi-Fi router.

8. Remember that you can do both. I object to the dedicate-your-life-to-being-the-master-of-one-thing philosophy. It’s an illusion perpetuated by the megaphones of the world (Malcolm Gladwell et al). Did you know Sylvia Plath was a painter? And Lady Gaga moonlights as an actuary. If you’re about to give up on one thing, switch to something else. The best things in this world were created by people who held two opposing poles in their souls and leveraged the tension between the two to propel something forward. Think of a bow and arrow, man’s first real weapon of any real craft/artistry. It’s the strength of the tension between two opposing ends of the bow — the ends actually have to pull away from each other for the bow to work! — that creates enough force to shoot an arrow through a man’s heart. Figure out what those two poles are for you, and leverage that tension to launch something into the universe. (I didn’t make this up. Read The Odyssey, Book 21, lines 386-411. Lattimore translation. Then think about how “bow” and “life” are nearly homonyms in Greek.)

9. Stop comparing yourself to other people. As Rihanna so eloquently teaches us in “Half Of Me” (her chamber pop ballad about Chris Brown) we only see a small particle of everyone but ourselves. Don’t believe what you see through the pixelated curtain of social media. If you’re reading this, there are already truckloads of people who lie awake at night asking God if they can be you.

10. Write on paper. I dare you. Pushing a pen down onto something that used to be alive is one of our most valuable metaphors for progress, self-reflection, and pretty much everything else. Use it. Best of all, there’s no fear that someone/something else (spyware, the NSA, Google ad robots) can see it. If someone wants to read your thoughts, they’ll have to grab them from your grubby hands.

11. Read an interview with someone you admire. These are great.

12. Know that all of us are running the same triathlon, falling down at the same moments. And when you think of closing your computer or putting that book down or calling yourself [INSERT SELF-ESTEEM KRYPTONITE], envision all the people who have given up at this exact moment, and think of them laying there on the curb of life, and think of what they could have done if they’d stayed the course.

13. Know that those who succeed will always feel bored. Success is the ability to keep yourself interested in the face of tedium. Even if you have to manufacture your passion, do it. Find a tiny spark of interest, cup it in your hands, and stoke that shit until it’s a forest fire.

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Written by

E-book “We Will Never Know What’s Inside Our Bodies” out now. Follow him @HarrisSockel or talk to him via firstinitiallastname at gmail.

The “Let’s Grab Dinner!” Text

It happens every year. December. A few days after the twenty-fifth. It’s snowing, and the “Let’s grab dinner!” text moves into your field of view like a drop of precipitation. The “Let’s grab dinner!” text starts high in the air, above your apartment, and makes six-inch circles as it floats past your neighbors’ windows and into yours. The “Let’s grab dinner!” text falls onto your iPhone’s screen. The “Let’s grab dinner!” text begins to melt.

It’s the friend from college. You used to eat dinner with her every night. You sat on her futon with a Boca Burger and gave her a guided tour of your anxiety, making pit stops for the word “so.” Then she made you a cup of Oolong tea, and you planned a road trip together: New York to Chicago to Portland, with stops along the way to read Lorrie Moore excerpts in meadows where earthenware mugs of mulled wine would materialize in your hands. It never happened.

And now, per The Law Of College Companionship, you meet every three months for dinner at a restaurant with a poetic menu. How many people, you wonder, did she ask to dine at The Little Owl before she thumbed that text to you? For weeks, you float your lapis and grey iMessage droplets into each other’s faces, dancing around a Little Owl, until it happens, and it rains, and you have to Google The Little Owl twice, and call twice, to confirm and re-confirm the reservation. And then The Little Owl calls you at work, and you Google directions, and the subway is a hog pit, and now you’re sitting across a wooden square from a blinking artifact of your past.

You stare at italicized sauce descriptions. You Google cheeses. You gnaw your nostalgia. You laugh until you perform laughter until you’re all can-I-just-go-home-and-order-in-or-do-we-really-have-to-do-this?

As I grow, I’m enduring more of these. And, believe me, not all of them are so full of…pretension and money and canapés. They’ve happened in bars just as often as anywhere else. But no matter the setting, there’s something about them that’s…well, incredibly depressing. The “Let’s grab dinner!” dinner feigns nonchalance as it builds a house of formality around itself. The “Let’s grab dinner!” dinner jolts you into the realization that, as you grow, ninety-nine percent of your friendships will become pallid ghosts of their former selves — they will devolve into texts about schedules and “I think I’ll get the clams!” and whatnot. And if this is what’s in store for me as I embark on my thirties, then I may need to build an app that blocks these texts from my phone, or perhaps spits out an autoreply: “Harris Sockel recognizes that this friendship is dying. He thinks you should just, after all these years, put it out of its misery.”

But no. Here we are, doing mouth to mouth on our ailing relationship over glasses of wine and water.

“I’m going to Harvard Business School,” she screams as she palms a heart of palm. She looks at your pupils and bites the vegetal heart with her front teeth, exactly in the middle, as she smiles with a mouthful of fiber.

The Little Owl has delicious food.

During dessert, you collect bean curd with a tiny silver spoon when you are asked How Is Work And Are You Still Doing [INSERT MANGLED REDACTION OF YOUR RESPONSE FROM THREE MONTHS AGO, WHICH WAS ALSO SHOUTED OVER A PILE OF WET CARBOHYDRATES]? You walk three balance beams in your mind and fall off the last one.

Work is “fine” and “I am learning a lot” and it is “exciting” because it is “challenging.” Yes, I said it’s ““““““exciting.”””””” There are scare quotes embedded in your temporal lobe by now, and you feel them digging their claws into your cortex whenever you answer this question.

You finish your plate of curd and quince. Pay that bill. Laugh about math. It was great to see you, and I am happy for you, and for both of us as we lap up amino acids and walk with terminal velocity toward death.

Oh, Miss “Let’s grab dinner!” I love you. Really, I do. And I’m proud of you. But don’t you hear it? Literally every time the “Let’s grab dinner!” text appears, my iPhone plays a feeble recording of a death knell. Listen. Close your eyes and listen. You can’t not hear that, right? Our friendship is in a persistent vegetative state, minimally conscious and drooling, and should leave this mortal coil posthaste. And it will. And that’s OK. Sometimes you have to euthanize your friendships. Let go. All will be forgiven.

If you like what you just read, please hit the green ‘recommend’ button below so that others might stumble upon this essay. For more essays like this, scroll down and follow the Human Parts collection.

Written by

E-book “We Will Never Know What’s Inside Our Bodies” out now. Follow him @HarrisSockel or talk to him via firstinitiallastname at gmail.